Android Oreo

It’s been years since we are talking about the ongoing fragmentation issue with Google Android. The root cause of various vulnerability at Google Play and new malware attacks at regular intervals is the increasing fragmentation challenge for Google. In the past, Google did make few failed attempts to end the jinx, but none of the efforts resulted in solving the fragmentation issue of Android.

If you are still wondering why fragmentation is being highlighted as the main culprit behind the substandard performance of Android, let me present some latest data:

  • A little less than 50% of Android devices are powered by Android versions released more than three years ago.
  • Android Nougat, aka Android 7.0, which was released in mid last year is powering only one-fourth of Android devices.
  • In October this year, Google released the latest version of Android, Oreo aka Android 8.0. Even after two months of its release, only 0.5% of active Android devices are running on Oreo.

Android versions market share

To put things in context, Apple has been achieving more than 50% of adoption rate with of new iOS version within a month of its release. More than 55% of Apple mobile devices were running on iOS 11 after a month of its release in October.

Similarly, just after five months of the release of iOS 10, nearly 80% of Apple mobile devices were running on iOS 10.

From the above data, it’s clearly visible that Apple is controlling the ecosystem in a far more mature way than Google. Many may argue that the main culprit behind the fragmentation problem is the openness of Android, not Google. And, they are right also, but only to a certain extent.

Despite pushing OEMs to release the latest Android updates to all the Android users as soon as possible, OEMs seem to have given deaf ears to Google’s plea. They find no value in making efforts to release latest updates to already sold devices. Their focus remains on loading all the upcoming models with the latest features, Android OS and chipset.

However, we must understand it’s no one but Google who has defined the Android adoption policies for OEMs. In the absence of any strict release policies, OEMs take undue advantage of the latest version of Android by restricting the release to the upcoming models first. This not only helps the OEMs to lure customers to upgrade but also allow them to boast as one of the unique features in the upcoming models.

On the other hand, OEMs blame the fueling competition and lowering ASP (Average Selling Price) for the delay in the release of latest Android updates.

On the condition of anonymity, a senior executive from one of the top five smartphone vendors in India says, “Unlike 2014, now the market is flooded with smartphones that are available across all price range starting from $50. To offer uniqueness in their devices most of the OEMs have developed their custom UI which sits on the top of the Android OS. An OEM has to invest a huge amount in R&D, manufacturing and marketing a device. However, due to the fuelling competition, the cost has gone up while the price has been on the constant decline. Before releasing the latest version of Android to already sold devices it’s important to ensure the flawless compatibility of a device and running UI with the latest upgrades and updates of Android. Undoubtedly, It is an additional investment for OMEs. The squeezing margin on smartphones doesn’t provide any cushion to OEMs to invest more in already sold models.”

But, this leads to a question, “if additional investment is an issue, how Apple is able to achieve the so-called difficult goal with each passing year, without being worried about additional investment?”

The answer lies in the margins! In the Android smartphone market, it’s a dog eats dog. Most of the OEMs claim to be price tagging their devices with a razor-thin margin. In contrast, Apple has been maintaining a lucrative margin on iPhone despite all the hullabaloo. Chew it, Apple accounts for just 15% of the quarterly smartphone shipments but pockets 65% of the total smartphone device market profit.

Though Google is leaving no stone unturned to get rid of the fragmentation issue asap, the control lies with OEMs. The company will either have to revisit its policies defined for OEMs or have to work at the hardware level to solve this problem. Initiatives like Android One is one of such efforts but looks like its Qualcomm who has found the solution for Google with its new chipset most of the Android flagship scheduled for 2018 will be carrying under the hood.