Apple said that 87 per cent of devices visiting its App Store run the latest generation of its mobile platform (iOS 7), which compares with just 5.3 per cent of Android devices which are running the latest version of the Google platform (KitKat/4.4).
The numbers are significant as they indicate that the Apple platform provides developers with a less fragmented environment than Android, where the lion’s share of devices still use earlier versions of the OS.
Apple’s figures for the week to 6 April 2014 show 87 per cent of devices using iOS 7, 11 per cent running iOS 6, with 2 per cent supporting earlier versions.
Based on visits to Google’s Play Store in the week to 1 April 2014, the lion’s share of Android users are on JellyBean (61.4 per cent), although this is still split across several different versions of the OS (4.1.x, 4.2.x and 4.3), each of which has a different API level.
While the previous version (Ice Cream Sandwich/4.0.x) accounts for 14.3 per cent of users, this is still overshadowed by the even older Gingerbread (2.3.x), which made up 17.8 per cent of the total.
In a TechCrunch post published this week, Dave Feldman, co-founder of messaging app Emu, discussed the issue of fragmentation in Android, and how the same app performs differently on devices using different platforms and/or hardware.
“The problem with fragmentation isn’t merely the quantity of bugs. It’s also the difficulty of finding them, and of understanding them well enough to fix them. We can’t test on every Android device we support, so we get bug reports in the field that we couldn’t anticipate and can’t reproduce. And, plenty of bugs go unreported and, therefore, unnoticed,” he said.
Google is taking steps to encourage adoption of later versions of its platform, with reports that the company will not provide access to its Google Mobile Services portfolio – which includes Play Store – for new devices running outdated platforms.
The introduction of Android KitKat (4.4) is significant to this end, in that it has been designed to run on a wide range of hardware from budget through to premium – it is believed the longevity of Android 2.3 is attributable to its performance on low-end devices.
But Android is faced with a number of challenges when it comes to platform updates that are not applicable to Apple. For example, iOS is only deployed on Apple hardware, whereas Android is deployed widely by different vendors, with different configurations and suppliers.
This also leads to issues when it comes to securing operator approval for updates.