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Android fragmentation chart shows most phones abandoned

updated 08:30 am EDT, Thu October 27, 2011

Android support seen lagging iPhone by wide margin

A new breakdown of Android updates has shown that most American models have had far worse support than the iPhone. Looking at at models released 2010 and earlier, Michael DeGusta showed that most were abandoned by their makers quickly. Of the group of 18, 15 don't run Android 2.3, 12 were current for weeks at best, and seven ran obsolete versions even when they launched.

It's considered likely that "at least" 16, though more likely all of them, will go without Android 4.0. Google just recently ruled out the Nexus One.

The worst offenders were Garmin, Motorola, and Samsung. Most of their phones shipped at least one version of Android behind, had very short support cycles, and were left two or more versions behind for the majority of an owner's contract. Samsung had drawn fire almost immediately as it claimed it couldn't upgrade the Behold II past 1.6 despite past promises and hardware that could clearly run 2.0 and possibly beyond.

HTC has been the most consistent with updates. It has more often kept its phones current and may still be updating the Droid Incredible and Evo 4G. The best results have come from those that clung most closely to an iPhone-style model of using a strictly reference OS: the Nexus One has been current for almost all of its life and is only just now losing support. Motorola's Droid, which has always run a stock version of Android, has had more recent features than some of the phones released a year later.

iPhone owners, meanwhile, have always had up-to-date OS versions for the length of a contract and often beyond. The original iPhone only stopped getting support in February 2010, over two and a half years after it went on sale. While iPhone 3G owners complained of slow iOS 4 performance, they were current up to November 2010. The iPhone 3GS is not only fully up to date almost two and a half years later but still runs smoothly and is very popular, according to AT&T, which noted that more new customers picked the 3GS than any individual Android model.

While Google and Android supporters have noted that it's not always necessary to have the most recent version to use the latest apps, the study showed that there were still serious problems caused by letting updates lag behind. Developers who want to reach as many Android users as possible could be waiting as long as 2015 if they wanted to target 2.3 as the baseline. Also, unlike for iOS as well as most desktop operating systems, Google doesn't offer retroactive security updates and could leave a large part of its user base exposed to newly discovered security holes.

DeGusta speculated that most Android makers were taking a negative approach to spurring hardware upgrades. Contrary to stereotypes, it was Android makers who had planned obsolescence. To date, they have had little incentive to support a phone after release. In some cases, such as Samsung's, they have fueled suspicion that the designer let OS releases slide in hopes it would make a future model look more desirable. Google has formed an anti-fragmentation coalition that has pledged more frequent and longer-term support, but the difference in loyalty has suggested that long-term support was the key to getting repeat business.

"If that's really the case [that support is dropped on purpose], the phone manufacturers are spectacularly dumb: ignoring the 2 year contract cycle & abandoning your users isn't going to engender much loyalty when they do buy a new phone," DeGusta noted. "Apple's way of getting you to buy a new phone is to make you really happy with your current one, whereas apparently Android phone makers think they can get you to buy a new phone by making you really unhappy with your current one." [via TechCrunch]

by MacNN Staff



  1. lysolman

    Joined: Dec 1969


    What more is there to say.

    Duh! That's what happens when user experience is secondary to the bottom line.

    Comment buried. Show
  1. franksands

    Joined: Dec 1969



    This graphic is bogus. The current iOS version is iOS5. It's only supported on iPhone 3GS and forward. The same thing happened with iOS 4 and before. The difference is that iPhone owners are more than happy to dish their old iPhone and buy the newest shiniest phone launched by Apple. Android users on the other hand tend to hold longer to their phones, since the hardware could and should handle a few updates, but the makers aren't happy with this, they want the "iphone model" where the customers buy a new phone every year, sometimes faster than that. That's the real problem with android fragmentation. Still, with all its shortcomings, a more open model like the Android uses is leagues ahead of the apple iron fist's one.

  1. facebook_Robert

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Oct 2011


    That's samsung for you

    I had a samsung blu-ray player, everyone said watch out, they'll abandon the product and cease updates - it's a corporate problem with that company. Sure enough, a rather expensive player didn't play many blu-ray movies, and eventually they just dropped support all together.

    This is definately an issue more pronounced on Android than with iPhone - although apple does a good job with the iPhone, carrier 'certification' sometimes blocks updates at certain carriers.

    Samsung, when will you learn - apparently never since you've been gaining marketshare despite your attitude, but look....they'd be doing even better if they cared about the customers that want timely upgrades.

    You can't make that argument, not when sales are booming. It's like telling Apple fans that yes, apple is minting money, and yes gaining marketshare, but they'd do even better if they released a reasonably priced tower - for the market that needs that.

    But no - deaf ears.

  1. Mr. Strat

    Joined: Dec 1969



    You could be one of the people like me who were suckers and bought the LG G2X. I should have known better than to buy anything branded LG. The phone was so bad, TMO took it off the market for two months. Gingerbread fixed most problems but not all. And it seems that other manufacturers are promising great things with new phones, but when they come to market, they do not perform as advertised and never get fixed.

  1. BigMac2

    Joined: Dec 1969


    PC and Smartphone, Same battle

    I ever was disgusted of the PC industry, who never cared about user experience and making great product. The only goal they pursuit was making sure they produce as much garbage as they can and sold it as quickly as they can. No PC maker as ever come with an original concept and giving much attention to please their existing customer. Smartphone market followed the same path, No one care much about their phone they produce, their goal is to pack as much features they can in the box and hopefully think customer will never bother them during the whole lifespan of the product.

    Comment buried. Show
  1. DerekMorr

    Joined: Dec 1969


    cherry picking

    There are well over a hundred Android phones on the market. The author cherry picked a handful of older phones to make a point.

  1. jdonahoe

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Droid Incredible is NOT up to date

    Verizon announced that the Incredible would be updated to 2.3, but somehow I and quite a few other die hard Android fans are still waiting. I really feel it was pulled without explanation.

    You watch, Microsoft will be doing the same thing with WinPhone 7 and beyond. You will see one update during the life of your phone.

    I don't care, my new 4s arrived in the mail Monday and I am loving it!!

  1. facebook_Alexander

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Oct 2011


    droid eris

    I can attest to this. Bought my droid in 11/09 with android 1.6. Was able to upgrade to 2.1 in may or so. Phone was discontinued in june/july. Could not upgrade to 2.2, which allowed u to save apps on the micro sd card. Basically, i was screwed because i couldn't have more then the puny internal storage to save apps. Needless to say, it was necessary to go to 2.2. Oh well, I now have the iPhone 4S.

    That's the problem with Android, you're playing roulette with upgrades/support. choose wisely or you're screwed.

  1. SockRolid

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Anti-fragmentation? LOL.

    "...Google has formed an anti-fragmentation coalition..."

    LOL. That's hilarious. But it's too late to save Android in the pad space. Amazon has locked up the low- and mid- range of the market. And they've also frozen Android at 2.3 in the pad space. Amazon doesn't care about Honeycomb or Ice Cream Sandwich or any future version of Android.

    They've created their own proprietary, closed fork of Android 2.3, it's "good enough" to support their own profit layer, and they're done with it. No need to bother with updated APIs and all that bloat. Developers won't bother with 3.0 and later versions either. Because Kindle Fire will be the one successful iPad wannabe out there. Done. Game over.

  1. ruel24

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Despite this...

    Despite this whole orphaned phoned syndrome, Android users shrug it off and wonder why they should care. Their current phone works, and that's all that matters. Within a year, their phones will be outdated and be nearly useless by the end of their contract because they don't have an updated OS to put apps on, but they still don't care.

    Apple has my money, and I wouldn't bother giving it to anyone else. I don't trust Verizon or Motorola, for that matter.

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