Android 6.0 Marshmallow launched in early October 2015, a bit over five months ago, and yet it’s only installed on a mere 2.3% of Android devices that access the Google Play Store. The version with the largest installed base is the previous one, Lollipop, at 36.1%.
Meanwhile, iOS 9.x, which was released just two weeks before Android 6.0 in mid-September 2015, is installed on 77% of all iOS devices that accesses Apple’s App Store. Android enthusiasts, analysts, and bloggers have been talking about Android fragmentation for years now. But, as evidenced by the current market share for Android Marshmallow, Google does not seem too concerned about the ongoing fragmentation problems.
Let’s take a look at how bad it is by combining a few numbers. If you combine the installed base for the last two Android releases (Lollipop and Marshmallow), the total is 38.4% of all Android devices. If you combine Apple’s last two iOS releases (8.x and 9.x), it accounts for an installed base of 94% of all iOS devices. The Android version with the largest installed base is Lollipop, which was released in November 2014. However, if you go back one more version to KitKat, released in October 2013, and combine its installed base with Lollipop, you’ll find these two older versions of Android account for 70.4% of the platform’s installed base.
While this fragmentation is probably not perceived as a problem by the vast majority of casual users, it remains a serious consideration for Android developers. Would you, for example, want to expend a lot of time, energy, and money getting up to speed on the latest Android APIs if you know nearly all potential customers won’t be able to access those features?
It’s no hypothetical question, now that Google has announced a preview release of the next version of Android, currently referred to as Android N. That version adds multi-window (really a split screen like iOS 9 allows on iPad devices), direct reply notification, and bundled notifications, among other things. If history is any indication, Android N will still have very low adoption six to 12 months after release; developers will likely focus their efforts elsewhere as a result.
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