September 5, 2011 | by Andrew Kameka
Remember back when everyone cheered as Hugo Barra told attendees at Google I/O that the Open Handset Alliance was going to get serious about updates? Barra announced that a collective of carriers and manufacturers had joined forces to pledge to update Android devices “when hardware allows” for up to 18 months.
Three months later, we have a reminder of why people cheered so loudly – the number of Android devices running outdated software is still embarrassingly high. New numbers from the Android Platform Versions chart shows that more than half of all Android devices run Froyo (Version 2.2). Despite the fact that Froyo debuted in June 2010, and its Gingerbread sequel was announced in December of that year, Froyo still powers 51 percent of Android phones.
Gingerbread (Android 2.3) accounts for 31 percent, an improvement from the 24.3 percent reported last month. However, Eclair (2.1) still holds 13.3 percent of the Android Market, and the now ancient Cupcake and Donut versions are almost 3 percent of devices. That means millions of phones are still grossly outdated.
That’s why people cheered when The Pledge was first revealed. Millions of Android devices had been abandoned by carriers and manufacturers – and by extension, Google and developers – without any hope of being updated or able to take advantage of the great features and apps later phones can access. The Pledge represented a promise that the Open Handset Alliance would finally make sense of a world in which carriers sold users a phone for 2 years but stopped supporting meaningful software updates within 3 to 6 months.
To be fair, the Android update pledge was pitched for new devices – not the millions of Android phones already on the market. It may be unrealistic to expect any meaningful change to take place so soon for those users. But considering that we’ve seen several new phones released this quarter that debuted running Android 2.2, it’s worth pointing out that virtually nothing has changed.
Google SVP of Mobile Andy Rubin previously suggested that Google would update Android every 6 or 12 months in order to stabilize the update cycle. Yet even with that slower process, timely updates have still proven difficult. One can only hope that Froyo is at least down to 25 percent 18 months from now.