It can be said at any given point in time that Google is nearing the release of a new version of the Android operating system (OS), while recently introduced iterations are struggling to gain wider acceptance. The statement would have been accurate a year ago, two years ago, a year from now (perhaps – more about that later) and, certainly, now.
Android Marshmallow, which was introduced eight months ago, is being used on one in 10 Android devices. Figures on the Android 6.0 OS are compiled by Google and used to guide developers trying to create products that can be most widely used, according to InformationWeek.
The proliferation of versions of Android, along with subtle changes between manufacturers’ implementations within each version, are the bane of the OS’s existence. Android N, which is the next version of the OS, is on its way and, therefore, “the Android fragmentation story continues its sad path onward,” says InformationWeek. In a sense, even the modest uptake numbers may be overly optimistic because they don’t reflect retirement of older versions that are already out in the field:
At this point everyone knows that Android devices are much slower to update to new system software than Apple's iOS devices. In fact, much of the growth attributed to new versions of Android comes from new handset purchases, rather than bulk system updates.
Know Your Mobile offers a very long and detailed preview of Android N. The preview, which is aimed at developers and others that need granular information about what is coming, sounds laudatory. It is even celebratory. The keys are that it seems to be a major upgrade over Marshmallow and that it is just about ready:
The firm has put in a lot of man hours on Android N and the result of this latest build is the net result of all that work; the build is stable and designed for use on daily drivers. This means you can download and install Android N right now and, all being well, it should perform and function just like a gold-standard release.
Two takeaways from the long report are that Google is close to giving Android N a permanent name, which signifies that it is nearing completion, and that it contains extended “bricking” capabilities that can kill the device if it is lost or stolen.
A bigger change than the chronic game of catchup Android now plays may be in the offing. Google is preparing a propriety version of Android, according to The Register. The legal road to this and the way in which it will be done are fairly complex.
The report is based on “a highly confidential internal project” from analyst Richard Windsor. The bottom line is that if such a move comes to pass, the existing and longstanding landscape will be transformed.
Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.