updated 09:00 pm EDT, Thu June 6, 2013
Nearly all users on iOS 6 among active-use iPhone, iPad devices
While users of each of the two major mobile platforms debate each one's merits and issues, in one aspect of comparison there is a clear and unequivocal difference between Android and iOS: Apple has a serious advantage when it comes to having its userbase all on the latest major version of its smartphone and tablet OS. A new study by mobile ad and market analyst Chitika shows that an astonishing 92.7 percent of iPhone owners are using iOS 6 as of June, while 82.9 percent of iPad owners are also using iOS 6 -- far ahead of Android users on OS 4.1 or later ("Jelly Bean").
The finding, Chitika says, reinforces the idea that "[iOS users] tend to be serial updaters," meaning that they immediately or swiftly update to the latest OS version as soon as it is available. In the case of iOS 6.1, it became the top iOS version just four days after release. While iOS updates have not been completely without glitches, they generally add features and broadly benefit the user -- and are rarely the source of any new issues, meaning users have built up a trust and reliability on them.
Developers find this to be a major advantage of iOS over other mobile OSes, particularly Android. A high uniformity of users on the latest OS version means two things from their perspective: first, that a majority of active users are using recent hardware, and second that they can develop and code their projects to take full advantage of the latest OS rather than having to spend time and effort preparing different versions for different OS levels.
While Google also routinely updates its Android OS with improvements and fixes, the so-called "fragmentation" of delivery -- which is generally controlled by carriers rather than Google or users -- means that many devices never receive more than one update, and in some cases never receive any. Even when updates are customized and released by carriers, they often take weeks or months to do so -- slowing adoption and take the impetus away from users to update with any sense of immediacy. As a result, most Android users are at least one version and usually two or more major versions behind the latest Android OS version.
Figures from Google itself show that more than 40 percent of users are still using as far back as version 2.x of the Android operating system -- a figure that rises to 66 percent when including "Ice Cream Sandwich," the previous major release (4.0.x). Google's statistics -- which were recently altered to favor users who interact with the Play online store and thus "hide" some devices on older versions of the OS -- show that only one-third of Android owners have access to the latest "Jelly Bean" (4.1 and higher) release, which has vitally important security and functionality upgrades included in it.
Even iPad owners, who lag behind iPhone users on upgrading, have an overwhelming plurality of users on the latest version -- an unusual figure in a PC-oriented electronics paradigm that says that most users rarely (and sometimes never) upgrade the OS on their computers from the one it shipped with, often preferring to wait until the hardware is replaced. Chikita analysts say that iPad owners may be slower to adopt iOS 6 due to the focus of the update being aimed at cellular devices like the iPhone (improved turn-by-turn navigation, Siri commands, FaceTime over 3G/LTE networks) where the majority of iPads sold are Wi-Fi only, meaning most new features in iOS 6 wouldn't necessarily be useful for such users. There are also a significant number (perhaps as many as 15 million) of the original iPad model still in use that cannot upgrade to iOS 6, topping out at version 5.1.1.
The Chitika study portends good news for developers in terms of being able to count on users swiftly upgrading to iOS 7 when it is released later this year. Barring a major flaw or user dislike of the redesigned iOS version, which is being handled by Senior VP of Design Sir Jonathan Ive, Apple and developers can expect that by year's end, a clear majority of users will be running the new release.