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Mobile OS Fragmentation - Why Its Unimportant

You'll have probably seen the interesting chart mapping iOS and Android updates on phones sold in the US, which was published on the Understatement blog. It's asks some very big questions and paints Android buyers in a hard done by light. I should also say, if you read other posts on the blog it's published from a solidly pro-Apple point of view. That shouldn't detract from the points he makes.

However there is a bigger picture which hasn't really been focused upon: how much is the user impacted by these issues. I'd argue not very much.

The reasons why Android phones don't receive updates are various but mostly valid.

Google has a punishing schedule of adding functionality to Android which means that update flow much more quickly than other platforms.

Secondly, OEMs are producing a much wider choice of smartphones, at multiple price and functionality points. This makes it much harder to keep phones on the latest revision of the software and also means that some phones can't or won't benefit from some updates.

And thirdly, in many cases it doesn't make a significant difference to the user that the OS hasn't been updated because it doesn't change the experience. This has been true since the arrival of Froyo more than eighteen months ago, when it added Flash support to the OS.

I have three Android phones - one on Froyo and two on different point releases of Gingerbread. Is there any functional difference between them? No, I install the same software on each and perform all tasks the same way.

Latest figures from various data capturing organisations suggests that a large majority of Android users are running Froyo or later. So that chart we discussed earlier? Tells a very wrong story.

In response Android users could validly dispute that because the iPhone 4 is unable to run Siri it doesn't have the latest functionality of the full iOS 5 release and therefore fails the Understatement's test for being up to date.

Which makes the Android picture look a whole lot rosier in my book...


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