Sunday, July 29, 2012

Despite Jelly Bean’s Release, Gingerbread Dominates the Android Market

This is a guest post by Alyse.

Google recently unveiled Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, the latest update for their mobile OS, which is a significant expansion of 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. With Jelly Bean, Google has introduced several new features for the Android OS that will substantially expand its use.

A few of the dominant upgrades added in Jelly Bean include a new predictive keyboard, an offline Google Maps feature, and offline voice dictation support. The biggest inclusion in Android 4.1 Jelly Bean is the Google Now voice search and information feature. Now is Google’s version of Siri, the current voice search engine for iOS devices.

Google Now is not just about the voice search mechanics, it will also be coupled with a new software screen. The new screen will contain what Google calls “Cards,” and each Card will be populated with relevant information to you. Of course, in order to streamline news Google will need to track your activity on your mobile device. Once enough information has been collected however, the Google Now software will reveal the information that is directly related to you and your daily activities. For instance, you can navigate to the Google Now screen and instantly see traffic updates for your most traveled routes, sports scores, local weather and public transportation notices. What we’ve listed is only the beginning though, Google will eventually develop Google Now to include more advanced features.

The Android Market is Fragmented

It is remarkably easy to be excited about the latest updates that have been implemented in the Android OS, but, unfortunately, most devices and consumers will never see the latest update on their device. In fact, most devices have not even received the Ice Cream Sandwich update yet. 

According to statistics posted by Google on the Android Developer Dashboards, only 10.9% of the total Android device market is running a build of 4.0 ICS. This is particularly unsettling news indeed, especially when you consider that the latest version of the OS was just released.

Ice Cream Sandwich was originally released over a year ago, and yet Android 2.3 Gingerbread comprises most of the device market.

For those who aren’t aware, the Android update list is as follows:
  • Cupcake 
  • Donut 
  • Éclair 
  • Froyo 
  • Gingerbread 
  • Honeycomb 
  • Ice Cream Sandwich 
  • Jelly Bean
As you can see from the list, Gingerbread is actually a fairly old version of the Android OS, with three new updates that have come after. Yet, Gingerbread makes up 64% of the total Android device market.

The Android market is fragmented because it is populated with mobile devices that are running several OS versions, all on varying internal hardware.

In addition, manufacturers generally adapt the update to suit their customized version of the OS, as you’ll see most device carriers have a different look and feel for the software on their specific devices. So that means, first they must optimize the latest version of the software for use on older devices with various hardware limitations, and then they must also redesign the appearance of the OS.

Once device manufacturers have finished their modifications of the new software, they pass on the software update to a device carrier who then tests out the new version of the software and either sends it back for more tweaks, or releases it to the public for download.

The Update Process

An update goes something like this: Motorola optimizes the update for use on an older device with a slower processor and less memory, then when the new version is running smoothly with no noticeable issues they begin customizing the look and feel. Once Motorola finishes their modifications of the new OS version they give the software update to Verizon. Verizon then begins to test the new software version and looks for any serious bugs, issues or common problems. If they find a serious problem, they send the software back to Motorola for another revision. Otherwise, the software gets passed on to the public for download.

Once you take a look at the lengthy procedure, it becomes quite apparent why software updates take so long.

When Will Jelly Bean Be Available for My Device?

It has been more than a year since Ice Cream Sandwich was released and yet Gingerbread still populates most of the market. Essentially, this will always be accurate because, with each subsequent release of the Android OS, there are more hardware limitations. Eventually older devices don’t have the appropriate hardware to run a newer version of the Android software. Sometimes manufacturers can even decide not to support a newer version of the OS on an older device, because it would not be cost effective or simply because they don’t have the necessary resources.

This fragmentation issue, coupled with the lengthy update process, makes it difficult to predict when certain devices will begin to see the Jelly Bean update. When you take into account the fact that it’s taken over a year for the previous version of Android to rollout to consumers, it is wrong to guarantee that anyone will see the update soon.

There are devices that have already received the Jelly Bean update, however, but given that said devices are from Google’s own product line, it is not surprising. If you want to experience Jelly Bean now, without the wait, you can buy a Google Nexus mobile phone or a Google Nexus 7 tablet. Both devices are currently running the latest version of the Android OS, Jelly Bean.

Aside from purchasing a new device with Jelly Bean already installed, the only thing that you can do is wait. Someday, somehow, sometime, your mobile device will receive the Jelly Bean update. That is, of course, if your smartphone is even compatible with the latest version of the OS.

About the Author
Alyse is a marketing, photography, and tech addict who spends her time investigating the next generation of technology. When she is not brushing up on her art of the scientific know how in the world, you can find her contributing to ATTSavings or on Twitter @Alyse_1.