New versions of mobile operating systems (OS) are constantly released. An important factor that sometimes rides under the radar is how proactively and effectively manufacturers work to get these OSes onto their devices.
This is an especially important factor in the Android world. Fragmentation – the proliferation of different OS versions and different implementations by manufacturers – has been a concern for years. Thus, the speed at which the new versions are used is an important issue in understanding the scope of the challenge.
Late last week, Computerworld’s JR Raphael did a great job of assessing how well manufacturers are doing in using Android 6.0 (Marshmallow). The grade each got was a combination of implementation on that manufacturers’ flagship device, its previous flagship and how well it communicated with customers. He offered 12 levels of performance, from A+ down to F.
His findings: Google (A; 95 percent); HTC (B; 86 percent) and LG (C-; 71 percent). Motorola/Lenovo, Samsung BlackBerry all got Fs, with scores of 52 percent, 49 percent and 0 percent, respectively. Raphael concluded by expressing disappointment, though the use of the pronoun “we” is a bit mysterious.
The best way to sum this up, I think, is to borrow a line from my 2015 Lollipop report card conclusion: We can – and should – do better.
Tracking Google OS changes is a regular chore for some folks. At Forbes, Ewan Spence notes that the penetration of Marshmallow rose to 4.6 percent during the seven day period ending April 4. This doubles the 2.3 percent found during March. The figures are compiled by visits to Google Play.
Spence makes some logical deductions and concludes that the upgrade is due to people buying new devices, not upgrading ones they already own. He even says which devices are most responsible for the progress: Samsung’s Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge.
His commentary is that a lot of the pokiness in upgrading the OS today is due to how Android – which clearly was and remains a bit of an experiment – initially rolled out:
When Android first started to gain traction, Google offered more control to manufacturers to encourage adoption. That allowed market share to be rapidly acquired, but it saw Google hand over control of the platform updates to individual manufacturers. Since then Google has been trying to play catch-up with different methods to try to overcome this self-induced issue.
Spence’s point is that the tug of war between Google and its vendors still exists. This dovetails nicely with the great discrepancies in update performance between manufacturers found by Raphael.
The road forward never seems to end. Just as Marshmallow is starting to gain traction, the Android universe is beginning to look forward to the next big thing: Android N. Tech News Today says that it will launch in the next few months. The beat goes on for Android. It just has a somewhat quicker tempo for some manufacturers than others.
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 [email protected] and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.