Android fragmentation rears its ugly head once again

Google updated its Android version tracker on Monday, revealing that the latest version of its mobile operating system — Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich — has more than doubled its installed base over the past month. Unfortunately, that only carries Google’s current Android build to a 2.9% share of all devices. Combined with Honeycomb, this means that as of March 2nd, just 6.2% of Android devices are now running a modern version of Android. Meanwhile, the bulk of Android devices run the 15-month-old Gingerbread operating system (63.7%) and the second most popular version of the platform is the 23-month-old Froyo OS (23.1%). First unveiled in October 2009 and currently at 6%, Android 2.1 Eclair is still found on nearly as many devices as Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich combined. Read on for more.

Whether or not fragmentation is a serious issue in the Android ecosystem remains a topic of debate. While many industry watchers continue to argue over how much fragmentation impacts developers, the direct impact on end users is clear. Despite being unveiled more than five months ago, just 2.9% of Android devices currently offer the numerous enhancements and new features introduced with Ice Cream Sandwich, such as improved speed and performance, a redesigned user interface, a simplified application switcher, hardware acceleration, Android Beam and much more.

To compound matters, Google may unveil its next major Android build some time this summer or in the third quarter, just as Ice Cream Sandwich finally begins to proliferate. Vendors are currently working feverishly to prepare Android 4.0 updates for their recent smartphones, and a new crop of flagship devices from HTC and Samsung is about to hit the market. While these new Ice Cream Sandwich-powered smartphones gain momentum, a new version of Android will hit the market with exciting new features.

If history repeats itself, owners of the HTC One X, the HTC One S and the Samsung Galaxy S III likely won’t be able to enjoy the new features introduced alongside Android 5.0 Jelly Bean until some time in the first or second quarter of 2013.

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