Thoughts on mobile development - Symbian, Blackberry, Android, J2ME and iPhone

Android 2.1 makes big gains over the last month

By Aaron Davidson, in , posted: 19-May-2010 13:14

Google updated the stats in its Device Dashboard a couple of days ago and the results make for encouraging reading.  As noted in my last blog Android 1.5 penetration surged unexpectedly between January and April 2010.  That trend has been reversed this month however with Android 2.1 taking just under 10% share from both 1.5 and 1.6 to become the most dominant version of Android OS with 37.2% penetration.  Developers still cannot afford to ignore 1.5 and 1.6 however as collectively they represent over 60% of devices visiting the Android Marketplace.

The trend in Android OS distribution can be seen in the following Google pie charts for January, April and May 2010 respectively:

Android distribution Jan 2010 Android distribution April 2010 Platform versions May 2010

As noted last time, the odd feature is the surge in Android 1.5 usage in the April 2010 pie chart, that trend has now been reversed with both the 1.5 and 1.6 slices shrinking in size and the 2.1 slice increasing in size.

Here's an update of my own rough "changing fortunes" bar graph from last time charting distribution changes January - May 2010.  Some people suggested a line graph may better show over trends so there's one of these also.  Now you have the full set, pie graphs from Google and bar and line graphs from me.

The Cyan bars in the bar graph represent where we are today:

Changing platform penetration May 2010 Platform trends May 2010

Now onto the good stuff.  In addition to providing a breakdown of OS distribution Google is now also providing a breakdown of the screen sizes and densities that it is seeing visiting the marketplace:

Screen type distribution May 2010

This is particularly useful information.  Android 1.5 supports only normal sized screens (320x480) with medium pixel density (160 dpi).  Android 1.6 and later on the other hand supports 9 different combinations of screen size and pixel density.  Our advice has typically been that developers should target Android 1.6 to future proof an application for the introduction of various screen sizes going forward.  That advice still stands but what the Google data shows us is that there is very little immediate cost to ignoring this advice and simply targeting Android 1.5 using the normal screen size/medium density combination because this combination is used by nearly two thirds of all Android devices accessing the marketplace today and even though Android 1.5 does not provide the tools to support other screen size/density combinations, since the only other combination worth supporting is also a normal screen size (hence the same aspect ratio) those devices will simply upscale the medium density image for the high density screen.  Sure it won't look as crisp as a high density image, but it will work.

So provided you're not using any Android 1.6 or later specific features your Android 1.5 app will work and look good on 99% of Android devices accessing the market today.  Interesting huh!

Other related posts:
Android OS penetration going backwards
Skype on Android … sort of
Android Device Dashboard

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Aaron Davidson
New Zealand

Co-founder and CEO of SimWorks - New Zealands leading developer of mobile applications.

SimWorks Anti-Virus protects over 1.5 million mobile phones around the world everyday.

SimWorks phone backup enables mobile operators to protect their subscribers mobile phone contacts and provide their subscribers with unique and compelling new ARPU boosting services.

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