Android may have overtaken iOS as the most popular smartphone OS, and Google sees 950,000 activations daily according to Android head honcho Andy Rubin, but they are not resting on their laurels. No, Google looks to be releasing Android 5.0 Jellybean this Autumn less than year after Ice Cream Sandwich which launched last November.
The rumour of the Jellybean launch has been established after two reports in Digitimes about a launch coming this summer to further drive Android tablet sales, and an interview Hiroshi Lockheimer, vice president of engineering for mobile at Google, gave to ComputerWorld suggesting the next Android incarnation will be coming in Autumn as part of Google’s yearly release cycle. With Ice Cream Sandwich only starting to take hold (the Samsung Galaxy Nexus is still the only smartphone on sale with it pre-installed), a new release so soon may, however, be counter-productive by further increasing the issue of fragmentation on the Android platform – that is if most people actually cared about such a thing.
There seems to be a belief amongst the Silicon Valley technology press that because not all Android phones are running the same version of the OS that people are finding this a major issue. This belief has been built up because Apple, which has control over both hardware and software for its devices, has a much more unified device line with little fragmentation of OS, but that does not mean that it is much of a problem for most users. Maybe those I chat to are in the minority, but for the most part people only go on mass app hunting sprees for the first few months when they’ve got a new phone, and after that they just grab apps when someone mentions it to them in passing or for some reason a certain app is getting a lot of press. With that in mind, people download the apps they use most within the first few months with only small incremental changes after that.
This evidence is anecdotal for sure, but prior to smartphones people bought a phone with its software and snake as the only game and that was it for a couple of years until they upgraded the phone. This is still how a large proportion of users still use their phones – they get the apps they want at the start and then are just comfortable with what they’ve got until the time for an upgrade when they repeat the process. The press needs to remember that not everyone is a geek hunting new apps 24/7 with most people spending their time listening to music, using Facebook, playing games, or every now and again making phone-calls.
Should Google be spending resources helping users find easier paths to upgrade their Android OS? Yes. Fragmentation is a problem for app developers wanting to get their apps out to as many people as possible, but the issue is constantly being overblown by reporters simply because they are looking to Apple and seeing unity rather than looking to consumers to see how they use they phones.