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

Android OS penetration going backwards

By Aaron Davidson, in , posted: 5-May-2010 13:04

Back in February I talked about the Android Dashboard which shows the distribution of versions of the Android OS on devices visiting the Android Marketplace.  Very handy for deciding which versions of the Android OS to target.  The stats at that time told a fairly straight forward story, the majority of users using Android 1.6, some marooned on Android 1.5 and a growing number on the latest and greatest Android 2.0/2.01.

Google recently released updated stats which give a rather more confused picture when contrasted with the earlier statistics:

Device dashboard 4 Jan 2010      Platform versions April 2010

The first pie graph is for January 2010, the second for April 2010.  Rather incredibly Android 1.5 penetration has surged.  There are a huge number of Android devices sold daily so the total size of the pie has increased over the four months separating the two graphs.  This means that the increase in Android 1.5 usage cannot be explained by users of the HTC Hero and similar devices being marooned on Android 1.5 but instead must mean vendors continue to ship large numbers of Android 1.5 devices.  In the PC world that would be akin to PC vendors shipping large numbers of Win 2K machines today .

Relative Android 1.6 usage has shrunk consistent with existing 1.6 devices having been upgraded or more likely, simply less 1.6 based devices shipping.  Not surprisingly the relative share of 2.0/2.01 devices has all but evaporated as those devices have now almost all been updated to Android 2.1.

Here's my own rough bar graph of the changing fortunes of the various Android platform versions between January and April 2010:

Changing platform penetration

The purple bars represent January and yellow April.  You can clearly see the unexpected Android 1.5 shenanigans.

This makes life interesting for Android developers such as ourselves.  Our advice this year has been to upgrade apps to Android 1.6 and target new Android apps at Android 1.6 to take advantage of the screen size and other capabilities introduced in that version.  It was solid advice when Android 1.5 looked to be on the way out.  Despite these new stats I still think its the best approach but the arguments for targeting Android 1.6 in the very immediate term aren't as clear cut as they were just a couple of months ago!

Other related posts:
Android 2.1 makes big gains over the last month
Skype on Android … sort of
Android Device Dashboard

Comment by Kiwipixter, on 5-May-2010 13:22

Fragmentation or OEMs getting rid of old stocks? Probably a bit of both.

Though for developers differences in 1.5 and 1.6 isn't that great, is it?

Comment by n4, on 5-May-2010 17:22

Not OEMs getting rid of old stocks. Case in point is the LG GW620 just introduced by Telecom, with Andriod 1.5. The fact is, handset development and delivery cycles are longer than you might think and I expect we'll still see new devices coming to market with 1.5 for a little while yet.

Comment by Mark, on 5-May-2010 20:20

You "news" is misleading at best.

Android is surging forward, however part of that, is VERY cheap 1.5 handsets and deals (hence the 1.5 numbers).

I picked up a HTC Hero last month from T-Mobile UK (and I know of 10 other people personally too), for £50 flat-phone fee, on a £10 a month plan that gives me unlimited internet, unlimited texts (or unlimited landline calls) and 100minutes of talktime.

That is truly unbeatable.

Comment by Linuxluver, on 6-May-2010 10:15

I've been watching the many new Android releases coming to market for a while now. They can be broken out into two rought groups: Those phones that can are sold with or can be upgraded to Android v2.1 and those that cannot be. 

The ones  that are sold with Android v2.1 or can be upgraded to it tend to be the more expensive, more powerful phones. The Nexus One. The HTC Desire, Legend, Incredible. The Motorola Droid and Milestone. The Acer Liquid and the coming Dell and Samsung phones. Even the SONY Xperia 10, currently loaded with Android v1.6 will be going to Android 2.x by September. 

But there a millions of other Android phones that will never do it and can't do it as they are too low spec to run anything better than Android v1.5 or v1.6. Most of these phones are budget phones coming out China in HUGE numbers. Have a look at TradeMe or Sella. These phones are the majority of Android phones available there and they are being bought. Most importantly, they are being sold in China in a vast numbers...

I'm not sure how to handle this. It's like there are two separate markets and Android is succeeding in both of them. The Apple iPhone - the real one - isn't really starter for this 'other' market of low-end, budget Android phones. I'm talking about Sciphone N19-like phones. They come with dual-band GSM. No 3G. A 400MHz Samsung processor. 128MB of RAM. Low, low spec. Running Android v1.5.

Google's view of the Android Market is global. What we need to know is what phones are being sold where. This will, I believe, produce a very different picture. There are two markets: roughly first world and 3rd world.  Trying to see them as one is making a mistake, I think.

Author's note by ald, on 6-May-2010 10:32

Hi Mark, thanks for your comment, but I'm not sure where you're coming from in relation to my news being misleading.

Firstly this is opinion, not news.  The "news" came out days before my blog.  This is just my thoughts on Google's data and giving it some context.

Secondly I'm not sure what was misleading?  The blog is about the distribution of Android OS versions amongst users of Android phones.  As I mentioned, given the number of Android phones in the market was much higher in April than January, it is surprising that the penetration of the more recent versions of Android OS is going backwards, towards 1.5.

Aside from the first 5 words of your comment I'm in complete agreement with you.  I'd take that T-Mobile deal any day of the week if it was available here.

Author's note by ald, on 6-May-2010 10:33

Linuxluver, couldn't agree more.  I'd love to see some geographic breakdown in the Android stats!

ald's profile

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.

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