updated 02:14 pm EDT, Sat November 2, 2013
Gingerbread now around one-quarter of Android devices
Devices running version 4.1 or higher of Google's Android operating system now account for more than half of the Android ecosystem, according to new numbers put out by Google. The newest figures showcase the rapid growth of the Android ecosystem, as Jelly Bean builds were only at 40 percent of Android installs just three months ago. Android now accounts for eight out of every ten smartphones shipped worldwide.
Google recently announced that the total number of Android activations worldwide had surpassed one billion. The rapid growth of Jelly Bean is likely a pleasant development for the search giant, as it signals that the problem of fragmentation may be lessening. Prior to the last few months, the most widely installed version of Android was 2.3 Gingerbread, which is more than two years old. That fact, along with the wide range of device form factors available from Android manufacturers, reportedly made it difficult for developers to build high-quality apps that would function on multiple devices.
Now Gingerbread accounts for just 26.3 percent of the Android install base. Jelly Bean's direct predecessor, version 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, now accounts for 19.8 percent of devices. Jelly Bean itself consists of three builds. Version 4.1 is on 37.3 percent of devices, while versions 4.2 and 4.3 are on 12.5 and 2.3 percent of devices.
Google's numbers do not necessarily reflect the full spectrum of Android devices in the wild. The figures are drawn from a data collected during a seven-day period ending November 1, 2013, in which Google monitored which devices were contacting the Google Play Store. As such, it is possible that the data ignores a number of users that are not downloading new apps. As Google releases the data for the benefit of Android developers, though, it is unclear whether the exclusion of such users has much of an impact.
Even as Jelly Bean moves into the dominant role in the Android ecosystem, Google has just released a new version of Android, 4.4 KitKat. The new version, which now only runs on the Nexus 5 and other Nexus devices, is said to have been built to lessen fragmentation even further by lowering memory requirements for Android devices. Now the system will run on handsets with as little as 512MB of RAM.