How Google’s 'biggest Android problem' continues

How Google’s 'biggest Android problem' continues

How Google's biggest Android problem continues

Google released Android 13 about a year ago, but the adoption rate of this latest OS version remains low. According to Android distribution numbers from Google, only 15 per cent of Android smartphones are currently running on Android 13. This is a stark contrast to Apple's iOS 16, which is running on approximately 90 per cent of iPhones released in the last four years, and 81 per cent of all iPhones². Why is Google lagging behind Apple in this aspect, and what are the implications for Android users and developers?

The fragmentation issue

One of the main reasons for Google's slow update rollout is the fragmentation of the Android ecosystem. Unlike Apple, which controls both the hardware and software of its devices, Google has to rely on various manufacturers and carriers to distribute its updates to their customers. This means that each device has to be tested and customized for compatibility and performance before receiving the update. Moreover, some manufacturers may prioritize their own customizations and features over Google's stock Android, or may not have the resources or incentives to support older devices.

As a result, Android users have to wait for months or even years to get the latest OS version on their devices, if they ever get it at all. This also means that they miss out on the new features, security patches, and bug fixes that Google introduces with each update. For example, Android 13 introduced features such as chat bubbles, screen recording, smart reply, dark mode scheduling, and improved privacy controls¹. However, most Android users are still using older versions such as Android 12 (26.5 per cent), Android 11 (24.2 per cent), or even Android 9 Pie (18.2 per cent) and Android 8 Oreo (13.7 per cent).

The impact on users and developers

The fragmentation issue affects not only the user experience but also the app development process. For users, having different OS versions on different devices can lead to compatibility issues, security risks, and performance degradation. For example, some apps may not work properly or at all on older OS versions, or may expose users to malware or hackers due to unpatched vulnerabilities. Users may also face difficulties in transferring data or settings between devices with different OS versions.

For developers, having to support multiple OS versions can increase the complexity and cost of app development and maintenance. Developers have to test their apps on various devices with different screen sizes, hardware specifications, and software customizations. They also have to deal with the fragmentation of app distribution channels, such as Google Play Store, Amazon Appstore, Samsung Galaxy Store, Huawei AppGallery, etc. Furthermore, developers may have to limit their app features or functionality to cater to the lowest common denominator of OS versions.

The possible solutions

● Google has been trying to address the fragmentation issue by introducing initiatives such as Project Treble, Project Mainline, and Android One.
● Project Treble aims to separate the core Android framework from the device-specific components, making it easier for manufacturers to update their devices without modifying the core OS. 
● Project Mainline allows Google to update some critical components of the OS through the Google Play Store without requiring a full system update.
● Android One is a program that offers a pure Android experience with minimal customizations and guaranteed updates for at least two years.

However, these initiatives have not been enough to solve the problem completely. Some manufacturers still choose not to participate in these programs or delay their updates for various reasons. Some carriers also impose their own restrictions or requirements on the update process. Moreover, some users may not want to update their devices due to personal preferences or concerns about battery life or storage space.

Therefore, Google may need to take more drastic measures to ensure that its updates reach more devices faster and more consistently. For example, it could enforce stricter requirements or incentives for manufacturers and carriers to join its programs or expedite their updates. It could also offer more benefits or rewards for users who update their devices regularly or opt for devices with pure Android experience. It could also leverage its own hardware products such as Pixel phones and Chromebooks to showcase its latest OS features and performance.

The new features of Android 13

While most Android users are still waiting for the update, those who have received it can enjoy some of the new features and improvements that Google has introduced with Android 13. Here are some of the highlights:

- Themed app icons: You can customize your app icons to match your phone's wallpaper tint and colors. This feature works with more apps than before, not just Google apps.
- New media controls: The media player has a new design that puts album artwork on full display and features a dancing playback bar. You can also switch between different audio outputs more easily.
- Per-app language preferences: You can assign different language settings to individual apps, so you can use different languages on your device without changing the system language.
- HDR video capture: Apps can use Camera2 API to capture HDR video on supported devices, enhancing the quality and dynamic range of your videos.
- OpenJDK 11 updates: Android 13 includes a new runtime based on OpenJDK 11, which brings performance and security improvements, as well as new language features such as lambda expressions and try-with-resources.
- Spatial audio: You can enjoy immersive sound with Spatial Audio, which shifts the source of the sound based on how you turn your head, making you feel like you're in the middle of the action. This feature works with head tracking enabled headphones.
- Bluetooth LE Audio: Android 13 supports Bluetooth Low Energy Audio, which improves audio quality and allows you to broadcast media to multiple people at once.

The conclusion

Google's biggest Android problem continues to be the fragmentation of its ecosystem and the slow adoption of its updates. This affects both the user experience and the app development process negatively. Google has been trying to address this issue with various initiatives but has not been able to solve it completely. It may need to take more aggressive actions to ensure that its updates reach more devices faster and more consistently. Otherwise, it may lose its competitive edge and user loyalty to Apple and other rivals.


(3) Can Google Fix Android's Biggest Problem? - Gizmodo.

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