back to article Ice Cream Sandwich still a no-show for most Android users

Google's unofficial codename for Android 4.0 is "Ice Cream Sandwich" (ICS), but it may as well have called it Godot, as the latest market figures yet again demonstrate. According to the most recent Android Developer Dashboard numbers, which were compiled by polling Android devices during the two weeks leading up to August 1, …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Skin/ui customization

    Google should have provided an API which would ease manufacturers and networks customization needs.

    This should have been done at 2.x early times.

    While technical purists love pure Android, in real world, customization by manufacturer is a must in current scene.

    1. M Gale

      Re: Skin/ui customization

      Anybody who likes a phone not laden down with crapware would probably go for a "pure" Android over some awful manufacturer-buggered version.

      Problem is, most people don't know what that means until you stick the two side by side for a performance and bloat comparison. Leaner? Meaner? I'll have that one, please.

      1. wowfood

        Re: Skin/ui customization

        I can agree with this. Wanted a cheap mobe with a big screen (bad eyesight, at the time no job) so I got the Orange Monte Carlo.

        Great phone for the most part, aside from the lack of memory and the orange crapware installed for every google item (maps, shop, etc) there's an orange version. I can't uninstal this crap either so its just wasting what little memory I have on my phone.

        My plan? Root it, install a custom rom for ICS and delete all that shit.

        From what I've read, despite the MonteCarlo / (ZTE Skate)'s low spec hardware, ICS gives a pretty good performance boost.

        Honestly I think a lot of the missing upgrades aren't down to google, but the manufacturer. Why upgrade the OS? They aren't making money out of it, they sold a 2.3 device, if you upgrade to 4.0 then that just means you're less inclined to go out and splurge on a new 4.0 phone with them at the present time.

        Hence why I'm going for the root / custom ROM route, and when my contract runs out I'll be waiting until the newest Android OS comes out before I buy. Probably the Samsung Galaxy SV

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Skin/ui customization

          Do it, i've got the San Fransico (blade) and ICS works fine on that, apart from youtube.It is quicker, I think it eats the battery life a bit more though.

        2. Simon Liddicott

          Re: Skin/ui customization

          Spot on about the money. I think Google should share some store revenue with the ROM maker or vendor, perhaps only while it is a current version. This would give manufacturers the incentive to keep old devices updated rather than let people turn to 3rd party ROMS.

        3. Ken 16 Silver badge

          Re: Skin/ui customization

          Proprietary driver code is the real problem. I've got a Monte Carlo too, running Gingerbread still to get the video working properly. I've got Jellybean on my old Blade/San Francisco because I don't use that for anything video intensive.

      2. Version 1.0 Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: Skin/ui customization

        Jelly Bean is slick and seems to have improved battery life too ... I've had it installed on a Nexus S for a week now.

        The rest of you poor slobs need to buy a new phone - the carriers have no interest in updating anything that doesn't force you to extend your contract - if they don't upgrade your phone then you'll eventually buy a new one with another two year contract just to get the update.

        Suckers.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      This

      Pretty much says everything regarding android updates, which is increasingly frustrating for many users.

      The excuse is always that the hardware won't cope with the operating system on phones that are barely a year old. Yet Apple manage to update their OS for phones over 3 years old.

      I question whether this is a way by manufacturers to boost sales of 'new phones' by denying the updates and deliberately but artificially make them obsolete to boost their profits.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This

        It's nothing to do with if the hardware is capable, it is because a phone maker would have to build the new release, create documentation, add all their customisations, QA test it, release it and then support it once bugs or problems are found.

        All of the above costs money to do and it's actually losing them money since they don't make any money on the software. They want you to buy another phone which is what they profit from.

        1. Ged T
          Thumb Up

          Re: This

          .... and then there is the "per network operator" marketing/branding plus sub-development-through-deployment for each network operator's (*cough*) value-add ins...

          All that eats time and money, too...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This

        Apple have limited hardware variants to support, so relatively easy software support wise, compared to the myriad of Android platforms out there.

        Same as Mac vs PC.

        We're mainly techs reading this & many give a damn, however my friends and family don't know or care what OS or version their mobe is running.

      3. No, I will not fix your computer
        Meh

        Re: This

        >>The excuse is always that the hardware won't cope with the operating system on phones that are barely a year old. Yet Apple manage to update their OS for phones over 3 years old.

        That's not entirely accurate (or at least misleading) the iPhone 3GS is just over 3 years old and while iOS 6 will install on it, the big ticket features aren't supported (not forgetting that similar gen, higher spec'd iPads won't get the update), the same is true for the iPhone 4, again iOS 6 will install but only partial support, you need an iPhone 4S to get full support of iOS 6.

        The same is true for other manufacturers, almost all Sony Xperias get ICS, but not the Play, despite it actually built with higher spec hardware, you can install it and it will run happily, however the Sony apps (specifically the Playstation ones, i.e. the raison d'être of the phone) don't perform as well so Sony don't certify it.

        Apple isn't really any different from any other manufacturer, apart from they have sold a lot, and it's worth their investment to update the OS for older phones, after all old phones are an advert for new phones (which does beg the question, why not update the iPads? - so perhaps they are in fact *worse* when you look at the big picture)

    3. LarsG

      The moral of the story

      Dont buy a phone that has a promise of an update, only buy them with the update.

      Sales would drop but it would send a message to carriers and manufacturers of the Android phones that the buying public wont put up with the delays. They might then learn a lesson.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The moral of the story

        The moral of the story is, if you give a shit -- and the vast majority of people don't care at all -- then root it and install it yourself.

      2. Paul Anderson

        Re: The moral of the story

        I agree with you in principle. However, I'm not sure how the 'average' person like me could put this into practice. You're talking about opting for a higher spec phone (more RAM, CPU cores, etc), but these cost more money which isn't available to the likes of me :-(

  2. Gene Cash Silver badge
    FAIL

    It's the carriers, not Google or the handset manufacturers

    My Verizon Xoom 4G edition was delayed a year and a half getting ICS from the wi-fi version. They're identical hardware other than the added cell radio. Are you telling me it takes a year to write/test cell drivers?

    I hear the Xoom w-if already has Jelly Bean. Any guesses how long before I see that from Verizon? If at all? I am not holding my breath.

    1. Richard 81

      Re: It's the carriers, not Google or the handset manufacturers

      Don't buy carrier-branded phones. Manufacturer-branded sure, but not carrier.

      My Samsung GS2, for instance, was bought from dial-a-phone on a T-Mobile contract but doesn't have any T-Mobile bloat and can be updated via Kies.

      ...not that Kies isn't a piece of crap, but at least I don't have to wait for T-Mobile to 'approve' any updates.

      1. Spearchucker Jones
        Boffin

        Re: It's the carriers, not Google or the handset manufacturers

        Erm, don't buy manufacturer-branded [1] phones either. Their evil is a layer deeper than carriers'.

        [1] With a single exception - Google/Nexus.

        1. Test Man
          FAIL

          Re: It's the carriers, not Google or the handset manufacturers

          Wrong. If you buy manufafturer-branded phones, you (in general) get the updates earlier. Carrier-branded updates will take longer and not only will it come with the manufacturer branding and crud, it'll ALSO come with the carrier branding and crud!

        2. Tom 38 Silver badge

          Re: It's the carriers, not Google or the handset manufacturers

          So no operator branded phones or manufacturer branded phones? Doesn't leave much choice does it?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Moto Xoom UK - still waiting

    ICS rolled out in US, JB already started in US too.

    EU ICS variant still in development according to their Android support page.

    Now Google own Moto, hoped development would be quicker.

    Come on Moto!

    1. Timfy67

      Re: Moto Xoom UK - still waiting

      Google "Gedify".

      It's a simple process to turn your UK Xoom into a Google Experience Device. Took my UK Xoom through ICS and then directly on to Jelly Bean with no issues. Very worthwhile, Jelly Bean really (and I mean REALLY) improves the Xoom.

      (no link to the software authour, just a happy user)

      "ICS rolled out in US, JB already started in US too.

      EU ICS variant still in development according to their Android support page.

      Now Google own Moto, hoped development would be quicker.

      Come on Moto!"

      1. Simon Buttress
        Thumb Up

        Re: Moto Xoom UK - still waiting

        What he said.

        I clung on for a few months like a smitten teenager hoping Motorola would lavish ICS upon me but in the end I saw the reality of it. 7 months since the US Wi-Fi only Xoom got ICS and yet we still wait for it here in the UK? F-off Motorola.

        GEDify your Xoom. It's definitely worth it and once, or maybe if, Moto UK get round to rolling out ICS in the UK then you can flash back to UK ICS if you fancy. Hell, they might even jump ICS and roll out Jellybean instead, but that might be the caffeine talking. The difference in performance of the same hardware running 4.0/4.1 compared to 3.2 is frankly unacceptable in the fact that I fail to take in how much positive difference the OS upgrade makes to the same physical piece of kit.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Moto Xoom UK - still waiting

        I've been holding out for Moto ICS, as I want to keep the useful Moto addons (e.g.Office).

        I don't run Windoze, so will have to borrow time on friend's machine to mod.

        Other than that, Gedify looks good.

        1. earlyjester

          Re: Moto Xoom UK - still waiting

          I do all my android flashing from within linux, you just need the android sdk for linux

          (I am assuming you run linux and not windows)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Moto Xoom UK - still waiting - now available! :-)

      Did my daily check for updates last night, and the ICS update was there (96Mb or there abouts).

      Install didn't take long (5-10 mins).

      Had to update Adobe Flash Player afterwards (old version not work in newer Google browser).

      Flash video such as iPlayer etc. now much more detailed with fewer blocky artefacts appearing.

      Roll on Jelly Bean ;-)

  4. Furbian
    Unhappy

    Oh I do miss Apple at times...

    My ragtag experience since my Android switch has been as follows...

    Motorola Atrix, Gingerbread released on its US phones, 'reaches' UK phones some 6 months later. My son has it now, waiting for ICS.... Turns out the unique selling point for their new phones is that they are on ICS...

    Wife's HTC Sensation XE, came with ICS, which obviously meant that everyone else could see the improvements they weren't getting any-time soon.

    Yes that included me on my Sony Xperia S, my first one had Gingerbread and the yellowed-out screen problem, they sent me a replacement after waiting a few weeks for spare parts that were 'delayed'. Even though ICS was now available for it in Europe, the replacement was still on Gingerbread. Eventually I saw my IMEI number turn up on their update website, but my 'phone is up to date' claimed the phone, the website, and the PC update software.

    So I downloaded a European copy of ICS for it and promptly flashed the phone with a config file! Fortunately it was not bricked, flashed it properly and it worked. Only annoying thing being that a so called full 'backup' program didn't quite work as it should have so I lost some save games.

    Then there's the sole iPhone user in the house, who will just plug in, backup, update and restore when the iOS version is released. Or just do it over wif-fi. Bliss.

    1. gort

      Re: Oh I do miss Apple at times...

      Lucky iPhone user, my iPad 1, bought slightly over a year ago, won't be getting any upgrades ever.

      1. Pete Spicer

        Re: Oh I do miss Apple at times...

        I wonder if you're not upgrading for the same reason as me.

        I have an iPad 1, and theoretically it'll run the latest 5.1 branch of iOS but there is no way I'm upgrading even if Apple are pushing it out: while the hardware will support this version, the RAM limit in the iPad 1 means that things like Safari often run out of memory and close.

        10 out of 10 to Apple getting new versions of operating systems out to their devices promptly, and for supporting older hardware, but minus several points for the fact the newer version of the OS doesn't work as well as the previous one in terms of things like memory economy.

    2. johnny19

      Re: Oh I do miss Apple at times...

      See, the iPhone is Apples hardware, they write the software for it which means they get the updates out as soon as they are baked.

      Nexus phones are Googles hardware, they launch them every 12 months or so, like Apple, and they get the updates as soon as they are available.

      All other Android phone makers hardware is their own, they take Googles software and make it their own, like a Linux distro. It uses the same core code, but they alter it and write their own drivers.

      You made this choice when you picked a Sony or Moto phone, you trusted that manufacturer to keep you up to date. Truth is, they never promised to roll any updates onto your phone, your phone works as advertised when you bought it, they are under no obligation.

      If you buy a Nexus phone Google promise prompt updates for at least 2 years, probably longer, but 2 years minimum. Seamless OTA updates that finish in minutes, don't even need to use Wifi.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Oh I do miss Apple at times...

        Nexus is pitched as a developers handset though. So obviously it will get lots of updates as developers need to do a lot of testing.

        1. johnny19

          Re: Oh I do miss Apple at times...

          Its pitched as a reference device, or a Google Experience Device. It just means all the software updates come direct from Google. Nexus devices use the same update model as iOS, or as close as is possible in the Android ecosystem.

          I think a lot of people don't really understand how software and updates work on Android, if you buy a phone 'based' on Gingerbread. That doesn't make it a Gingerbread device, the manufacturer has likely removed features, added their own, ripped out the skin and replaced it.

          When Google release the next version, the manufacturer can choose to take parts of that new code, features, bug fixes etc and try and roll them into their own version. It doesn't mean they take Googles version and start again with their modifications.

          In ICS Google tried to limit what manufacturers could alter, by making them sign agreements, to try and limit the effect of fragmentation and make Android easier to develop for. But a lot of people are stuck on Gingerbread devices just because it is almost impossible for a manufacturer to update without a lot of effort they won't be rewarded for.

          In short, if you care about having the latest and greatest from Google itself, you really should get a Nexus device.

      2. Stacy
        Meh

        Re: Oh I do miss Apple at times...

        Not True...

        On the box for the Xperia S was the sticker for 'Upgradabe to ICS!' It was promised, and came (and did a great job of improving the phone too) - it just took too long.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh I do miss Apple at times...

      Apple have limited hardware variants to support, so relatively easy software support wise, compared to the myriad of Android platforms out there.

      Same as Mac vs PC.

    4. MikeyD85

      Re: Oh I do miss Apple at times...

      Titanium Backup - problem solved.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Some HTC users are rather annoyed after they decided not to go ahead with the previously announced ICS update for the Desire HD. Users (including myself) have been waiting for it since march, when they said we'd get it in July/August, then week or so ago they changed their mind. According to information posted on the petition that was started (http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/give-us-ics/) it's due to the storage partition sizes, but I would certainly be interested in a 'factory reset' ICS update for mine.

    Then again, I suspect that the major cause of the 'gingerbread problem' is honeycomb, a lot of devices are stuck at 2.3 because there wasn't anything to update to for the lifetime of 3.x.

    1. LarsG

      My unbranded HTC Sensation got the ICS update and is now a buggy shadow for its former self. Beware what you wish for.

      1. paulf Silver badge
        Unhappy

        @ LarsG

        My unbranded/SIM Free HTC Sensation worked lovely when I got the main update to ICS 4.0 (Android 4.0.3 HTC build 3.32.401.5). That was back in Feb I think, and it was a noticeable improvement over 2.3.4 which it had when I got it.

        Then HTC pushed out a 60Mb "bug fix" update about a month ago - apparently this was to fix problems in the Radio firmware and other sundries. This kept Android 4.0.3 but updated the build to 3.33.401.6 and my handset was a buggy mess after that. Smooth and responsive became laggy with flickery screen transitions. HTC told me to clear the Cache partition. When that caused a whole bunch of other bigger problems (which thankfully have settled down now) I got the standard HTC support response "Do a factory reset" [because we haven't a clue WTF is wrong].

        1. Daleos

          Re: @ LarsG

          I thought my Sensation was really slow after the 2nd ICS update but recently found a really simple fix.

          Try disabling 'fast boot' (Settings > Power > Fast Boot) and reboot.

    2. Test Man
      Thumb Down

      Tell me about it. Got the HTC Desire HD on the year dot (1 month after release). It's from Carphone Warehouse so devoid of all carrier nonsense.

      Barely 1 1/2 years later, I'm being told that it's not getting the 2nd-latest Android available, so literally a year after the device is released, there is a release of a OS that it's incompatible with. This might be OK anyway, but the problem is there are apps coming (and some out now, like Chrome) that REQUIRES 4.x+. So I'm suffering the same problem as my 2nd-gen iPod Touch which is stuck on 4.2 - and that lasted 2 1/2 years till the release of an incompatible iOS version!

      So why do these manufacturers spec phones without future-proofing it enough?

    3. Test Man
      Thumb Down

      And I'd just like to add that it's all this nonsense that is causing me to rethink getting an HTC One X when my contract is up in November - it's already been out for months and my worry is that it'll be replaced by another phone that HTC have specced up (like the HTC Desire HD - replaced by the Sensation) straight away and subsequently the One X is deemed unfit to receive Android 5.0.

  6. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  7. toadwarrior

    Android is a ghetto

    Why would anyone want go develop for android? It has serious fragmentation and according to a news article on the BBC today, it's making devs less money than even RIM or Nokia and is nowhere near iPhone.

    It just isn't attractive as a platform. Google needs to do something about that.

    1. Craigness

      Re: Android is a ghetto

      The "fragmentation" is not a problem because they designed the platform to allow multiple versions and hardware configurations. Design it properly and your app will work on a huge range of devices. Convert an ios app and you'll fail.

      That BBC story was from 9th May. The sales figures have improved since then, and those don't include the Amazon store. Freemium and Free With Ads are popular models on Android, so the ad revenue should not be ignored. I suspect the main reason the sales are low is because there are so many developers offering free apps. With no fragmentation issue, it's easy for people to develop so whenever you need to get something done, there's a free app that will just work.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Android is a ghetto

        Except Microsoft does the same with Windows, but that assumes everyone plays by the rules.

        Guy a work starts Android game on his Galaxy 3. Ooops, no sound. So this strategy to cope with multiple hardware/software versions obviously works.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Android is a ghetto

          >> Galaxy 3

          What's that?

          Everything that I had on my Moto Atrix (GB) works on my Galaxy SIII (ICS), only faster and smoother.

    2. Eddy Ito Silver badge

      Re: Android is a ghetto

      Except it isn't just Android, most devs, especially those doing games, aren't making much money on any platform and the reason is the thousands of similar apps and wading through the pit that is the app stores. Sure you can catch fish in the same hole with a million other Apple and Android hooks in the water but it might be easier going to have a small pond practically all to yourself.

    3. PyLETS
      Linux

      Re: Android is a ghetto

      People develop for Android because it's the largest smartphone platform.

      Fragmentation is only an issue for developers needing features available on revision 3.X or 4.X not present on revision 2.X. If they target revision 2 their app works on 2, 3 and 4. As to end user concerns about not having the latest and greatest OS upgrade, that can be similar to the idea of trying to run Vista on hardware designed for XP. If you're the kind of person who upgrades your OS every 6 months, you can try it if you want to, but you will often get a bad experience until you've upgraded your hardware to suit the software. All I can suggest to those who want their phone to support upgrades not yet available from the vendor is to get a rootable phone which can handle CyanogenMod and then some.

      Which leads to the one serious criticism I do have of Google's Android development model, which is the closed source internal development then throw it over the wall approach so it then becomes open source instead of developing it in public in the same manner as the Linux kernel. The over the wall approach disconnects the interests of those who really do want to do their own phone modding and hacking (e.g. the CyanogenMod community) from mainstream developers working within Google, and it doesn't result in as high quality software as a more fully open source development approach allowing more interested eyeballs to find more bugs and contribute to stronger features earlier in the software pipeline.

      1. Craigness

        Re: Android is a ghetto

        What Pylets said. But it should be pointed out that you don't have to use ONLY 2.x APIs if you want to sell to 2.x devices. You can use 4.x APIs and make that functionality available only to 4.x devices. It's like developing a website for multiple generations of browsers with various screen sizes. El Reg is an exception, buy many websites function nicely across devices, as do many Android apps.

    4. Mark .

      Re: Android is a ghetto

      According to the Apple-loving BBC you mean.

      The reason it's harder to make money, is there's plenty of free stuff there. That's *good* for consumers. Sure, on Apple you can get away with charging loads for a sat nav software, when Android and Nokia get it for free. Why is that a plus for Apple users, exactly?

      For whatever reasons, there are plenty of Android developers writing software for free or low cost. If that pushes down the ability to make a profit, then great. That's what you get with a mature popular OS, that's well supported by developers.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Mushroom

    A lot of this can be attributed to silly proprietary games

    A lot of these devices, ship with proprietary drivers for devices because the company that makes the ICs involved doesn't want to reveal their intellectual property.

    Apparently they also see the CPU and system memory as being an appropriate place to keep their IP. Hence the drivers have to, in their eyes, be released as a proprietary binary blob.

    So when a release of a new kernel comes out that breaks ABI compatibility with the driver, manufacturers and end users have to sit around waiting for the manufacturer to release new drivers.

    Add to this, that some of the manufacturers playing silly proprietary games, are the handset makers themselves.

    I recall one TI bod telling us they weren't in the business of "helping the opposition" (or words to that effect). Funny... they use the ALSA System-on-Chip framework, which was developed by their direct competitor; Wolfson Micro. A lot of companies do not see the open source world as the two-way street it should be.

    Contrast this to the myriad of devices that have in-kernel support. On devices where the end user can get hold of the sources, build and load a new kernel themselves... I'll bet those were the first to see ICS releases, and the ones still stuck on Android 2.x are the ones where companies are protecting "their precious".

    This is going to hurt them more than it will help, but what do I know? I'm just a silly end user.

  9. Joseph Lord
    Linux

    Security updates?

    Are there known security issues with Gingerbread or ICS? If so are updates issued for these?

    From a consumer point of view that is critical to whether the Android approach can be sustained. It is one thing to miss out on the new shiny but having a insecure device with masses of personal data is another thing.

    1. Stephen 27

      Re: Security updates?

      Agree whole heartedly. But everyone seems to forget. These are phones! I have no need to upgrade my 2.3 phone. It works just as well as when I bought it and does everything I need. Except I would like to know that any vulnerabilities are plugged.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Security updates?

      Yes there are some serious security problems with Gingerbread.

      http://www.eweek.com/c/a/Security/Latest-Android-Malware-Infects-Gingerbread-via-Jailbreak-Exploit-298452/

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Security updates?

        Google post security updates and I know for the company I work for that they get turned around and released by the silicon vendor and made available to the public/OEMs within a week of being made available by Google. The OEMs may take longer to release them for the points raised by other responders on issues such as testing and documentation.

        1. MrT

          Re: Security updates?

          ... my old Desire (original AMOLED one) was a 2.1 T-Mobile device - it got one small-ish patch in the 18 months since FroYo was issued. Despite the stories about various security issues, T-M did not authorise the half-dozen or so security patches that had been issued by HTC so they didn't get applied.

          If Google want to take more control then the Android model is going to have to develop a layered approach, with critical OS patches available ASAP, but manufacturer and vendor-specific layers over that. It's not an easy option to retro-engineer without a clean sweep - which 4.0 offered but the choice wasn't taken.

  10. squilookle
    Gimp

    Fragmentation Everywhere

    Yes, it's fragmented and Apple may not have the same problem, but this is not a new issue or restricted to Android phones. Microsoft are currently having the same problem in spades trying to get a large portion of their users off XP and onto Windows 7, and soon Windows 8. I'm sure other OSes (whose maker does not rule the ecosystem with an iron fist) all have the same issue too, to some degree.

    The fact is that, like all those XP users, the majority of Gingerbread users probably don't care as long as their phones are working and doing everything they want them to, same as they won't care what OS their PC is running if it does the job.

    The situation with manufacturers and carriers installing their own builds doesn't help, but those that do care about the OS/version they are running have several options, including buying devices that get the updates, and things like Cyanogenmod. In the case on Android, the fragmentation comes with the territory and is a small price to pay for the freedom we have with the software.

    That said, it is interesting to see the figures.

    1. Conrad Longmore

      Re: Fragmentation Everywhere

      I think that the Android marketplace is almost exactly like the Windows marketplace in terms of fragmentation. Lots of choice, lots of flexibility but hardware fragmentation causes a ton of issues in terms of stability and ease of development.

      iOS is rather like the Mac.. less choice and flexibility, but less models to support and total Apple control from end-to-end make it a much easier platform to support.

      Me? I use Windows and an Android phone. But there are definitely times I would like iOS and a Mac..

      1. Mark .

        Re: Fragmentation Everywhere

        The catch is that Android is so popular that even one of those "fragments" is bigger than the IPhone platform. Similar for say Windows Vista onwards versus OS X. So even if you decide to restrict what you can develop for, it's still worth doing it, more than for the Apple platforms.

        And I'm not sure Apple is so much more easier. That argument worked with the original Iphone, but now we've got 5 Iphones, and I think 3 Ipads. Soon they may release a "mini" Ipad too to the mix. Not to mention all the various Ipod Touches. There are countless Macs too, which have used different chipsets over the years (e.g., NVIDIA and Intel). So I'm not convinced at all that the hardware is easier to support.

        This argument really only works for consoles, where you just focus on particular device, and forget about the older ones the moment the new one is released. But whilst people might write a game for "X Box 360" say, I'm not sure developers want to only write for "Iphone 4S" or "Ipad 3" or whatever the latest version is.

  11. David Hicks
    FAIL

    Still no evidence of actual fragmentation

    OMG! Different versions of the OS are out there! OH NOES!

    Even a cursory glance at the android development environment and SDKs will show you that -

    - Most software built on older versions is forward compatible

    - There's a compat library so software developed on newer platforms can run on older ones.

    Still not seeing this fragmentation people keep bleating about.

    Yes, it would be good in manufacturers got their arses in gear and gave updates to the latest OS to everyone, but it's not like (for instance) Windows Mobile fragmentation where things either have to be rebuilt (7->8) or just won't run at all (8->7).

    1. RyokuMas Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Still no evidence of actual fragmentation

      In that case, why are there companies moving away from supporting Android (http://www.electronista.com/articles/12/03/10/mika.mobile.says.android.money.losing.platform/) due to the return not justifying the time they've put in?

      For a developer, especially a game developer, the issue of fragmentation is very real - when speed and performance are everything, having to worry whether an enhancement you've used is going to bring various OS/handset combos you have not been able to test on (unless you can afford to do this: http://techcrunch.com/2012/05/11/this-is-what-developing-for-android-looks-like/) is not an option.

      But it's laughable that Fandroids are now calling WP7/8 "fragmentation" - they're two completely separate entities, to the point where (for games at least) Microsoft advocate completely different methodologies for coding, C#/XNA for WP7 and C++/DX11 for WP8. You might as well compare the Windows Phone to the iPhone and call that "fragmentation". The fact that if I build a game for the WP7 (which will automatically work on all handsets) will then be rebuilt by Microsoft and - at no further effort from myself - work for WP8 is a bonus. Or at least, I'm hopeful that that will be the case - but worst case scenario, it would mean maintaining two completely separate code bases, rather than continually tweaking and hoping every time a new OS version or handset is released.

      1. Mark .

        Re: Still no evidence of actual fragmentation

        Maybe some of us are competent developers who can cope targetting more than one version of an OS.

        And who cares if people leave a platform because they can't make money from applications that people don't want. Either offer something or value, or I'll enjoy the vast amount of software available for free. (Indicidentally, I've seen similar articles about "apps" being a hopeless investment for Apple too, so there's nothing special about Apple. The only ones who make the money are Google, Nokia, Apple etc, due to the 30% profit they get to cream off of everyone else's work.)

        I agree it's unfair that people criticise WP 7 vs 8. Just because some of us object to nonsensical Android criticism, doesn't mean we're "fans" who hate everything else.

      2. David Hicks
        FAIL

        @RyokuMas Re: Still no evidence of actual fragmentation

        Right, so, let's see if I get this -

        different versions of android providing all sorts of compatibility and some upgrades = fragmentation.

        different versions of windows mobile with limited or no compatibility and no upgrades = not fragmentation.

        Double plus good citizen! I can see I'm starting to grok this newspeak!

  12. sleepy

    Insoluble

    It's an insoluble problem, which is why both Google and Microsoft are making attempts to bolt Apple's business model on the side of their own, becoming device manufacturers in competition with their own hardware partners.

    The problem is that the device manufacturer doesn't have the customer; the platform and/or the carrier does. Next time around, any loyalty a customer has, will be to Android, not to Samsung, HTC, Panasonic, Sony, Motorola, LG, Kyocera, Panasonic or Huawei. There is simply no motivation for manufacturers to spend good money enhancing an already sold device with the latest Android release.

    It's the same problem for Android OEMs that plagued the Wintel PC makers - inability to innovate or even change, because change takes effort, and the effort costs, while benefitting competitors equally.

    Apple's business model lets them keep devices up to date, and reap the benefit of a strong customer relationship, which includes an ability to impose change. The rest of the industry has always depended on Apple not for innovation itself, but to give innovations critical mass in the market. That includes the 3.5 inch floppy, SCSI, WiFi, HTML5, the mouse/windows UI, USB, the touchscreen UI, Postscript, the tablet computer, and doubtless others.

  13. M Gale

    http://developer.android.com/about/dashboards/index.html

    I find that link a whole lot more useful than a single pie chart. The rate of ICS adoption is increasing quite a bit. In fact it's made quite a jump in just three months. Doubled, if those figures are accurate. At this rate, I'd say give it six months and ICS will be where 2.x was a year or so ago. You might want to contrast that with say, Vista or 7 adoption compared to the XP juggernaut that just keeps on trucking.

    Nothing to see here, move along people.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yes, well

      now they're still a version behind. Any chance of getting Jelly Bean on your phone? I thought not.

      1. Gio Ciampa

        Re: Yes, well

        For my Wildfire?

        Officially - no (same as for ICS)

        Unofficially - there's a JB port out there already... highly unstable at the moiment, but give it a little time...

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just get over it

    Buy an apple already or are you into enjoyment of SM?

    1. M Gale
      Trollface

      Re: Just get over it

      Buy an Android already or are you into enjoyment of SM?

      Fixed.

  15. paulc
    Meh

    Contract phones are the problem...

    current contracts are getting longer and longer which means older versions of Android remain around for longer as people can't upgrade the phones until the contracts are over or into the upgrade period. Meanwhile, the phone companies couldn't give a rat's $$$$ about providing OS upgrades for the older less capable phones as they're too busy working on the next generation of phones and trying to certify the builds for the versions which are coming to market.

    In a couple of year's time, people will be moaning about all the ICS based phones still hanging around.

    I was happy I was able to upgrade my phone over the air to ICS... but don't expect it to get Jelly Bean as it took long enough for Virgin and Samsung to get their act together on ICS...

    My next device will most probably be a proper google blessed item without any stupid manufacturer overlay or mobile provider cr@p on board...

    Got 18 months left to run on this Galaxy S2 contract... wondering what will be around then :)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Contract phones are the problem...

      If you want to know what Android will look like in 18 months take a look at the iPhone 5 when it's released in September.

      1. M Gale
        Trollface

        "If you want to know what Android will look like in 18 months"

        Conversely, if you want to know what future IOS versions will look like, look at Android right now.

        Everyone copies each other's best ideas. Only Apple pretend that they don't. Or are you saying that IOS's notification bar was born from one of the late Steve Jobs' brainfarts? Perhaps the decision to allow third parties to create multitasking apps wasn't anything to do with Android doing so from the beginning?

        Maybe IOS6 will have have widgets? Or perhaps voice recognition that works? Tethering as a standard OS feature, perhaps? Apps that contain scripts? Browsers that are more than a skin for Safari? Bluetooth file transfers? Who knows? All I know is I have all of the above already.

        And it tastes gooooooooood.

    2. Toothpick
      Joke

      Re: Contract phones are the problem...

      "Got 18 months left to run on this Galaxy S2 contract... wondering what will be around then :)"

      Probably not Sumsung if Apple get their way ;)

  16. ForthIsNotDead
    Meh

    Meh.

    1) The compatibility library means this isn't really a problem. I've written code 'targeted' for ICS and ran it on a 2.3. It works.

    2) The phone manufacturers are in the business of selling phones. Not keeping older ones going. They want you to dump your old phone and go and buy a new one. I'm sure they are in no hurry whatsoever to put ICS on a 2 year old HTC Desire, for example. It's a pain, but there you are. Get over it.

    1. amanfromearth

      Re: Meh.

      "The phone manufacturers are in the business of selling phones"

      Not all..

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just one thing?

    Are these figures purely phones?

    Just that a lot of the slightly older Chinese tablets run Gingerbread, thus the device reports itself as a phone, but is not.

    I know my is convinced it's a phone, but still been watching the Olympic's in high-def is quite nice.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just one thing?

      IIRC Honeycomb was never available for phones, only tablets.

      So, since the graph includes Honeycomb, I'd assume that tablets are included.

  18. mark1978
    FAIL

    This kind of nonsense was one of the things that did for Nokia. Nokia comes up with a perfectly good firmware update -- only for nobody to be able to get it because it hasn't been 'approved' by the carrier.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    well, I sold my Galaxy S II about 2 weeks ago, it was still running 2.3.4. I though that I will be able to get JB earlier if I bought the Galaxy Nexus, but that didn't happen. After searching online as to why my Nexus phone isn't getting JB yet, I find out that there are 2 version of the phone, one that is updated by Google and another that is updated by Samsung. The Nexus was suppose to be what remove the OEM's update release cycle from the picture... yet even that isn't working!

    To be honest, it is not really the lack of update that is pissing me off here. But that fact that updates are released in other parts of the world, yet months latter, we still don't get the have those same update because we live in a different part of the world! We buy the same phone, so why is there a discrimination in the update release?

    Note that I didn't make a typing mistake when I wrote that my Galaxy S II was still running 2.3.4. While people from other parts of the world are running ICS, we are stilling waiting for the security updates for the Gingerbread!

    Any way, unless Google address this update problem, the Nexus is going to be my last Android phone. Now that Microsoft marketplace is covering many more countries, I am going to consider them for my next phone update.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      to add something,

      while I do understand that OEMs selling Android don't make any money on the device after they have sold it* and that the updates cost them to release. I for one am willing to pay a small amount for a upgrade (2.3 > 4.0 > 4.1), as long as the updates remain free (2.3.4 > 2.3.7).

      * unlike Apple who operate iTune as well as sell the device.

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      I am new to the smartphone market, having just got a Glalxy S II from my new job around two months ago.

      When I got the phone, it was running on 2.3.4 as you say. Without any intervention on my part, via the WiFi connection on my home router, it is now pegged at 4.0.3.

      So something happened, and apparently it works.

      For me at least.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @ Pascal Monett

        I guess you didn't know, one of the problems with the update release of Android is: the OEM will release the update by region and by provider.

        so people who live in those other countries, sometimes have to wait for months before they get the same update. Note that 2.3.7 was release a long time ago in the EU, America and some parts of Asia. The other countries are still waiting for this security update!

        so to repeat, it is not that the update is not being released that I have a problem with, but the fact that the update are being released in rich countries while people from those other countries keep waiting for that same update for months (if it comes out).

  20. Nick Ryan Silver badge

    "What's truly disappointing is that the lion's share of Googly handsets – roughly 61 per cent of the total – are still running Android 2.3, codenamed "Gingerbread," a version that dates back to 2010."

    No, what's truly disappointing is that the damn phone manufacturers are still releasing phones with 2.3, not 4.x

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      The trouble is that the phone makers DON'T CARE. And Google probably can't dictate terms to them since the phone makers counter they're already on razor-thin margins. Force them into an upgrade regime, and the numbers will probably tell them to start pulling out.

  21. pops106

    I am running JellyBean on both my devices, old DesireZ and original Asus Transformer and both working beautifully.

    I have ran 2.3 GB > 3.x HC > 4.0 ICS > 4.1 JB and out of the hundreds of apps or games etc I have used over the years I bet there has been less then 5 apps that have version issues and they are usually fixed very quickly by the programmer.

    I think Google/Android should actually be recognised for there effort towards compatibility not strung up for providing a more open platform with plenty of updates coming from Google or custom developers, it amazes me how well things actually work.

    The manufacturers need to do what the where supposed to do and develop a platform and grow confidence in there own products to stand out over someone else's and stop trying to protect something that doesn't exist, people don't go out looking to buy a particular brand these days. They look for a good deal and then compare each product within the price they want to pay, let's face it if they haven't gone for an iPhone / blackberry they are going android in any case.

  22. Jason Hindle

    Never trust a promise of Ice Cream Sandwich

    It's just so much jam tomorrow. I bought my current phone because it comes with ICS pre-installed (in a manner that doesn't annoy me). I'll not be holding my breath for Jelly Bean!

  23. ukgnome Silver badge

    It seems that

    Part of the problem is unwillingness by handset makers to upgrade the OS. Afterall, if they did then what would be the point of a new phones?

  24. Bodhi

    Having only recently had my Xperia S upgraded to ICS, I have to say I'm a bit "meh" about having the latest version of Android. Since 2.2 the new features in Android have been mostly "nice to have" rather than compelling reasons to upgrade. I mean from what I can gather, the only big advantage I've seen with ICS is Chrome, but it's not like the stock GB browser was bad. Other than that it appears to be a new font and a data counter, which were easily obtained on GB anyway. Oh sorry I forgot swiping notifications to clear them. That is pretty cool I'll grant. I expect to see it in iOS 6 as well, seeing as where Apple get there insipration for notifications.....

    Other than Chrome all the apps work in exactly the same way as on GB, and it wasn't as if my phone stopped working when Google release ICS, it was still a damn good phone on GB, like it is on ICS. In fact I'd say the biggest benefits come from the new Sony apps, like the Walkman player and new Gallery app.

  25. R.Moore

    Jelly Bean arrived on my Nexus S

    It was pushed out to me last weekend.

    The UI is apparently quicker though I've never had a problem with the UI speed in the past anyway. Some apps definitely appear more sluggish than on ICS though which is a shame.

    I'll stick with it for the time being though as it's still nice to use.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Its not just about OS version its about functionality

    Personally I find the suggestions that because I bought a device based on the version of Android it was running at the time that it's no big deal if I don't receive the update frustrating.

    My frustration stems from the fact that my Galaxy SII exhibited many core feature bugs in its OOB state no doubt many inherent to the OS and not just unique to that handset.

    Without an update many of these issues would not have been resolved.

    Should Samsung not have provided said upgrade (eventually) was I to sit there and 'get over it' resigned to the fact that some functionality of the device was never to function as advertised?

    Personally I find the current model of vomiting as many Android devices as possible on the market purely to stay ahead of a specs and features war, at the expense of the now huge user bases, offensive and indicative of a disregard of the consumers investment.

    1. Mark .

      Re: Its not just about OS version its about functionality

      But the flip side is, if you're complaining about bugs in your phone, why are people calling for Samsung to rush out with ICS or JB updates ASAP, from the moment Google releases it, never mind that they have to put their own OS and UI on top of it, and test it? That's a receipe for far worse user experience.

      The "x% of people update IOS within so many days" stats are unfair, as it doesn't count all the testing that Apple do.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The whole upgrade situation on Android is a bit of a joke. Don't get me wrong, I own an Android phone and use two Android tablets, and still have an old Android phone as a wifi hotspot, I like Android, and quite a lot. Google release a version. The phone manufacturer then has to put its interface and any other changes on. Then this flies off, and barely anyone gets it, because not that many people buy their phones SIM free. So it ends up at the carrier who adds their own layer of 'joy*' to the whole thing.

    You'll normally see some bright spark on XDA Developers cramming the release on to rooted phones quickly, even releasing versions manufacturers themselves said weren't possible (Ice Cream Sandwich on the HTC Desire for a start)

    In some ways I'd prefer it if it followed an Apple-ish approach, here's your update. Have some kind of hardware compatibility list, approved versions for phones and be done with it. Maybe some kind of patching functionality to allow customisations, as one of the attractions of Android is the variety.

  28. Pastafarian

    If it aint broke...

    ...dont fix it. I am happy with Android 2.3 on my Samsung Galaxy W. I'll get a new OS when I upgrade the phone (perhaps next year).

  29. Alastair_hm
    FAIL

    Release pipeline too long

    Problem is there are too many steps between Google and the end user.

    Google releases a new version.

    Handset manufacturers code an update.

    Carriers add in their "value added" content.

    Released to the end user.

    Point in fact, I only got the Ginger Bread update to my Motorola Atrix from Orange UK in November last year, almost a full year after its release, no sign or hope of getting the ICS update anytime soon unless you do it yourself.

  30. punkymonkey666

    Manufacturer launchers?

    I've always wondered why the manufacturer's skins were not just supplied as a launcher on top of vanilla Android?

    Obviously some manufacturer customisations go deeper than others but this way base Android could be updated independently of the "enhancements" and most additional functionality/widgets could be replicated by pre-installed apps. Preferably uninstallable of course.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ICS was not really 'nearly a year ago'

    The suggestion that ICS was released nearly a year ago is a little misleading. ICS was pushed to public (i.e. generally released) on November 14th 2011, just under 9 nine months ago. Since only the lead partners get access to the release prior to the public push this means the other silicon vendors cannot make releases to their OEM partners until after that. I believe Qualcomm managed to make a release about 2 weeks after the public push.

    As well as that ICS provides updates to Dalvik that won't work on older chipsets and so some devices won't be able to run ICS without a significant amount of work. Additionally as Google grows Android in terms of functionality, it's image size grows too. This creates problems for devices with smaller amounts of flash.

    The issue for silicon vendors is that making these kinds of core changes represents significant work on their part which benefits their competitors just as much so they are reticent to work on them. Linaro might undertake them as might cyanogenmod.

    Also consider the amount of work involved in making a release. Due to the open source nature of Android a lot of scanning work must be done before releases can be made due to issues such as proprietary code and patents. And take note: it's not Google being sued by Apple, it's Samsung. This scares the hell out of OEMs, so they need to take a lot of care in this area.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    4.1 Jelly Bean on Galaxy S III since day after launch

    See title

  33. Kay Burley ate my hamster
    FAIL

    @ Neil McAllister

    I'm sure you are very good at marketing and percentages but perhaps no so much at tech.

    Let me explain something.

    ICS has higher hardware requirements. Put simply, it is recommended that the device has 1GB or RAM rather than the 512MB required by Gingerbread and previous versions. This means ICS will never come to most devices out there. Therefore your article is pure marketing guff.

    Gingerbread will be the legacy cut off, get used to it.

  34. Robert Caldecott

    My next phone will be a Nexus

    I'm never buying a phone that isn't a Nexus device again. There are five different Nexus phones coming in November and one of those models has my name on it.

    And I've been quite lucky - my current arc S got an ICS update (not without it's issues mind) but whether this 2011 flagship will get JB is open to question. And to think I held a Nexus in my hands in the local O2 shop the day after it launched but I passed in favour of the arc S because of the price...

    My wife has a new Xperia S. It came with GB installed. She didn't notice. I flashed ICS. She didn't notice. The truth is most people don't care as long as the phone works.

    1. M Gale

      The truth is most people don't care as long as the phone works.

      The truth is, commentards will downvote you for speaking the truth and speaking frankly. Like hitting that little red button changes reality somehow.

  35. Mark .

    Not released a year ago

    Not this FUD again. Most phones don't run vanilla Android - the releases of TouchWiz etc came much more recently. To expect Samsung to build and test their OS, on all their devices, the moment vanilla Android is released, shows a shocking ignorance of software development.

    If you're an Android user who wants the vanilla Android release the moment it appears, then go buy a Google Nexus phone. Otherwise, there's nothing to complain about.

    Suppose that Android wasn't open source, and wasn't available to anyone in vanilla form - instead it was a collaboration between Google and manufacturers like Samsung and HTC. Would people still be picking on the date that Google finished their work? No. Yet the situation in reality is no practical difference to this.

    It would only be a problem if this process meant Android phones got features months after other platforms. But the evidence is that this isn't the case - on the contrary, it's IOS users that get features years behind the competition. Who cares if the updates happen within days of the OS release, if you've had to wait years for the OS to include basic things like copy/paste, multitasking or apps?

    Having people on different compatible versions is not fragmentation - no one talks about fragmentation of Windows or OS X.

    "Fragmentation" is also spin, as fragment implies small. The vast dominance of Android means that even Samsung TouchWiz along outsells the IPhone platform. It's Iphone which is a small fragment by comparison.

    The only thing I'd agree on is it's annoying when the networks hold up the updates - not sure why this happens, or is allowed. And I'd also criticise that some low end Android phones still are being released with 2.x (or were, until very recently). But the "ICS released a year ago", or spinning it as "fragmentation", is just FUD.

  36. Radelix

    I too got bit by the CDMA Gnex

    Merkin here. As you may or may not know we operate 2 different networks over here(CDMA and GSM). Tmo and AT&T run GSM and Sprint and Verizon run CDMA. The CDMA Gnex is still waiting for JB due to carrier approval and driver updates due to the source being proprietary. In addition the CDMA Gnex is slightly bigger so none of the accessories in the Play store work with it without modification. I'm going to cancel my contract with Sprint and sell the Gnex to get a GSM one with a prepaid SIM from Tmo.

    Tired of this sh*t

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Gingerbread ... Dates back to 2010.

    Oh. My. God. That's 20 Months Ago!

    What the hell has Mozilla done to our brains? It isn't the version number, or how old it is, that matters!

  38. Rob Thorley

    Greedy

    I'm on 4.0.3 on a HTC One X and there are already custom roms (unstable) for Jelly Bean (4.1.0). Google have released a 4.0.4, but since I'm on O2 it hasn't got to me yet.

    Knowing that there are later versions out there which I don't have does annoy me.

    In truth, I don't need it. My current phone and software works fine.

    I'm just greedy and desirous of the new 'shiny'.

    I'm not even sure what improvements are in the latest update - it's just newer.

    What I *would* like an update which means I don't have to recharge my phone every 36 hours.

    Never had this problem/enjoyed this feature with my Nokia 3210 :)

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Its one thing Apple do well, and "droid" could do with sorting out.

    (See, I don't hate Apple, I hate isheep)

  40. shaunhw
    Stop

    Slow down a bit please Google.

    They should slow down a bit. Our Android devices (especially phones) are noq becoming obsolecent before one has even taken them out of the shop or received delivery of them.

    Perhaps they should fix bugs and make minor improvements to existing OS versions for longer.

    As for ICS running on Android 2.3 hardware, will someone please tell that to HTC for the benefit of DesireHD owners like me ? OK I got a Samsung Galaxy S3 now, but I still have the HTC too. I'd better get used to having it languishing around as no one else would want the 18month old now prematurely obsolescent thing. Which of course is the LAST HTC made device I shall ever buy.

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