Android's latest OS distribution stats are in, and it's still a problem

The long-standing issue of many active Android devices running older versions of Google’s operating system continues.

Android 7.0 (and 7.1) ‘Nougat’ remains the most popular Android version in-use today with 30.8 percent of the devices, although now being two years old. Last year’s release, Android 8.0 ‘Oreo’ is on just 14.6 percent of devices.

Android 9.0 ‘Pie’ was fully announced last month and began rolling out to select devices. Many users expect a rollout similar to Apple’s iOS where the latest OS is generally available to most of its active devices immediately.

android distribution os numbers version

Rolling out updates for Android is a lot more complex than iOS. There are hundreds more device configurations to support, and many of the manufacturers choose to modify the OS with their own designs and services.

For devices locked to specific carriers, each update then needs to be tested and authorised by the operator before rollout can begin.

android release update graphic

The whole process is frustrating for users and developers alike. Users want access to the latest features, and developers want to know the majority of their users can support the latest platform functions to provide the best experience.

Addressing Fragmentation

Google has taken various steps to address the fragmentation issue in recent years. One of the most important for developers was decoupling Play Services updates from the core OS, allowing APIs to be updated through the Play Store without a full OS release.

As of Android 8.0 ‘Oreo’, Google introduced what it calls Project Treble which aims to speed up updates by providing somewhat of a modular architecture so manufacturers wishing to customise parts of the OS can do so more quickly.

In a blog post, Project Treble Lead Iliyan Malchev wrote:

“The core concept is to separate the vendor implementation — the device-specific, lower-level software written in large part by the silicon manufacturers — from the Android OS Framework.

This is achieved by the introduction of a new vendor interface between the Android OS framework and the vendor implementation. The new vendor interface is validated by a Vendor Test Suite (VTS), analogous to the CTS, to ensure forward compatibility of the vendor implementation.”

Due to only releasing with last year’s Android release, it’s too early to get a solid idea of how much Project Treble has improved the speed of updates. As mentioned earlier, Oreo is only featured on 14.6 percent of devices.

Meanwhile, devices stuck on Android versions prior to Oreo represent 85.4 percent of active devices.

What are your thoughts on the Android fragmentation issue? Let us know in the comments.

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