Why Android is far behind iOS in terms of software distribution?

Less than 6% of Android devices are running on Android 8 Oreo and 81% of iOS devices are running on iOS 11.

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    At the WWDC 2018, Apple once again mocked Google's Android OS in terms of OS update. According to statistics, the adaptation rate for the Android OS is 6%, whereas, it is 81% for iOS. After this one may ask what is adaptation rate? Adaptation rate is a number based on a percentage of devices running on the latest operating system (which is calculated using the number of devices spotted on either Google Play Store or Apple App Store). The issue of Android fragmentation is not new, in fact, every year Google releases a new Android OS and the adaptation rate will be less than 10%.

    Why Android is far behind iOS in terms of software distribution?

    As a matter of fact, less than 1% of devices (to be precise 0.8%) are actually running on the Android 8.1 Oreo OS, which is the latest mobile OS from Google and 4.9% of devices are running on the Android 8 Oreo OS.

    Why is Apple leading the chart?

    Tha answer is pretty simple, there are a selected number of iOS devices which support the latest OS (Apple supports older devices up to 5 years) Say, including all iPads, iPods, and iPhones, there are less than 25 models and Apple releases a new software update on the same day for all these phones, and it is left to a user to install or not to install this software update. Looking at these numbers, most of the iOS users do show an interest to install the latest software update provided by Apple. This means, at any given point of time, devices running on iOS will be safe and secure at least for 4/5 years of their launch.

    Why Android is far behind iOS in terms of software distribution?

    Problems with Android

    According to the OpenSignal stats, there are at least 25,000 phones, which are powered by Android OS and this numbers get bigger by the day. Different OEMs say Samsung, LG, Sony, Nokia, Xiaomi, Honor, Huawei, Oppo, and Vivo (to name a few) launches devices with Android OS. In fact, Samsung along launches 15+ devices a year with different hardware configuration. This means, the electronic giant like Samsung cannot update each one of their devices, unlike Apple does it with iOS devices.

    Blame custom skin, Don't blame Google

    Though these devices run basically on a same operating system, the way they are offered to an end user differs a lot. Ex: it's like offering different flavors of hot wings. If one offered a barbeque sauce, one comes up with smoked grill flavor.

    Why Android is far behind iOS in terms of software distribution?

    Is custom UI is bad?

    No, of course not. Over the years, stock Android have learned a lot from custom UI. Ex: features like multitasking, gestures support, notification dots are all inspired by custom skin UI. Companies like Samsung and Xiaomi offers some of the best looking Android skins at a price of slower software updates.

    What is the solution?

    Last year, starting with the Android 8 Oreo OS, Google introduced a new feature called Treble, which enables seamless Android update without interfering with the custom skin shipped by the OEM. Project treble separates vendor implementation (custom skin and tweaks) from Android OS, where the company will be able to offer faster Android OS updates without worrying about the UI. As of now, there are a handful of devices, which support this feature, which requires hardware level storage formatting. Ex: The Nokia 7 Plus is one of the devices which completely supports Project Treble and now this is also one of the selected devices to support Android P beta preview.

    Conclusion

    The Project Treble from Google/Android has a lot of potentials and this could solve the fragmentation issue to a certain extent. However, as 90% of the Android devices do not support Project Treble it might take few more years and the OEMs should show some interest in implementing this feature on the upcoming devices.

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