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Android fragmentation problems hit a new high, billion devices two years outdated

Written by Matti Vähäkainu (Google+) @ 15 Nov 2017 12:32 User comments (14)

Android fragmentation problems hit a new high, billion devices two years outdated For its entire history Android has had one massive problem: software fragmentation. That means that people are getting a different experience of Android depending on the country, carrier, manufacturer, or even if all of the above are same, device.
Unlike Apple, Google hasn't seemingly even been trying to solve the problem – although promising some solutions – and has just let the platform loose. This has allowed it to become by far the most adopted mobile operating system in the world, but it also means that there are now more problems of fragmentation than ever.

This is as open secret as there is about Android, and most of the Android users are pained by the fact that software updates, even when they are security related, take forever to come.

To attest to the fact a programmer by the name of Dan Luu has revealed that things might not be getting better but worse over time.

According to Luu, Google's operating system is just becoming less up-to-date, and there are only a few explanations for this: Android's slowing growth, device turnover slowing down, or devices aren't getting updates as often.

To expand on the problem, Luu compared the fragmentation data with Google's estimate of active Android devices. As nearly half of devices are running two year old software, which one can easily call outdated, and there are a total of two billion active Android devices, the math is pretty simple.

Not only is there at least a billion outdated Android devices still in use but according to Luu the likelihood of them getting updated is nearing zero – which is ironically close to what Android Oreo 8.0 marketshare is currently.

To get a more in-depth look at the problem, Dan Luu has excellent analysis and graphs about Android fragmentation over the years on his website.

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14 user comments

116.11.2017 13:02

Well what do they expect? They make a OS that does not support every device and only selective devices. No no wonder so many are out of date because they did not make a update for that device.

216.11.2017 21:49

Excuse me? In fact, you can get recent Android updates on ANCIENT phones, if rooted. Blame the carriers/OEM vendors, not Google.

317.11.2017 3:10

Originally posted by Bozobub:
Excuse me? In fact, you can get recent Android updates on ANCIENT phones, if rooted. Blame the carriers/OEM vendors, not Google.
Carrier? Well my phone has no carrier and it is a honor 7. The company that makes it says the device is not supported for Android 7.

417.11.2017 4:01

Both the carriers (phone service providers) and manufacturers agree to put out specific versions of Android for a given phone. Generally, this translates to 2 major Android updates, at most, although there are some exceptions.

Thing is, Android is open source, and many older phones have updated Android ROMs. The Honor 7 DOES have Nougat ROMs.

Try this Google search for more info.

You are blaming Google for deals made between OEMs (the manufacturers) and carriers (service providers), that simple. All Google does is continue updating their OS ^^'.

This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 17 Nov 2017 @ 4:02

518.11.2017 16:34

Google could do a lot more, like requiring drivers to be publicly available and requiring manufacturers to unlock phones when they stop doing updates so that users can continue to receive updates. They could also just include SU right from the start. It really wouldn't be that hard...Windows is a far more open environment than Android in spite of being closed source, and for an older product you can generally just download all the drivers from Microsoft...or at least from the website of the device manufacturer. Even when Motorola was owned by Google and they had full control they didn't do any of this (other than to allow for easy rooting). I won't go as far as to say Apple has this right; there are tons of old iPhones running old versions of iOS because Apple can't be bothered to update them (and because the updates would make the phones too slow to handle phone calls) but compared to google they are doing a better job.

618.11.2017 16:53

Originally posted by Bozobub:
Both the carriers (phone service providers) and manufacturers agree to put out specific versions of Android for a given phone. Generally, this translates to 2 major Android updates, at most, although there are some exceptions.

Thing is, Android is open source, and many older phones have updated Android ROMs. The Honor 7 DOES have Nougat ROMs.

Try this Google search for more info.

You are blaming Google for deals made between OEMs (the manufacturers) and carriers (service providers), that simple. All Google does is continue updating their OS ^^'.
So it is not officially supported has has to be modified and you say google is not to blame for not supporting it? Have you tried installing Android 7 on say a 10 year old Android device?

718.11.2017 17:36

I never said, nor implied that you could do so for any phone, no matter how old. You also, I'll note, cannot run the latest version of iOS on the 1st iPhone. Try again?

818.11.2017 17:41

Originally posted by Bozobub:
I never said, nor implied that you could do so for any phone, no matter how old. You also, I'll note, cannot run the latest version of iOS on the 1st iPhone. Try again?
So this is about Android and you change it to IOS? Did you not say and I quote "In fact, you can get recent Android updates on ANCIENT phones,"

918.11.2017 17:51

Yes, I certainly did. But "ancient" is not "every"; I certainly can, however, get Nougat onto some 6-year-old phones, which certainly qualifies as ancient in smartphone terms.

Your point is also obviously silly, considering it's true for EVERY smartphone OS, hence my example re: iOS. What IS your point, exactly? Can you name a case where this is not true?

1019.11.2017 19:13

Originally posted by Bozobub:
Yes, I certainly did. But "ancient" is not "every"; I certainly can, however, get Nougat onto some 6-year-old phones, which certainly qualifies as ancient in smartphone terms.

Your point is also obviously silly, considering it's true for EVERY smartphone OS, hence my example re: iOS. What IS your point, exactly? Can you name a case where this is not true?
That's the thing...just because Apple and Google (and Microsoft...but who cares about windows phones?) have really dropped the ball, that doesn't mean it is unavoidable. You can put Windows 10 on a Pentium 4 (16 years old!!!) ...And there are modern versions of Linux that still run on far less than that.

Companies are spending fortunes on custom firmwares for all these devices when there could just be a single distro with a selection of drivers for all devices. Of course, that wouldn't make our phones worthless after 2 years...so people wouldn't be buying new phones when they have no good reason to. They pay more to make a worse product in order to force people to buy more of their product.

1119.11.2017 23:43

If you put Windows 10 on a P4, in fact, you'll have HUGE problems with it not being able to handle large (GB scale) storage at the hardware level. IF it runs, it's going to run like absolute crap, to be frank.

Google simply does not control what the OEMs and carriers do with the OS. That really IS the basic truth of the matter.

1221.11.2017 21:12

Originally posted by Bozobub:
If you put Windows 10 on a P4, in fact, you'll have HUGE problems with it not being able to handle large (GB scale) storage at the hardware level. IF it runs, it's going to run like absolute crap, to be frank.

Google simply does not control what the OEMs and carriers do with the OS. That really IS the basic truth of the matter.
The point is not that it's a great idea to put Windows 10 onto a computer that came with Windows 2000, but that it is possible. Meanwhile there are tons of phones under 5 years old and still physically fine...and they are essentially useless due to lack of updates, locked-down firmwares that were never hacked, etc. If Android was closer to a real Linux distro (or even Windows...an OS that people despise for being so closed), then this would not be the case.

1321.11.2017 21:33

And that lack of updates/firmwares that were never hacked simply is NOT Google's fault. In fact, their own Pixel phones are always easy as pie to root, and even rather old models can take Nougat/whatever. Again, that mess is due to various deals between the hardware vendors and the carriers; Google has little to no input into what, if any, additional limits are placed upon any given phone/Android combo.

Additionally, as I mentioned above, you certainly cannot run the latest iOS on the earliest iPhones; not even close. EVERYONE is holding this particular bag, that simple ^^'.

Do I think there's a problem with Android "fragmentation"? Yes, certainly. Blaming Google for it, however, accomplishes nothing, not even identifying the real culprit(s). The REAL problem is OEMs and carriers cozily deciding to hose proprietary versions of Android, to artificially push people further into their product "ecosystem".

There's nothing but arbitrary OS update limits, to keep people from using a given Android phone for 3-5 years, or more (which the carriers/OEMs hate, of course). I still have an S3 — a 5-year-old phone — running Nougat, that works ju-u-ust fine, thenkyew, as a great example, as my "play around" phone =).

This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 21 Nov 2017 @ 21:34

1425.11.2017 1:27

Originally posted by Bozobub:
And that lack of updates/firmwares that were never hacked simply is NOT Google's fault. In fact, their own Pixel phones are always easy as pie to root, and even rather old models can take Nougat/whatever. Again, that mess is due to various deals between the hardware vendors and the carriers; Google has little to no input into what, if any, additional limits are placed upon any given phone/Android combo.

Additionally, as I mentioned above, you certainly cannot run the latest iOS on the earliest iPhones; not even close. EVERYONE is holding this particular bag, that simple ^^'.

Do I think there's a problem with Android "fragmentation"? Yes, certainly. Blaming Google for it, however, accomplishes nothing, not even identifying the real culprit(s). The REAL problem is OEMs and carriers cozily deciding to hose proprietary versions of Android, to artificially push people further into their product "ecosystem".

There's nothing but arbitrary OS update limits, to keep people from using a given Android phone for 3-5 years, or more (which the carriers/OEMs hate, of course). I still have an S3 — a 5-year-old phone — running Nougat, that works ju-u-ust fine, thenkyew, as a great example, as my "play around" phone =).
I understand that the carriers and OEMs are deciding to screw the customers like this...but you don't see companies locking down Windows laptops like this, because they can't...if Acer wanted to make a Windows laptop with a terrible GUI overlay and without Windows update that wouldn't be an option. A few really crummy companies do things like using 32 bit EUFI with 64 bit processors (which makes it a total pain to install Linux)...but it doesn't really affect people who just run Windows...they get updates as soon as they are released, and can even upgrade to newer versions.

Android may be based on Linux, but it has plenty of closed-source code. There is nothing to stop Google from making new versions that include a root-privileged update service that delivers security updates or even new versions...but they don't. Maintaining things like menus that scroll the wrong way and terrible camera apps wouldn't be easy...but it wouldn't be necessary either.

This wouldn't help someone with a 2-year-old phone that never got a single update but it would mean that future fragmentation would basically stop because by the time a phone was old enough that it couldn't handle new updates it would be worth less than the cost of the new battery that it needs. For that matter, fragmentation has been a major issue for years...they could have done this long ago. They didn't...they don't...and they do not seem to have any intention of doing this.

And yes, I know iOS isn't any better...but the whole point of Apple products is to show that you spent $1000 on a device that will be old in 6 months...that value is lost after 6 months so who cares if it stops getting updates after 2 years? At that point it has lower specs than a $100 Android phone anyway. The point of an Android phone is that it's a smart phone...something that it can keep doing until the battery stops charging or the screen shatters and a $50 repair is more than the phone is worth.

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