One of the biggest differences between Android and iOS continues to be the fact that by nature, iOS users continue to far outpace their Android counterparts in keeping their devices updated. According the makers of the popular app Bump, nearly 90 percent of its users are running iOS 4 or newer.
What’s even more interesting is the fact that the latest iOS release, 4.2.1, is used by about 53% of its users. That means over half of all iOS users are fully up to date. Now compare this to Android’s latest release — 2.3 — who only has a measly 0.4 percent adoption rate.
As MG Siegler pointed out over at TechCrunch, we should be fair and compare Android 2.2 and iOS 4 against one another, since Android 2.3 is currently available only on Google’s own Nexus S handset (although Android 2.2 has been out much longer than iOS 4) . Google doesn’t fare much better here: 52 percent.
The problem seems to be in the way updates are delivered. Instead of the top-down model of iOS, where Apple itself is responsible for delivering the updates to its users, Google has allowed the carriers to tweak the OS updates to their liking before releasing them. This can mean delays of weeks, if not months.
Now yes, I know the Android faithful on here are going to have my head, saying “wait a minute, this isn’t fair!” But look at it this way, when over half of your competitors users are apparently already on the newest version of the operating system while not even one out of every 100 of your users can say the same, you have a problem.
Why? Look at it from a development perspective. Android’s made some pretty substantial changes from one point release to another. “Honeycomb” (3.0) promises to be even a bigger shift. What’s the use in developing for a platform that most are not even using?
All in all, we could be looking at the single biggest reason while Google may want to reconsider its platform strategy. If you really want your developers to create groundbreaking, killer apps for your platform, they need the support of the platform creator itself.
Ceding this control to the carriers, which have their own business goals, is now looking like it’s holding everyone back.