When it comes to Android, one of the hottest topics has always been how fast updates are. It has been a problem for a while now and there’s no question that Google recognizes that. At last year’s I/O, they announced a new agreement with OEMs that would make them commit to updates over an 18-month period. That didn’t seem to do much, so at this past June’s I/O, they announced the PDK. which is the hardware equivalent of the SDK. It gives manufacturers of hardware and chipsets early access to Android builds so they can get a jump start on current and upcoming devices. It’s still too soon to judge if this will help or not, but I really have to point out that things are going in the wrong direction in a major way.
Lets start with Android 2.3 Gingerbread. The SDK was launched in December 2010 and by December 1st, 2011, it was on 50.6% of devices. I’m not sure what you think, but to me, 50% of devices after a year is pretty dismal. It will actually sound pretty good when you read how Ice Cream Sandwich is going. The SDK for Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich was released last October and we just reported the figures as of October 1st (1 year later). It was sitting on 23.7% of devices. That’s not even half of what Gingerbread was able to achieve in the same time frame. To say it’s a disappointment would be a huge understatement.
Considering the trend in the numbers, I’m not sure Google will be able to ever fix this. The fact that there are so many manufacturers and so many devices makes it that much more difficult. Even Motorola, who is owned by Google, can’t release new devices with Jelly Bean.
Maybe the PDK will improve things or maybe this year’s rumor of more Nexus phones is a way to speed things up since those devices get update quicker. If Google does indeed release four or five Nexus phones, it could dramatically change these percentages, and at the same time lessen the effect of OEM differentiation in the marketplace. There still would be one question, and that’s how LTE would affect things? I can only assume the next flock of Nexus devices would be LTE capable. If that’s the case, could that slow updates a little?
So it’s that time of the year again when people wonder if they should buy a Nexus phone or not, and things haven’t changed. If updates are important to you, your next phone needs to be a Nexus.