back to article Lollipop licked: KitKat still king in Android land

Android 4.4 "KitKat" is now the single most popular version of the mobile OS, according to Google's latest stats. KitKat, which first made its way onto devices in October 2013, now accounts for 39.1 per cent of all active Android devices, as measured by access logs from the Google Play Store. When we last checked the numbers …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    TL;DR version:

    Release of Android that has only just recently come out and still isn't on the majority of new devices being sold hasn't got a larger share of the market than versions that have been out for years and are still going out the door on brand new devices.

    Even shorter version:

    No shit Sherlock.

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Anonymous fandroid coward

      "Release of Android that has only just recently come out"

      And should be on every capable Android device. Your PC you bought in 2011, does it only run Vista?


      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Anonymous fandroid coward

        My wife's laptop that was bought around 2011 does indeed still have the original vista install on it that it shipped with and I think that's the case for a lot of machines that shipped with XYZ version of Windows.

      2. king of foo

        Re: Anonymous fandroid coward

        I echo your sentiment :)

        Manufacturers + distributors should be rated based on their commitment to ota IMHO, then be forced to advertise that rating prominently at pos.

        Consumers are capable of making educated choices. In 2011 I suspect that meant buying an XP PC or a Mac rather than something with half the ram it needed to function!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Anonymous fandroid coward

          If you must have the latest versions within weeks of them coming out you buy one of the Nexus devices. If you want to get really crazy you can build your own firmware images from AOSP.

      3. TheCynic

        Re: Anonymous fandroid coward

        Given the amount of retail PC's still running the OS they came with.. not really a good comparison.

        If we looked at it that way you could look at the low number of PC's running OSX or the low numbers of Macs running Windows - the hardware is capable but the hurdles are there to stop the non interested changing OS

        The 'blame' at this sits purely with the manufacturers that heavily skin Android and don't want to give that up. Either by redirecting the user to another store rather than the play one or from kickbacks from app companies..

      4. Law

        Re: Anonymous fandroid coward

        "And should be on every capable Android device. Your PC you bought in 2011, does it only run Vista?"

        Your comparison is flawed. It's ignoring the fact that manufacturers drop mobile phone support within a year (or two if you're lucky) of release. Even if they do support it, a lot aren't releasing it yet because they concentrate on their flagship phones first. Not all manufacturers get to sneak-peak Lollipop either - so it takes months for them to create a stable OTA update (I'm still on CM11 (kitkat) on my OnePlus One).

        I bought a Macbook Pro in 2008 that I still use for non-windows specific dev work - it can run the latest OSX (not that I would) - my old iPhone 3G and HTC Hero haven't fared quite so well. I think the Hero got it's last update in 2010, and the 3g had features disabled and ground to a halt until about 2012 - which is impressive considering. Hardware and software requirements in mobile tech has moved on very quickly compared to mature PCs - without the added headache of the manufacturer locking the thing down at every opportunity to prevent you from flashing your own ROMS, or dropping support after a couple of years as they like people to buy the latest device on contract renewal.

      5. batfastad

        Re: Anonymous fandroid coward

        I bet 90+% of laptops purchased with Windows run the original version they shipped with. There'll certainly be some re-formatting and re-installing the original version. But I don't know many who would bother to buy and install an upgrade to a newer version. Most would just buy a new laptop running the newer version.

        With phones it's even more likely people will just buy a new one, typical contract length is what 1.5-2 years. When you've got operator's foot on the upgrade hosepipe that already has the manufacturer's foot on it further up, then it's usually easier to just wait and buy it new. Also, new version of Android with some different eye-candy, would anyone non-technical actually care enough to bother upgrading?

  2. bri

    Android upgrades

    It's one of those things Android platform fails at: manufacturers cannot be budged to provide upgrades for their obsolete models (save for some top-end phones/slabs/... of upmarket brands and even there somewhat reluctantly) as they earn money on selling new ones. Providing upgrades is pure expense without added value for them; customers will buy it anyway as they are cheap (or at least perceived as such).

    This is by design and unless Google does something about it licensing-wise, unlikely to change. Well, I am happy the platform I use has a different approach.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Android upgrades

      It's not a problem that has a simple solution really. If Google move more of the OS into Google play so users don't have to wait for vendors to ship OTA updates they will get accused of trying to regain control over Android or some nonsense. Then you have the issue that some of the low level stuff like the graphics framework usually rely on binary blobs that need to track changes in higher up parts of the stack.. so if your phone's vendor wants to put out an update but they can't get support from the vendor of the SoC your phone uses it might be impossible to make it happen.

      I don't think it's possible to ever have the latest Android release on all phones all of the time. I think instead what needs to happen is that parts of the OS on Google licensed phones (those with Play) is compiled by Google and can receive updates from Google.. so things like security issues can be fixed for older releases and distributed directly from Google. This would be things like SSL/TLS libraries not all of the UI framework.

      1. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

        Re: Android upgrades

        I have to agree.

        Personally, with hindsight, I believe the design of Android is a little out. What should have been done is have a pure HAL, with a forward compatible API, which the manufacturer makes for the phone, and the OS sits on top of that, compatible back to a certain version of the HAL API. When a new version of Android is released, it can be (almost) immediately installed on any phone with at least a minimum version of that API (albeit possible missing some features due to level of HAL).

        This would allow the following process:

        * Google releases a new update to Android

        * Manufacturers run a set of tests against their current HALs which are compatible

        * Manufacturer releases OTA

        * If required (e.g. for newer models, or older ones they still wish to support) manufacturer develops and releases upgraded HAL.

        This would also engineer in a point of obsolescence. The manufacturer will likely only upgrade the HALs for newish devices, just as they currently only develop OTAs for the newish devices. Therefore, Android would eventually move beyond that HAL version, at which point no upgrades can be performed. However, it would push that date out into the future (as long as Android was maintained with as much backwards compatibility as possible).

        1. DropBear Silver badge

          Re: Android upgrades

          What should have been done is have a pure HAL

          I'm saying this in the nicest possible way, but that's typical engineer thinking, concentrating only on the technical aspect of the problem. What it fails to address (beside the various "political" angles of why a manufacturer may or may not be inclined to do this) is that most manufacturers insist on having a thick custom layer on top of the OS, that would absolutely positively fail the instant you changed anything at all in the OS below it.

          1. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

            Re: Android upgrades

            Maybe so, but it would allow an upgrade to pure android without the manufacturer even being involved.

            In addition, Google could also have specified that any "skin" also use a standard API, which would be maintained between versions and, hence, not break.

            I'm not saying I have all the answers, but it would have been possible. The whole "OS" would become a set of clearly defined layers, starting at the HAL, through the base Android system, through to the manufacturer skin and third party apps.

            but that's typical engineer thinking, concentrating only on the technical aspect of the problem

            I take that as a complement. I am an engineer. I acknowledge that political problems exist, but I'm not the person to solve them.

      2. JLV Silver badge

        Re: Android upgrades

        >Android platform fails at: manufacturers cannot be budged to provide upgrades

        Beg to disagree.

        First, technical reality is that you won't be able to run really nifty new OS versions on top of 3-4 year old devices. As another poster commented, doing so works on PCs, because the hardware specs are now good-enough across a number of older devices. Not so with phones where the hardware is still evolving at breakneck pace.

        Second, and by this I also mean to address the other poster about "manufacturers being forced to update", this is a manufacturer problem and consumer choice issue. It is not an Android fail per se. Or a need for regulation either.

        Basically, if manufacturer XYZ can't be bothered to update their phones, please complain about it, loudly, for everyone to hear. Then don't buy their phones anymore.

        On the buying end, assess the history of the manufacturer's support in your buying decisions. If you can't be bothered, then don't be surprised if you are left out in the cold.

        Simple, no? Or would you buy a Lada?

        1. king of foo

          Re: HAL

          My god, a NEXUS6/HAL9000 hybrid? We're all DOOMED!

        2. bri

          Re: Android upgrades

          Well, JLV, you raise a few valid points, but they are rather theoretical.

          Firstly, as a case in point, iOS 8 works on over 3 year old iPhone 4S fairly well, thank you very much. It's not a speed demon, but features are there (where possible) as, most importantly, are there security fixes. Iphone 4s user could update its system the same day as iPhone 5s user, no waiting (well, apart from Apple's inability to keep their servers up, but that's another matter).

          Secondly, it is Android failure as the *possibility* of such behaviour enabled manufacturers to do exactly that. It is fairly similar to approach Microsoft took with their Windows platform in the 90's - when you make something possible, inevitably someone will take advantage of it and the result is a mess.

          Thirdly, you forget the other side of mass market: niche needs are ignored, they are too costly. Majority of Android users don't upgrade, they don't care, they just want cheap smartphone and they want that only because it has a bigger display than featurephones and there are more games for it and they are told that this is the technology to buy. Power users are a minority and they are expected to shell out bigger money (i.e. bigger margin) for their phone, they are ignored if buying cheaper device. There just isn't enough cash in those cheap phones - manufacturers have razor sharp margins and they will stay afloat only when you buy from them phones as often as possible. Why should they entice you to buy them less? When you buy it anyway 'cos it's cheap? It would be dumb. No one cares for a few thousand geeks out of 20 million batch.

          Apple on the other hand has a reason to provide upgrades - they milk users for cash even when they don't buy devices as often, they just need you to stay hooked-up to their services and not leave for WinPho or Android. In contrast, apart from Google, Android phone manufacturers don't see a penny from Google Play content purchased on device they have manufactured. And that's a fundamental difference.

          1. JLV Silver badge

            Re: Android upgrades

            Upvoted you, but we read the situation differently.

            First, my iPhone 4 was mostly OK after iOS7, but my buddy's exact same model limped miserably. He for one definitely regretted iOS6, but then again he's never met an app he didn't install ;) So, your installation of iOS8 on a 4S, which had a CPU boost compared to 4, hardly disproves my point. Wanna bet iOS9 will be useable?

            I also know that Apple devices can get security updates on old iOS releases, when the mess is serious enough. But that doesn't happen all that often that I know of and you would still be saddled with obsolete 3rd party app that likely would not have fix backported. For example, let's say you use Chrome and there is major iOS6 vuln - will Chrome be backported too? If not, does a patched iOS6 provide sufficient protection?

            I don't think it's Google's job to keep manufacturers from being stupid. Just like it wasn't MS's job to bully PC manufacturers into not using weird stuff in the 90s - HP & Sony were pretty notorious IIRC for being hard to upgrade hardware on because machines were always subtly different. Guess what, I didn't buy them then and won't now because I still remember that. Should Mrs Lawmaker have stepped in?

            Google's job is to provide an Android platform that is fit for purpose and has the potential to be maintained and it mostly does that. My new phone is a Nexus 5, because I wanted to test the Android waters but was sensitive to others lagging on updates. If anything, it's a cheaper phone than most. OK, I don't like it overmuch, but that's not due to slow updates.

            Frankly, while you have very valid points as to why Apple is in a desirable position here, are you suggesting that the only valid biz model is hardware + software + apps from the same integrated manufacturer? A walled garden of sorts?

            Vertical integration has been very useful to Apple, but has driven price points pretty high, esp on iPhone 6. More of an old-style reliable Mercedes than a Lada, for sure. But you have your niche provider all available to buy from should you choose to do so. Mind you, given the sales volumes, it would be stretching things to claim iPhones are niche.

            There is the opportunity for all sorts of pricing between iPhones and landfill Androids. I submit that better value is likely to come, not necessarily from the Androids builders with the biggest marketing budgets, but those willing to provide good value cheaply. (quite possibly not those with large investments in skinning Android with bloatware or large legal investments in battling with Apple and sundry). The Hyundais and Civics of phones.

            And in a way, cheap Nokia phones with good-enough WP 8 are doing their bit to lower prices too (question : how are those supported? I recall some unhappy WP7 users when WP8 came out)

            Android is not immune from dumb manufacturers' support foibles but that is no reason to criticize the OS itself overmuch on that particular issue. Nor is it a reason to wish for regulations which will be outdated by the time they come into law. Most of us work in IT - do you really wish legislators to second-guess _your_ work, as long as it is fit for purpose? Maybe Google can use its Android Silver program to fix some of this as well.

            I agree that support is important to both of us. Maybe it will become so for others. Maybe we need a big nasty vuln to wake everybody up. But until then live and let live. One size does not fit all and if, as you say, many Android users don't care, then that's their right not to and to purchase from the wrong sellers.

  3. PG2255

    Not just Nexus

    I'm running Lollipop on an LG G3, upgrade delivered over the air on the Vodafone network.

  4. RyokuMas Silver badge


    Kitkat didn't come with a Flappy Bird clone pre-installed!

  5. Buzzword

    Not all Nexuses (Nexii?)

    My Nexus 7 (2013) with 4G still hasn't received the upgrade. Only the Wifi-only model is on Lollipop.

    1. ben kendim

      Re: Not all Nexuses (Nexii?)

      Count your blessings! I had both my Nexus 7's (2012 and 2013) over the aired to Lollipop, and am looking to get back to 4.2, the last version that had the decent Maps version - before the current monstrosity Google Maps rolled out.

    2. Brian Morrison

      Re: Not all Nexuses (Nexii?)

      On the other hand I would prefer that my Nexus 7 LTE doesn't crash several (or more) times per day like my Nexus 5 due to the annoying screen memory leak so I am quite content to wait for a while.

      I am reasonably happy with Lollipop in many respects, but it's been a big change from Kitkat and will take a point release or two to round of the rough corners it was born with (ouch!)

  6. Avatar of They

    Manufacturers are to blame me thinks.

    I would love lollipop, I would love kitkat but mine has an encrypted bootlocker and isn't supported by the manufacturer anymore as they want to sell more kit. So my tablet remains old.

    Should be a law that says all updates after a certain time come direct from google and you can click somewhere to accept that it might not work. instead of a really expensive phone / tablet being stuck years behind. Or just one simple process to remove all the bootlocker cr*p that WON'T brick my tablet so I can stick on a mod.

    And because of fads by big tech firms, I can't get a like for like to my transformer prime. Nothing with the keyboard and battery, instead I can only get plastic magno-lock type styles which are pants.

    1. Oninoshiko

      Re: Manufacturers are to blame me thinks.

      Can I propose an amendment that all updates also must require a simple way to roll back?

      -- Wishes phone was still on Kitkat.

  7. A Twig

    I'm still waiting for my OTA Lollipop update for my dual SIM Moto G that was supposed to be rolling out week 2 of December...

  8. Law

    Another reason

    "That should change, though, once more manufacturers start shipping Lollipop devices later this year."

    Plus Cyanogen has only just started releasing nightlies of Lollipop this week - I bet there is an sudden surge in uptake of Lollipop from people who's carriers/manufacturers won't release an OTA lollipop for several months yet (if at all).

    The issue here isn't people not willing to upgrade, it's people unable to upgrade because of the way the carriers and manufacturers operate. I had to manually flash my 2012 Nexus 7 because it wasn't coming over the air a good month after it was officially "released" on the device. That's a UK device too... if you're in asia you're basically s**t out of luck!

  9. DropBear Silver badge

    Also, there's the little (subjective, I know) problem of Material Design needing to get killed with fire. I want Holo back - sadly, it's a losing battle.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Personally, I think that there are lots of things to like in Material Design but such things are always a matter of taste.

  10. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Not worried

    The only slightly worrying thing there is that the latest version of the OS

    What's the problem with that? Lollipop is the first version with significant changes (new design, ART, etc.). Even then the changes are tiny compared with the major changes in API in earlier (1.x and 2.x) versions. I would expect adoption to be slower than other point releases in the 4.x series and Lollipop not to be the most common version before the next wave of handset "upgrades".

    The most important thing is actually the distribution of security relevant patches. Manufacturers have an understandably limited interest in having to integrate or backport changes into their mods but it is for the regulators to make sure they do their job or fine them otherwise. Users generally don't really care what's running as long as their favourite apps run.

    FWIW I stuck Cyanogenmod nightly on my S4 Mini the other day and it's very stable with just a couple of things missing.

  11. silent_count

    What's the benefit of 'upgrading'?

    From where I'm looking, Google is heading towards the same kind of problem that Microsoft has with XP. The most compelling reason both companies can give to upgrade to the newest OS is, "We've stuffed around with the UI so you'll have waste time re-learning things, and some things which worked just fine yesterday won't work tomorrow."

    And then they're frustrated that people aren't in a hurry to upgrade!

    Improved security used to be a good reason to upgrade but you can only say, 'the new version is more secure than the previous bugfest' before even the most naive punter realises it's just a case of swapping one set of bugs for the next.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: What's the benefit of 'upgrading'?

      Android 5 has a new, faster and less memory-intensive runtime.

      Security updates should have nothing to do with upgrades. We need some court cases around companies failing to provide them.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Manufacturers don't get it

    I buy an android because it has android, not because it has "Samsung" on the casing. The ONE thing that makes me consider changing manufacturer, is that they are slow in updating the operating system.

    If manufacturers want to offer a value added option, just offer apps that work only on their phones. Samsung offer loads. I use none.

  13. ben kendim

    I wish I could put 4.2 Kitkat on my Nexus 6. That was the best version of Android.

    The 4.4 over the air upgrade to my Nexus 7's claimed 'bug fixes' and minor improvements, so like an idiot I let them upgrade. What it did is to kill Google Maps, replace it with an idiotic so called 'update' that is now totally useless. (e.g. can not store maps for offline use, and it looks horrible, won't show entire route, etc.. The word 'update' is accurate, but it was certainly a 'downgrade' to go to the new Google Maps.)

    I am being very careful not to let my Nexus 5 or S4 flash themselves with Lollipop, and I now need to spend time rooting and loading previous versions on Nexus 7's, which will be a lot more useful to me than the brand new Nexus 6 with Lollipop!

    1. eulampios

      are you sure?

      >>What it did is to kill Google Maps, replace it with an idiotic so called 'update' that is now totally useless.

      My up-to-date version of Google Maps with the evervolv AOSP KitaKat running pretty well on HTC Droid Incredible doesn't have this at all. (Small) regions of map can be stored on the device and used subsequently off-line. I used to do it a lot without this data plan I now have.

      And BTW, you might be able to downgrade the map app (provided you have the apk version in question) just through adb. Without the "-k" option, uninstalling the old one first, you'll lose all the data associated with this app though, so better backed this up in advance.

      Moderator: My best wishes! @ElReg: My best wishes. I thought it was only Andrew Olowski, my posts should be moderated for? Or is it written by Andrew again?

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

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