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Regardless of how much money Android has generated (or, more accurately, hasn't generated) for Google, there can be little doubt that Google is pleased with the fact that it owns the second most popular mobile OS in the world.

But the popularity of Android isn't without its problems. Fragmentation, for instance, has always been an area of concern for developers and handset manufacturers, if not for Google.

Fragmentation in and of itself, however problematic, isn't Android's biggest problem though. So what is?

Increasingly, it looks like the answer to that is getting the newest versions of Android onto devices. As Mashable's Stan Schroeder observes, nearly 64% of Android devices are running a Gingerbread (Android 2.3) variant. And just over 23% are still running Froyo, Android 2.2.

As you might guess, that's bad news for Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS), the latest version of the Android OS. One of the biggest updates to Android since it was first unveiled to the public, ICS was designed to reshape Android, creating a unified experience for both smartphones and tablets. For obvious reasons, that goal is really important to Google, which is hoping that it can do in the tablet space with Android what Android has allowed it to accomplish in the smartphone market.

Unfortunately for Google, a paltry 2.9% of Android devices in the wild are running ICS today. The good news for the search giant is that this figure will almost certainly rise later in the year, as a number high-profile smartphones powered by ICS hit the shelves.

So is the slow uptake of ICS really that big of a deal? Arguably it is. It's important to keep in mind that the latest version of Android was unveiled in October 2011, nearly seven months ago. That may not seem like a long time, but in the world of technology it is.

Which raises the question: if it takes well over half of a year for the latest and greatest version of its Android OS to gain traction, just how effectively can the company hope to compete with a much more nimble Apple and iOS?

Patricio Robles

Published 3 April, 2012 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Ross

This is not surprising when Ice Cream Sandwich is full of bugs; like when you try to call a contact in the list it calls one of the other numbers for that contact as well as the call history not showing the contact name. I like to be a first adopter but when these bugs are not fixed for 7 months it gets very annoying!

over 4 years ago

Douglas McDonald

Douglas McDonald, Director of Mobile and Connected Consumer at TMW

The reason that ICS is not on more phones is not, as the article implies, that it it has not "gained traction" amongst Android users.

The reason is that the updates to existing phones that will run ICS have not been pushed out by the handset manufacturers as yet.

With more OTA updates than ever before on the more recent handsets we'll see the vast majority of these handsets upgrade as soon as the updates are available. Unlike on iOS, many phones, such as the Galaxy S, will not get the update as the hardware won't run it well (Thanks Apple for effectively bricking my iPhone 3G with 4.0).

The issue causing the delay is operators and handset manufacturers, not user apathy.

If only one of the main Android handset manufacturers would break step and just make minor adjustments to stock Android - meaning faster updates. If one of them did then I would say that would be a good thing for Android - and for their differentiation and market share. No?

over 4 years ago

Panos Ladas

Panos Ladas, Digital Marketing Manager at Piece of Cake

I wonder what kind of statistical data did you use to name Android as the *SECOND* most popular mobile OS in the world.

Have a look at this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Android_(operating_system)#Market_share or just read anywhere about Android and you can see that it is *THE MOST POPULAR* mobile OS in the world, not the second.

The fragmentation issue for Android is one of the biggest discussion in mobile currently and carefully selected information would more helpful.

over 4 years ago

Artur Szalak

Artur Szalak, Online Product Manager at Populis Ltd.

Agreed with Douglas. It's not a matter of what is currently "tastier", but what is available to general public. Most people won't bother to download custom ROMs just to play around with ICS. The only way they get it is when they get a prompt on their device that there's an official update from their carrier.

over 4 years ago

Andrew Nicholson

Andrew Nicholson, Founder at The Guku

With the release of native ICS on the Nexus Galaxy Google have shown an incredible lack of marketing sensitivity to their core customer base.

In direct contrast to Apple who released iOS 5 over air simultaneously to all their device owners, Google have tied the release of ICS down to a single device. Loyal fans who had previously purchased flagship devices (eg. Nexus S) were forced to root their phones and install the update manually using a half baked operating system that drained battery (my current operating battery life is around an hour) and came with a host of glitches and usability issues.

This all happened pre-Christmas and Google are only now releasing a fix (http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/news/google-android/3347785/google-pushes-ice-cream-sandwich-nexus-s-smartphone). Is it any wonder that early adopters are holding back on installing ICS? The question now on Nexus Galaxy owner's lips must be whether Google will treat them with the same disregard they did Nexus S owners, when the next latest, greatest Google flagship device is released?

over 4 years ago

Douglas McDonald

Douglas McDonald, Director of Mobile and Connected Consumer at TMW

Andrew You are right - the one older phone that Google could (and should) have updated straight away is the Nexus S.

However, their focus would be on ICS for newer and more capable devices.

I think that the bigger problem for potential Galaxy Nexus buyers is the lack of SD expansion alongside the relatively small 16GB internal storage.

Of course, true early adopters will have dumped there Nexus S ages ago! ;)

over 4 years ago

Artur Szalak

Artur Szalak, Online Product Manager at Populis Ltd.

I got Nexus S with ICS from Vodafone, so proper release. Yet it is a bit disappointing performance-wise. I am amazed that they haven't pushed it further. Would love to see someone working for a manufacturer to tell us what's it like behind the scenes. What's the main reason it takes so long for Samsung/HTC to adopt ICS.

over 4 years ago

Andrew Nicholson

Andrew Nicholson, Founder at The Guku

Touché Andrew. :)

I'm just holding fire until the Samsung Galaxy Beam is released in the UK. At which point I can die happy. http://www.knowyourmobile.com/blog/1303474/samsung_galaxy_beam_uk_preorder_on_clove.html

over 4 years ago

Douglas McDonald

Douglas McDonald, Director of Mobile and Connected Consumer at TMW

I think they'll sell a fair few of the Beams. My HTC One X arrives tomorrow... also from Clove. Gotta love the ignoring of the release date.

over 4 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@WOW - would you like to explain these inaccuracies and, if we have made any errors, we'll correct them.

Thanks

over 4 years ago

Andrew Nicholson

Andrew Nicholson, Founder at The Guku

I never knew Econsultancy was so influential. All it took was a couple of comments on the blog and boom, Google released ICS for Nexus S OTA last night!

Might be a good time to mention that I'm keen to get my hands on a new pair of Google AR Glasses

over 4 years ago

Douglas McDonald

Douglas McDonald, Director of Mobile and Connected Consumer at TMW

@Graham

Well, Android is the #1 mobile OS by a country mile (as evidenced in Panos' link)comScore also have Android at 20% of UK phones vs. 14% iOS and Androids dominance is clear across most other stats producers findings almostt everywhere across the globe. It is, therefore, a fairly glaring error! I actually hadn't noticed the mistake though! :)Perhaps Apple doesn't allow these figures to show up on Patricios' iPhone?

@ Andrew

How's the ICS?

over 4 years ago

Andrew Nicholson

Andrew Nicholson, Founder at The Guku

@Douglas

Seems to have ironed out most of the glaring bugs, however battery life still appears to be an issue (been unplugged for 2 hours and already drained half the power). Seriously impressed by the One X specs - looking forward to a full user review shortly ;)

over 4 years ago

Douglas McDonald

Douglas McDonald, Director of Mobile and Connected Consumer at TMW

@Andrew That is pretty poor. Can you replace the battery?

over 4 years ago

Andrew Nicholson

Andrew Nicholson, Founder at The Guku

@Douglas Got a new spare one at home so will give it a go with that over the BHW. Watch this space...

over 4 years ago

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