updated 12:00 pm EDT, Wed October 5, 2011
Android in October has tablet, fragmentation issue
Google's progress and drawbacks in Android were seen in equal measure at the start of the week as its latest version share breakdown showed how much it continued to depend on smartphones and older versions. After eight months, Android 3 (Honeycomb) tablets still make up just 1.8 percent of the user base. Less than half of that group, 0.7 percent, is using the latest version of the OS.
Android 2.3, or Gingerbread, was growing at a steady pace but was still the minority. After almost a year, the OS was now on 38.7 percent of active Android hardware. The earlier Android 2.2, released a year and a half ago, is still the most popular version at 45.3 percent.
Although the share is likely to grow, it underscores an ongoing problem with keeping Android users on the latest version. Google this spring set up an anti-fragmentation coalition of top hardware partners that promised to update their phones quickly and over a sustained period, but the alliance has yet to be tested without Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4) available. Before the alliance, many Android makers deliberately skipped updates, sometimes for hardware just a few months old, either to save costs on development or simply to push users into earlier upgrades.
Apple hasn't given users the same level of device diversity but has been much faster in getting devices on the same page. Because every user with a fast-enough iOS device is guaranteed to see an update at the same time, the majority of its base ends up using the latest version within weeks. Historically, Apple has also been better about long-term support, giving new operating systems to devices up to two years old.
The dominance of the iPad in the tablet field, combined with the iPod touch, also makes non-phones a much larger portion of Apple's business. iPod touch figures aren't available, but Apple sold nearly half as many iPads as it did iPhones in the spring, at 9.25 million to 20.34 million.