Android is the world’s most popular smartphone platform, with Google’s software accounting for 68% of global sales. Since its launch in 2008, Android’s popularity has grown and grown, with successive iterations introducing a raft of new features over time.
The latest version, Jelly Bean, has brought new functionality to Android in the form of Google Now , giving users an even greater level of personalisation with their search results. Before that, Ice Cream Sandwich dominated the launch of many of this year’s high-end devices, with the platform proving popular all-round.
However, new versions of Google’s mobile software are known for being slow to roll-out – the search giant’s own figures published just one month ago show that fewer than 2% of Android devices are currently running Jelly Bean, with Ice Cream Sandwich taking a 23.7% share of the market. The most used version of the software, Gingerbread, can claim to be in use by 55% of Android handsets, despite launching as far back as December 2010.
This slow roll-out is caused primarily by the fact that each manufacturer has to configure a new iteration of Android for each of its handsets before it can be launched for that device, meaning that there are still several stages of development to go through after Google pushes out the software itself, often resulting in a fragmented experience across the board.
In the latest poll to run on the Dialaphone blog we asked our readers which version of the software their Android handset is running. Surprisingly, we found that the results from our blog poll were quite different to what we would have expected based on the recently published statistics from Google.
Finishing in joint first place was the latest version of Android, Jelly Bean, gaining around a third of the votes cast. This is surprising, especially considering the lack of overall market share that the platform has so far achieved, but there is the possibility that our blog readers are early adopters who are ahead of the pack.
Along with Google Now, Jelly Bean also introduced what is known as Project Butter, a blanket term which encompasses a number of developments aimed at making a device’s user interface smoother. Project Butter certainly works and makes a noticeable difference when navigating around the UI on an Android device.
Enhanced voice recognition and an improved camera app were also introduces by Android Jelly Bean, and Google Maps is now also available offline, something which has added to the excellent navigational software even further.
Jelly Bean has so landed on a number of high-end handsets including the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and the Samsung’s Galaxy Note II. Along with these high spec devices, Samsung’s Galaxy S III Mini is bringing Jelly Bean to the mid-range market, showing that use of the platform is not limited to the most powerful (and expensive) handsets.
Finishing in joint first place with Jelly Bean was its immediate predecessor, Ice Cream Sandwich, which dominated the Android world for much of 2012 following its release in October 2011. ICS was the OS some of the highest-specced handsets currently available launched with, including Samsung’s Galaxy S III and HTC’s One X, but it has since become commonplace amongst mid-range and even low-end handsets.
Despite many handsets now shipping with ICS and upgrades to that iteration have been introduced for many devices, the platform can still only claim to run on around a quarter of Android devices, suggesting that many of those in circulation could be upgraded but are yet to be.
Taking around a fifth of votes cast was Android’s most popular iteration, Gingerbread, which we initially expected to come first in the poll. So why does a version of Android which is now several years old remain popular, both in our poll and in the wider smartphone world? One credible explantion is that the fact that there are so many mid-range and low-end Android handsets available means that the platform attracts the casual user more than, say, iOS does.
People who buy lower-priced Android devices may not be as inclined to keep up to date with the latest software iterations, as long as their handset still performs the tasks for which they first purchased it. It could be true that many of the advanced features brought in since Gingerbread may not actually make much difference to someone who only uses their phone for calls, texts and occasional browsing. It’s also entirely possible that these users may not feel confident with tackling the technical side of performing an update even if one is available.
Lastly, the poll suggested that some even older versions of Android are still in circulation, with Froyo receiving a surprising number of votes, despite being nearly half a year older than Gingerbread.
Overall, it has been interesting to see that Jelly Bean featured much higher in our results than we thought it would. As Google’s own statistics show, Gingerbread is still widely used amongst owners of Android handsets but it seems that ICS is gaining ground and many people are using the latest version already. With another full iteration of Android possibly some way off it will be interesting to see how usage of existing versions grows over time as more and more handsets are upgraded.