By Jared Newman | Tuesday, November 2, 2010 at 9:42 am
At the Android developers website, Google has some ostensibly encouraging statistics: More than three quarters of Android users are now running version 2.1 or higher.
The stats are based on how many people have accessed the Android Market in the last two weeks, so while it’s not a completely accurate measurement of total phones, it does help developers understand what versions are most popular among app shoppers. At this point, app makers can use tools and features specific to Android 2.x and still reach the majority of active Android owners.
But with more updates on the way, this seemingly unified market isn’t going to last. Android 2.3 is rumored to be coming soon, and Android 3.0 will follow. Though we don’t know whether existing phones will get either of these upgrades, Android’s track record isn’t encouraging.
Most Android phones have received no more than one major upgrade in their lifetimes.
T-Mobile’s G1 started at 1.5 and halted at 1.6. (As pointed out below, the G1 had several updates over its lifetime.) The Droid Eris went from 1.5 to 2.1. LG’s Optimus moved from 1.6 to 2.1. A notable exception is Motorola’s Droid, which started with a stock version of Android 2.0 and has received two subsequent upgrades, but I don’t see a lot of wireless carriers and handset manufacturers scrambling to upgrade their custom builds more than once.
For this year’s top-shelf Android phones, such as Motorola’s Droid X and HTC’s Evo 4G, their upgrade was from 2.1 to 2.2. Again, I don’t know whether they’ll advance further, but I wouldn’t count on a speedy rollout if so; the biggest spike in Android 2.2 use was between August and September, three months after its release, and Samsung Galaxy S owners are still waiting for their upgrade.
More than ever, this is a major concern because of Android’s explosive growth over the last year. If the latest phones don’t get newer versions in a timely manner, there’s going to be lots of fragmentation all over again.