SAN FRANCISCO: Apple app shoppers are spoiled for choice because, unlike their Android smartphone-owning counterparts, nine out of ten iPhone and iPad owners have the very latest version of the iOS operating system installed on their devices.
Taking a leaf out of Google’s book, Apple has started publishing monthly fragmentation data to highlight how many of its customers are on each version of its iOS mobile operating system. And while on the surface, the figures appear to be little more than a guide to app developers who want to ensure their products reach the largest possible number of iPhone and iPad users, the real reason for their publication is to highlight the issues faced by consumers who choose the Android platform when purchasing a phone or tablet.
When it comes to the consumer’s perspective, there would seem to be no ryhme or reason as to which Android devices run what version of the software or if and when they will be receiving any form of update.
This month’s figures from Apple show that 93 percent of iDevice users are running iOS 6, the latest version of Apple’s operating system. A further 6 percent are on iOS5 and the remaining 1 percent are on an earlier version. That means that developers have carte blanche to create apps that use the latest features and functions in iOS safe in the knowledge that more than nine in 10 active Apple devices can run the app. New Apple phones and tablets come with the latest software preinstalled and when an update is available it is automatically pushed out to existing devices on the day it becomes available.
Compare that with Google’s latest figures for the same period. Only 4 percent of Android device owners have the very latest version of its software (Jelly Bean 4.2) installed, while over one third (36.4%) are still using Gingerbread, an operating system launched in 2010. Even today, there are still new Android devices sitting on shelves in retail stores waiting to be sold that have Gingerbread installed on them. Google can’t push updates out to Android phones because it doesn’t make the handsets although it does guarantee that Nexus or Google Edition devices are able to run the latest software and will receive timely software updates for a minimum of two years.
But how can developers take full advantage of Android’s latest features in their apps if by doing so they are eliminating 94 percent of the platform’s users? Google claims that there are currently 900 million active Android devices in use, meaning that if an app comes out that can only run on Jelly Bean 4.2, 864 million Android phone and tablet users can’t download it. As a result, developers will either make apps much more basic so that they run on more devices, or ignore the platform altogether in favor of Apple’s iOS where such considerations are unnecessary.
And there’s little doubt that iOS is head and shoulders above Google Play when it comes to attracting app developers. Apple has paid out over $10 billion to developers since the App Store opened in July 2008 — $5 billion of which was paid out in 2013 alone. Likewise, the store has already passed the 50 billion app-download mark, a milestone Google Play has failed to meet, even though it can count 300 million more users — 900 million to Apple’s 600 million.