Three major revisions of Google’s (GOOG) Android operating system have launched since the company released Android 2.3 more than 21 months ago in December 2010, but Gingerbread is still the most widely used version of Android by a wide margin. A study conducted early this year by graphic designer Chris Sauve projected that based on Android adoption trends up to that point, Android 2.3 Gingerbread would be the dominant version of Android in 2012 despite the fact that Android 3.0 Honeycomb and Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich had already been released. Now, as the fourth quarter of 2012 approaches, data from Google’s Android version distribution tracker confirms once again that those projections were accurate.
“[2012 will be] the year of Gingerbread,” Sauve wrote back in February. ”Gingerbread appears to be on the verge of peaking as a percentage of the total devices in use, but it took Froyo over 6 months after reaching the peak of its relative distribution to be overtaken. Gingerbread is still adding devices 14 times faster than ICS.”
At that time, more than four months after Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich had launched, the new Google OS was only found on 1% of Android devices. New data released by Google earlier this week shows that as of September 4th, Ice Cream Sandwich penetration has grown to nearly 21% of devices, however Android 2.3 Gingerbread is still in use on nearly 58% of Android devices.
Whether or not the slow proliferation of Android versions is a problem is open to debate. With smartphone upgrade cycles at two years or more in several top smartphone markets and Google releasing major Android revisions at a rate faster than once per year, it is certainly logical that new version adoption would be slow as older handsets fail to meet specification requirements for newer OS versions.
This also means that developers must support multiple versions of the Android platform, however, and it also means the overwhelming majority of Android users do not have access to the latest features, security updates and other improvements brought about by newer versions of Google’s mobile platform — nearly 99% of current Android device owners are using a version of Android that does not support great new features like Google Now, enhanced voice search support and “Project Butter” performance enhancements.