Among the charges leveled against Google Inc.’s (NASDAQ: GOOGL) Android operating system is that every implementation of the free mobile platform is different. Not only that, but only some of the devices that use Android use the latest version of the platform.
OpenSignal, a research firm focused on wireless networks, has pulled together the data on the number and types of devices in the Android ecosystem. According to its research, there are 18,796 distinct Android devices in 2014, up from 11,868 last year. The firm surveyed 682,000 devices that downloaded OpenSignal’s app to get these totals.
The single largest maker of Android devices is Samsung Electronics, followed by Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE), LG Electronics, Motorola (now part of Lenovo) and Huawei. Samsung claims 43.0% of Android devices to second-place Sony’s 4.8% share, which is one reason that Samsung’s is developing its own Tizen operating system, a Linux-based platform that it developed with some help from Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC) that could become a replacement for Android. A Tizen-based phone, called the Samsung Z, is scheduled for release this quarter in Russia.
The fragmentation of the Android universe can be both a blessing and a curse to app developers. It offers a much wider reach than iOS from Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) because there are so many devices available at all price points. The bad news is that writing a single version of an app to run on all those devices is both difficult and time-consuming. OpenSignal also notes, “Android is now the dominant mobile operating system and this is because of fragmentation, not in spite of it.”
As OpenSignal also points out, just 20.9% of all Android devices are running the latest released version (KitKat) of the Android OS. A full 91% of Apple iOS users have upgraded to the latest version of the operating system software, iOS 7, while another 8% are using iOS 6. Nearly 55% of Android devices are still running some version of “Jelly Bean,” the next-to-last version of the platform.
OpenSignal’s report includes some dazzling interactive graphics to illustrate these and other data points in their study.