Android may be leaving dessert names behind with Android 10, but its OS market share is still a buffet of Pie, Oreos, Nougat, Marshmallows, Lollipops, and even a couple of KitKats.
As Android 10 begins rolling out to Pixel phones (and eventually to all Android smartphones), it’s a good opportunity to break down the current state of the ever-fragmented landscape making up Google’s flagship mobile operating system.
According to the latest market share breakdown from Statcounter, the ubiquitous OS remains as fragmented as ever across the vast market of Android devices. Google keeps up a fairly regular OS-release cadence each year, so we can compare adoption rates over time for each successive version of Android.
Thus far in 2019, we’ve seen slow but steady adoption of Android 9.0 Pie up to a hair over 38 percent as of July. That’s ahead of the combined 31.9 percent market share of Android 8.0 and 8.1 Oreo in July 2018, but behind the more-than-40-percent market share of Android 7.0 and 7.1 Nougat in July 2017. In other words, Android adoption for its newest versions hasn’t improved much at all.
Before Android 10 was even released, it had more than half a dozen previous versions to contend with for market share. As of July 2019, almost 30 percent of devices were running a version of Oreo, close to 20 percent were on Nougat, 6 percent of devices were running Android 6.0 Marshmallow (released in 2015), about 4 percent of devices were running Android 5.0 or 5.1 Lollipop (released in 2014), and 1.52 percent were still on Android KitKat, which was released back in 2013.
There are plenty of reasons why Android is so fragmented compared to iOS; Apple keeps tight control over its OS and pushing out updates, whereas the strength of Android is its deep customizability both for each individual user and across device-makers—many of which (like Samsung) have their own custom flavors of Android. If someone doesn’t want to update, they don’t have to.
Android also has a broader global footprint, and less powerful smartphones and feature phones in emerging markets take a lot longer to get software updates, if they ever do. The downside is that each year, when a new Android OS with a bevy of cutting-edge features is released, Android users across the device landscape have to play a guessing game for months or longer over when they’ll even be able to download it.