Oct 27 AT 11:20 AM Anthony Domanico 56 Comments

New chart visualizes Android fragmentation


Michael DeGusta has painted a painful picture of the ongoing Android vs. iOS war. Mr. DeGusta looked back at all US-available Android devices as of mid-2010 and compared their update cycles to that  of Apple’s iPhone. Frankly, when it comes to OS fragmentation, it doesn’t look good for Android.

Though the picture certainly would look different if Mr. DeGusta were to look at phones released after June 2010, it highlights an issue many have with the Android platform. People routinely comment on posts here at Android and Me expressing their frustration with not limited functionality or inability to download certain applications because they’re not on the latest version of Android.

Of course, comparing Android to Apple in this regard is like comparing apples and oranges. It’s easy to update the iPhone, since Apple owns both the hardware and software market for their device. Since Android devices are made by multiple manufacturers who all insist on customizing their devices as a means of differentiating their products, it adds a layer of complexity to updating the core Android software. Perhaps this will become less of an issue if we ever hear anything out of the Android Update Alliance.

What do you guys think? Is fragmentation still a big issue? Are you hopeful that the update alliance will come through in the end? Sound off in the comments.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: The Understatement

Anthony loves all things technology, from hardware to apps and games. You can connect with him via Google+ or Twitter by clicking one of the fancy doo-dads above.

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  • triangle

    Fragmentation is clearly an issue, but I guess the easiest way to mitigate that is just buy the Galaxy Nexus.

    I know that the carriers and manufacturers have committed to timely updates, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

    • http://www.anthonydomanico.com Anthony Domanico

      Yeah, I think that’s the mentality I’m taking at this point too. I’ll believe in the Update Alliance when I hear from the update alliance!

    • AppleFUD

      As I’ve been saying for a long time now, ONLY the “Google experience” devices are Android devices (e.g. Nexus, Nexus S, Galaxy Nexus). All other devices are only “running Android” and are OEM proprietary devices. Say what you will, but that’s the reality. In order to do anything with the devices you need to root them and flash a custom ROM otherwise you are 100% dependent on the OEM, not the OS manufacturer, for updates.

      The idea of Android is great but the OEM implementations, not so much.

      Unfortunately there isn’t anything better being offered at this point in time.

      • Andy

        Completely agree. From here on, I’d only buy a pure Android phone. Nexus One first, now on Nexus S.

    • Richard Yarrell

      I have to agree solving this issue will be to purchase the Galaxy Nexus. I have played this waiting game since 2010 that game is over now. No more waiting for updates anymore sooner or later the platform will catch up this year sometime

      • http://www.anthonydomanico.com Anthony Domanico

        I still can’t believe you’re getting the Galaxy Nexus on Verizon.

        • snowbdr89

          It will be an embarrasing day for big red, the super troll dick joins their network..

      • Tico4674

        He’ll be hooked on Samsung and Verizon in a week! Then it will be, “Verizon is the best, Samsung is the best, Nexus brand is the best, etc…. “. Looking forward to that day although I seriously doubt it will ever happen.

    • http://droidsamurai.blogspot.com DroidSamurai

      Frankly, the announcement that ICS won’t come to the Nexus One isn’t a very good sign. Look, it’s a newer phone than the iPhone 3GS, and has much better hardware, but the 3GS can run the latest iOS, while the Nexus One won’t be able to receive an official update from Google. The excuse of third-party customization doesn’t apply here because Google controls both the hardware and software.

      On one hand, it may just mean the Android OS made much more advancement than the iOS. On anther hand, this could mean that the Android OS is less optimized, or Google does not have the ability to update, or care to support its own hardware.

      • TWiT Commander

        There may be actually good reasons why ICS isn’t coming to Nexus One officially.

        The Nexus One had only 512MB ROM IIRC. After installing Gingerbread, less than 200MB are available for app storage. Even with Apps-to-SD, I remember getting low memory errors several times daily. I deleted all apps I didn’t use regularly (including Flash and AIR) and switching to the stock launcher (I was using either GO Launcher EX or ADW Launcher EX). Every time I used the browser or Skype, they would store their cache in ROM (not on SD) and trigger low memory errors. Even apps moved to SD store some blobs in the ROM.

        I eventually switched to the Nexus S.

        The Nexus One won’t be getting an official build of ICS because it will take up even more space in the ROM, causing a suboptimal user experience (similarly why the HTC Desire didn’t get a proper Gingerbread update). These devices from early-2010 had 512MB ROM at most, and this is not enough; you need at least 1.5GB ROM for a smooth experience.

    • Denise T

      I just bought an iPhone 4S without fragmentation. It was the best decision ever. Android fragmentation is bad joke

  • Emilio

    I wouldn’t say this is completely an issue. I owned a G1 and a HTC Magic for the longest time. And although my carrier didn’t provide updates regularly, there was enough of a dev community to keep up with the current OS and add the features I want/needed.

    Plus I wouldn’t say the Apple update chart is completely fair. I remember the whole issue where the 3g and the 3gs couldn’t run iOS 4 with a fair bit of lag. So sure they could be updated to a newer OS but many users opted not to in fear of losing stability.

    • http://www.anthonydomanico.com Anthony Domanico

      Yeah, I’m sure Google COULD put Ice Cream Sandwich on the Nexus One (or the G1, for that matter), but would it actually run well? Probably not.

      To be fair, the chart *IS* accurate, but it doesn’t show the important performance factor.

      • Emilio

        I don’t know I have a nexus S and the N1 has similar specs and I’m running ICS very smoothly. Haha but the G1, definitely not that thing had issues running froyo, nevermind cupcake.

        And I never said the chart wasn’t accurate. I was just saying that the reasons some of the Android phones weren’t upgraded by carriers was because of that performance factor whereas the iPhone updates were available regardless of how they performed.

        • Black Kristos

          And as was pointed out below, Apple gimp the software updates based on handset. Sure, the 3GS & 4GS may both SAY that they run iOS5, but the 3GS is missing many of the iOS5 features and benefits.

    • Scott

      Don’t forget the soft definition of “on current major version” as it relates to the iPhone.

      Apple has a history of limiting features of the new OS to the most recent device. This includes software specific updates. Personally, I remember my first gen iPod nano not being able to support the latest and greatest “gapless audio” feature of the 2nd Gen iPod nano OS update (even though jailbroken iPods could do gapless audio). With the phone / touch version of the OS, it didn’t really start until iOS3, but continues today. You don’t get Siri unless you buy the new iPhone, even though the iPad2 has sufficient hardware to run it. You don’t get that from Google and version numbers displayed in a chart don’t really communicate it either.

      I guess it’s just another manifestation of hardware companies not caring about updating previously sold devices because they make money by selling new hardware. It was a problem for the original windows mobile devices, iOS devices, and Android devices. As a consumer, it frustrates me. I guess that’s why I bought the Nexus One as my last phone.

    • Benjamin Nguyen

      The problem is that most consumers are uninformed about this when purchasing an android phone. Everyone thinks that the DROID phones are the flagship devices because of the heavy marketing. Most consumers with android devices are not power users nor do they even know what a ROM is, so flashing Cyanogen is way over their heads.

    • Justin Redding

      I seriously doubt that the 2G iPhone and 3G will be able to run iOS 5. Plus the iPhone does have fragmentation issues with people not upgrading, like my wife who has 35 app updates, because they never plug their phone into iTunes.

  • YellowDucati

    The older iphones are often on the newest os but with greatly crippled performance and capabilities. This chart does not account for that at all. It appears to be busy looking for things it doesn’t like with Android.

  • Jeffroid

    Include the support by cyanogen and you’ll have a chart with a lot more GREEN for android

    • http://www.anthonydomanico.com Anthony Domanico

      When CyanogenMod comes straight from Google (read: Never), then they can add it to the chart.

      • Richard Young

        By that logic, the only Android Phones that should be on that list are the G1, The Nexus One, and The Nexus S…since those are the only Google Phones. Of course that would make this chart obsolete at dinging Android since they would all be green except for the G1.

  • James

    the original was originally released in 2007 or 08 which makes 3 years 2010 or 2011. if it’s 2010 was the original iphone running Ios 4 I bet no, now lets take the fact that maybe it was 2011 which would mean it hasn’t been 3 years yet, so I have to question this guys accuracy on that issue. Is fragmentation an issue on android yes and it can be fixed by simply reducing the number of phones manufactures produce to maybe 1 or 2 a year, I mean apple does this with the Iphone and it works, unless they can prove they are going to keep up with updates in a releativity manner.

  • Black Kristos

    I really think this is a non-issue. There have been (if you go from Donut to Gingerbread, and count 2.0/2.1 as different, like they seem to do with the chart) 6 versions since 2009. It’s obvious to see that first gen hardware is going to suffer. As Anthony said, it doesn’t show the performance factor. The Saphire on Froyo was a blunder and should have never happened. Later low-end handsets (which keep in mind were manufactured to BE low-end, low-cost) would of course not be able to keep up with the OS growth.

    I honestly think that if you want to compare Android to Apple, should only include the Nexus devices. That would make more sense to me.

  • Wasim

    its pretty simple in my eyes….if u wanna stay updated, either buy a Nexus, or root your phone and hope CM or another reliable dev (which there are TONS) successfully make an updated OS rom!

  • dougefresh91

    I personally find this to be a major problem. My first and only Android phone is the Samsung Vibrant. I got it at launch and we’ve received one update to 2.2. This phone had been abandoned by Samsung. A $500 piece of hardware that’s slightly over a year old is done with. That bothers me, a lot.

    I don’t feel like I have to be on the latest OS necessarily, but when I stop and look at the volume of phones Samsung continues to release I can’t help but see a pattern. What we have here are disposable devices. Samsung will not give us updates, they will sell us another $500 device, and the pattern continues.

    This is not good business, and I don’t see myself buying another Android phone. Most definitely not a Samsung phone, because I can see through their shenanigans. Others may be blinded by the shiny new devices they feel they must have, but if you step back and analyze the situation in an objective way, you too may feel like you’re being had. And we are, being had, by Samsung. I will never purchase another of their products, period. HTC, maybe, but as of now I feel like I’m done with Android.

    • http://www.the-wolf.co.uk mabroid

      HTC aren’t great with updates either….

      Go with a nexus, simples

  • Denny

    I don’t understand people these days. You have to remember that these things are JUST PHONES. Sure they’ve gotten more advanced but they at the end of the day, they are still phones. People feel this compulsive need to always have the latest and greatest. Just pick what phone you know will satisfy you for a long time and stick with it.

    • Ironzey

      That works until someone comes in with a 3D, 5G phone with mind reading capabilities. For some people (like me) “Just a phone” won’t cut it. For me and a ton of other people “picking one phone that will satisfy you” is like eating the same meal over and over for six month. Sure it’ll get the job done but you will become bored of eating the same thing over and over again.

      • bananas

        Custom ROMs, son! You can feel like you have a brand new device every day if you want!

  • aaron

    just root your phone and stop waiting for your stock updates. problem solved. im on 2.3.7 like the rest of us smart people. I said good day sir!

  • Darkseider

    Fragmentation is still an issue but a shrinking one. The Android handsets that were chosen for this comparison aside from the Nexus One, Hero and EVO 4G are all low end poor selling handsets. Had they chosen the Droid, Incredible, Nexus One, and EVO 4G then you would have seen a slightly different outcome. Let’s not forget that pretty much EVERY handset released in 2011 has Gingerbread and the majority of those will be getting ICS. From 2012 out ICS will be the standard across all handsets. So although it is an issue now it will be quickly fading away.

    • Shanikwa Johnson

      Boyfriend you need to stop believing everything you read, I’m about to slap you accross the face with some fried chicken

  • https://plus.google.com/116216769240492854659/posts Mantas Pakenas

    Not only doesn’t the chart account for iPhone upgrades being feature limited, it only considers some carrier customized models of the Android phones, which is ridiculous. Most of the proper international Android devices are getting timely updates and as of now I’m not aware of any popular handset that doesn’t have 2.3 version available… This is US carrier problem, not manufacturer’s or Google’s. They want their phones different than the rest of the world, with a complete package of bloatware, and aren’t able to issue updates – it’s not worth it anyway, when everyone’s on 24 month contracts, even better reason to prolong it and take a new device :)

    Imagine Apple or Microsoft letting carriers mess with their OS? Right… That’s the price you pay if your OS is open source and some geniuses decide to “improve” it and use as they see fit.

  • joe

    This chart is a lie, first gen iPod and iPhone are NOT running iOS 5:


  • Big Chief

    I’m so tired of the MYTH of fragmentation being spread, especially by android “insiders” like this author who should know better. This may upset some of you but, device manufacturers and carriers DO NOT owe you anything when it comes to updates. You don’t see people screaming fragmentation! and demanding free updates when their 2 year-old $200 netbook running Vista can’t do everything a new high end Windows 7 laptop can. Yes, android is all over the place when it comes to device hardware and software but this is not fragmentation. It’s called product differentiation and that is what makes android great.

    Yes, like most everyone that reads this site, I want the latest and greatest that android can offer. But in reality, a decently spec’ed device running froyo can do just about anything I need it to do. And for those who care about running the latest version (most consumers have no idea what version they are on btw) get a nexus or install a custom ROM. It’s really that simple.

    • http://www.jonathanharford.com/ Jonathan Harford

      Myth? Do you think Android is not as fragmented as iOS?

      I certainly don’t expect every phone company to support every phone forever, but any company that said “For the two years following the release of your phone, we will release a firmware upgrade within two weeks of the release of each new version of Android.” would have me as a loyal customer.

  • booboo skidoo

    This obviously shows bias in favor of apple. I would have more respect for this infographic and it would be more accurate, if it were iphones against nexus devices…

  • Distribulle

    Fragmentation is something that always afraid me with Android. Apart for the Nexus line, but I don’t like Samsung’s hardware so much. I would go with HTC if there wasn’t so much Sense and good updates.

    With iPhones, it’s a bit better. My 3G is still good but it’s starting to miss apps updates because of its slower hardware. Almost everything works. The thing that makes me angry is the incompatibility with iCloud as I am a MobileMe user. So I have to search for another phone.

    The perfect Android HTC 3,5″ phone isn’t there but here in Belgium the iPhone is out of reach (649€ unlocked, no possibility of contract) so I will wait. I have until June (end of MobileMe).

  • Mattt

    The main point of upgrading to the new major release is to gain the latest features. The iPhone 4 lacks Siri, so if you ask me it’s not exactly updated IOS 5 and it’s product lifetime was 1 year. Now that’s fragmentation.

  • http://www.mibapps.com/ Avi

    Fragmentation is a headline grabbing myth. Most Android devices today are on some form of 2.x and that’s all that matters. People complain that they want the GB update and don’t realize that it basically adds nothing. Manufacturer skins are basically the OS in the case of Android. Comparing Android updates to Apple updates makes no sense. The whole purpose of Android phones is that you can buy that cheaper one that may not get updates but it doesn’t matter. It’s the same with my PC. I knew that the $400 WinXP machine may not be able to be updated to the latest version of Windows. Besides, have you ever tried to use a two or three year old iPhone with the latest OS? It’s not what you’d think. And apple regularly leaves put features when upgrading. Hell, the iPhone 4 didn’t even get Siri with the latest update even though it clearly works with it. This whole conversation is all about headlines. The thing I’m pissed about is the Nexus One. The when point of that was to get updates and it won’t get the latest.

  • Tangent

    What I would like to see is something explaining exactly what downside there is to the owner of a phone with an outdated version of Android. My wife is using a MyTouch 3G Slide running stock Froyo. As long as it can still browse the internet, run Facebook, send Google Talk messages, and make phone calls she wouldn’t care if new phones were over a dozen versions ahead and running new Taffy or Upside-Down Cake versions of Android.

    Obsessively keeping up with the latest version – especially the instant it’s available – is probably the exclusive domain of the tech geek. I fit that category to a degree. I want the latest and greatest, but then again I love learning about new features and how to use them. Working in tech support I can tell you that most users would much rather have things stay the same as long as they work. They do NOT enjoy change, even if it give them extra features.

    Fragmentation and phones being left behind is an important issue with 95+% of the people who frequent Android and Me. It probably isn’t with 95+% of the Android using market…

  • Nathan

    Well it clearly stated in this graph that it’s a problem but company should be taking the extra effort to make it less clear. When the last time you heard about the update alliance?



  • Robin

    Fragmentation isn´t a big issue….

    - Your phone doesn´t stop working because you didn´t update the OS
    - You bought the phone for the features it had on that moment… not for what it may get or not in the future.
    - Even on a device with and older than current Android version you can still use almost all of the newest apps
    - You can “update” the look and feel by installing a new launcher, no OS update necessary
    - There is not much difference between 2.0, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3 most functions added on newer OS updates (google talk w. video, nfc ect) require hardware that your older phone likely doesn´t have. So the real added value to have a newer version is very limited

    Now as for Apple…. the chart is hopelessly flawed as:
    - Apple may update the OS in number but actual functionality is a different story
    eg. Technically Siri is perfectly capable of running in a iP4.. but with the latest iOS update for the iP4 it´s NOT included, the 3GS lacks even more functionality and let alone the original iPhone and iP3
    - Many 3GS owners are very unhappy with the iOS4 update as it rendered their iP to a slow, lagging device. (and they have no way to undo the upgrade)

    • Robin

      Forgot to add….

      - Can Eclair, Froyo and Gingerbread be considered “mayor” version like the graph suggests? Google, by judging at the version numbers things differently as Eclair (2.0 & 2.1), Froyo (2.2) and GB (2.3) didn´t get new mayor version number. So according to Google and common version number practice there are only the following mayor versions

      * Android 1.x ( Andoid 1.0, 1.1, Cupcake & Donut)
      * Android 2.x (Eclair, Froyo, Gingerbread)
      * Android 3.x ( tablets only: Honeycomb )
      * Android 4.x ( Ice cream Sandwich… not yet released)

      So there shouldn´t be any read blocks in the above chart. Only Green (those running mayor version 2 and yellow those stuck on mayor version 1)

      - 97.5% from the devices that are actively used are running at least 2.1 ( http://developer.android.com/resources/dashboard/platform-versions.html ) and thus are using the current up to date mayor version

    • Dave

      I wish I could agree with you but fragmentation is a major issue. Both as a developer and a user I was let down by Android. Don’t get me wrong I still love the platform, and for the time being still have an NS in reserve. I sold my SGS2 though because I simply haven’t been getting updates. What’s more I love flight sims, xplane being a really cool Android sim I tried to get it on my SGS2… No dice. Apparently it’s ‘too fast’ for it. How’s that for fragmentation. The best Android phone can’t run all the games.

  • Carlo St. George

    I bought the iPhone 4S because of this, the horrible fragmentation issues. You better spent your money wisely instead of being stuck with a terrible android os which suffers from tremendous fragmentattion, bugs and no games!!!!!

  • http://alphaefficiency.com Bojan

    Main reason why I sold my Android device and got myself an iPhone. Apple knows what they are doing, as opposed to clueless manufacturers of Android devices, with delayed updated, after delayed update.

    If I didn’t waste time on XDA, my Galaxy S would be useless brick. But let’s not mention countless hours I’ve spent on reflashing my phone over and over again, until I could get some usable custom ROM…

  • pritams

    it’s insane..

  • Big Chief

    And? Phone carriers/manufacturers more often than not still support older devices with security updates when they are needed. We’re talking about OS version updates here, not security fixes, try to keep up.

  • dougefresh91

    Thanks for the advice. That link is actually for the international galaxy s, not the Tmob one that I have. I’ve tried GB ROMS/ports of that on this phone and found them to be less than stable and or reliable. If Samsung would provide drivers we could have ASOP (AOSP?), but they won’t, and they never will.

  • RootSchmoot

    Likewise I have the Vibrant as well. Knowing it will never see anything past Froyo I went ahead and to try CM7.1. Downloaded SuperUser for root access, than Titanium backup (paid extra to sync backups to Dropbox). Then got Clockworkmod. Come to find out Android Recovery 3e doesn’t let CWM boot into recovery. Had to google and find some hack to back it down to Recovery 2e. Finally got CM7.1 installed. A few minor quirky things happened, but i was OK with it. Then tried to use an app that I paid for that needs GPS. It wouldn’t work at all. So tried to restore to backup ROM. What do you know it fails and I have a soft brick phone. More googling and found solution, just needed to download another version of ODIN, another PIT and TAR file. After a couple of attempts back to stock.

    On my Ipad2. Clicked OK to update to IOS5. 20 minutes later with no other interaction, update done.

    I know what I’m getting next after current contract expires.