updated 11:25 am EST, Thu December 2, 2010
Android 2.2 takes lead well after launch
Google's latest OS distrubution chart published today revealed that Android 2.2 has finally become the most-used single version of the platform. As of the start of December, 43.4 percent of phones are using the OS, up from 36 percent last month. The figure had Android 2.1 still relatively close at 39.6 percent, while 16.9 percent were still running a 1.x version over a year after it became obsolete.
The change is significant for the platform but also potentially reinforces views that Android is excessively fragmented. It arrived seven months after the OS first started reaching devices in May and just weeks before the public launch of Android 2.3. With the majority of Android phones still running an outdated version, many recent features like Voice Actions or real-time Latitude are still unavailable to most Android users, even with hardware that could support it. Android 2.3 will have video chat but, without any upgrade promises, won't reach existing phones with front cameras like the Evo 4G or Epic 4G.
Apple's control over its own OS has been criticized as limting but has also been key to its getting features to devices much faster than Android. Most users are on the latest version within weeks, and older versions typically have fallen off quickly. The success of the strategy led Microsoft to do the same with Windows Phone 7 and require a version it could update for every manufacturer at the same time without having to wait for the phone builder or carrier to offer support.
Google has repeatedly tried to deny fragmentation exists, but primarily by reinterpreting the definition in spite of competitors. CEO Eric Schmidt claimed that splits in features didn't count as fragmenting Android as a platform, even though many new apps depend on those features to work.