updated 04:30 pm EST, Wed January 4, 2012
Android 4 has good early start with two devices
Google's updated Android usage data has shown that Android 4 is being adopted considerably more quickly than any of its predecessors. As of early January, the new platform had a total 0.6 percent of the user base split evenly between the absolute latest, 4.0.3, and the earlier builds. Almost all of these will be from Galaxy Nexus owners, although some Nexus S owners will have been upgraded as well.
While the share makes Android 4 small enough that it's no larger than the aging Android 1.5, the growth rate still puts it significantly ahead of Android 2.3 at the same point. An archive of January 2011 results had Android 2.3 at just 0.4 percent. The new OS was helped by a slightly earlier launch of the international Galaxy Nexus in mid-November where the Nexus S only appeared in mid-December of 2010.
An unofficial estimate from The Verge suggests that there may have been hundreds of thousands of Galaxy Nexus phones sold as a result. Going from Google's 200 millionth activation and 700,000 activations per day, the site estimated that about 707,000 Android users had the most recent software.
The update process still pales in comparison to iOS, where Apple's control of the hardware and common software platform lets it get many of its users on the latest version within days, and in many cases the vast majority on a current version within months. A much larger uptick is expected as non-Nexus devices start getting upgrades this winter and more again after Mobile World Congress in late February, when most major hardware partners will start announcing phones and tablets that ship with Android 4 built-in.
Google has been taking its own steps to curb the fragmentation of the platform and just Tuesday confirmed that it was requiring interface elements stay so that hardware makers could update faster and apps would work more consistently across all of Android. Most Android hardware is non-stock and can take months to update if the builder doesn't abandon it entirely, leaving many users vulnerable to security attacks or without access to certain apps and features.