Study: Fragmented Android Users "Get Screwed"

Paul Lilly

The fragmentation that exists on the Android platform is an annoying side effect of Google's open-source ecosystem, and we'll be reminded of that once Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) slowly rolls out to certain devices, while others are left out in the cold. Such will be the case of the Nexus One, a phone Google said is simply "too old" for a major OS update. But do Nexus One owners have it all that bad?

Not according to a study posted on The Understatement blog. Michael Degusta, the study's author, says he "tracked down every update that was released" for every Android phone shipped in the U.S. up through the middle of last year, and it turns out Nexus One owners have had it better than most, though the overall "picture isn't pretty."

Other than the G1 and MyTouch, Degusta says virtually all of the millions of Android phones in his chart are still under contract, yet seven of the 18 never ran a current version of the OS. A dozen of the 18 only ran a current version of the OS for a matter of weeks or less, and 10 of them are at least two major versions behind well within their two year contract period. The numbers only get bleaker.

There are a number of possible explanations that dive deeper into the issue of fragmentation. According to Degusta, one widely held viewpoint is that there's no incentive for smartphone makers to continually update and support their devices since they don't make any money after the sale.

"If that’s really the case, the phone manufacturers are spectacularly dumb: ignoring the 2 year contract cycle & abandoning your users isn’t going to engender much loyalty when they do buy a new phone," Degusta says. "Further, it’s been fairly well established that Apple also really only makes money from hardware sales, and yet their long term update support is excellent.

"In other words, Apple’s way of getting you to buy a new phone is to make you really happy with your current one, whereas apparently Android phone makers think they can get you to buy a new phone by making you really unhappy with your current one. Then again, all of this may be ascribing motives and intent where none exist - it’s entirely possible that the root cause of the problem is just flat-out bad management (and/or the aforementioned spectacular dumbness)."

View the chart and read more of Degusta's analysis here .

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