iOS vs. Android version adoption

Gruber points to this Apple press release touting 300 million devices on iOS 6 in just five months.

Meanwhile, I was reminded via Timehop yesterday how much I hated the Android Honeycomb emulator two years ago, which got me wondering where Android version (specifically that two-year-old Honeycomb) adoption sits. Turns out, according to Google’s own numbers, that Gingerbread, the version prior to Honeycomb is the undisputed leader of the market with a 47.4 percent share.


That is a sad state of Android affairs. No wonder surveys continually show developer interest in iOS as leaps and bounds ahead of Android. Android has come a long way in the past two years, but what good are those advancements if you as a developer have to create for the lowest common denominator?

16 thoughts on “iOS vs. Android version adoption

    1. Leo Natan

      What comparison do you want? In 3 months, iOS6 adoption was 75%. Now it is 85%+. Soon jailbreak will be out, and it will rise to 95%+.

    2. Kevin Dugan

      Apple has sold 500 million iOS devices, and iOS 6 is on 60% of all of those devices. That, as far as I’m aware, includes devices that can’t run iOS 6.

    1. Mark Fowler

      Now it’s reported to be on 60% of all iOS devices.

      Of course, that on 60% of all devices ever sold. Of the 40% a large number of those devices will no longer be in use (for example, we have an iPhone 1, and iPhone 3G and at least one iPod Touch that have been retired and sit in a draw.) Thus 47% verses 40% is much much worse than it seems – since that’s 47% of still active devices that people are trying to install software on. I suspect the percentage of iOS6 adoption on devices that people are trying to install Apps on is much higher than 60%.

    1. SuperMatt

      That’s not really an apt comparison. Many people held off from upgrading past Windows XP because of problems with Vista. The only reason people aren’t upgrading past Gingerbread is because their device doesn’t support it. None of the manufacturers of Android devices give a thought to people upgrading their device. Once you bought their commodity, they are done with you. You want the latest version of Android? Try their new phone – sure it’s 2 versions behind, but it’s newer than what you’ve got!

  1. Martin Kool

    I believe the OS distribution is only half the story. Many users have old an unsupported devices or cannot upgrade, whereas if one looks at the “active” userbase device distribution, different stats will emerge.

    We for instance just launched a little game for iOS and Android that got over 10,000 players on each platform within a week. But what struck us was that we deliberately chose to support Android 2.3 and up and are seeing 90% of Android our users on 4.0+!

  2. Fritz

    @SockRolid: That’s an apt way of putting it. I’m comfortable with loading various ROMs onto my various Android doodads, but Gingerbread’s my daily driver because at least everything works. There are ICS/JB builds for my phone that are 95% functional, but that remaining 5% tends to include things like the camera or SMS functionality.

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  4. Gingerbread

    I see these numbers batted around every few months but has anyone actually looked into what this means for consumers? Or is everyone working on the assumption that Google and Apple take the same approach to deploying software updates?

    For example, an iOS6 device may be missing some of these features:

    Turn-by-turn navigation is available only on iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPad 2 or later, and iPad mini with cellular data capability.

    Flyover is available only on iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPad 2 or later, iPad mini, and iPod touch (5th generation).

    Siri is available in Beta only on iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPad with Retina display, iPad mini, and iPod touch (5th generation) and requires Internet access. Siri may not be available in all languages or in all areas, and features may vary by area.

    FaceTime video calling requires a FaceTime-enabled device for the caller and recipient and a Wi-Fi connection. FaceTime over a cellular network requires iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPad with Retina display, or iPad mini with cellular data capability.

    Offline Reading List is available on iPhone 4 or later, iPad 2 or later, iPad mini, and iPod touch (5th generation).

    Made for iPhone hearing aids require iPhone 4S or iPhone 5.

    Panorama is available on iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, and iPod touch (5th generation).

    from the small print of

    So the Apple model is to update everyone in one go, but to simply leave out things that need too much RAM/GPU/CPU or are simply intended to price-differentiate the various models, so although everyone is on the latest version number they’re not all getting the same experience.

    Meanwhile on the Android side, many of the core features of the OS are actualy apps, that get regular updates direct from the App store (and also can be replaced with alternatives e.g. Firefox as the main browser). To pick one example Google Maps 5.0 introduced the vector maps that people on iOS6 are now enjoying. It was released 2 years ago and supported devices from 1.6 Donut and up, but again certain things were not available on certain models due to hardware limitations so you’d need a device of Galaxy S or Nexus S calibre to get all the features.

    Other such apps are GMail, Voice Search (two different versions, one for 2.1, another for 2.2+), the App Store, Chrome (4.0+), Music, Translate, Calendar, Earth, Street View, Drive, Goggles, Tracks, Currents, Search, Shopper, Gesture Search, Youtube Remote, Youtube, Car mode, and a few other odds and ends

    And they have more under other brands:

    All get regular updates and new ones are introduced often, without the fanfare of a keynote intro, and generally support devices even pre-gingerbread. It would be an interesting write up for people to take a range of Android phones (from old high-end models to real bargain basement models), factory reset them and then see exactly what new functionality they got over the time period since they were bought, and what they were denied (e.g. Chrome for Android is 4.0 and up). I’d imagine the improvements have been far more numerous and rapid than many in the Apple world would expect, where being stranded on the last version is a bit of a dead end. And for the real geeks you could look at the fact that many “upgrades” such as keyboards, launchers etc. are backported from the released source and made available in the app store by 3rd parties.

    Certainly a more interesting story than “my arbitrary number is bigger than your arbitrary number!”, anyway.

    1. NormM

      The biggest problem with being left behind in an old version of Android is the lack of OS patches and security updates. OS exploits from two years ago still work in half of all Android phones. When iOS 6 was released, it reached 50% penetration in just eight days. As security becomes more of an issue, this difference will matter more and more.

  5. JohnnyD

    What I would really love to see is current sales by OS version a device is running.

    You can’t buy an iOS device today that is not running iOS 6.1. Apple’s devices that can’t run the latest version decrease by attrition.

    What percentage of Android devices being sold today are running the latest version of Jellybean (or Jellybean at all) vs Ice Cream Sandwich or geriatric Gingerbread? If device makers insist on selling new products with old software, they dramatically prolong the length of time app makers need to support old Android versions.

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