The fragmentation of Google’s Android platform is a very sensitive topic. Even Android device owners can’t deny that its problematic, but has Google begun to move around it? It sure seems so.
It has been a busy week for us at Droid Turf entering the holiday season. This week we weren’t without a dose of Google news, and as a result, we though a poll such as this one might spark some conversation.
Near the beginning of the week, Google disclosed its distribution numbers as of December. Android Oreo, the search giant’s latest version of its operating system(s), accounted for just 0.5% of all those running the platform. Flat out this isn’t good, especially when you consider that the platform update has been out since August and the fact that Android 8.1 has already come out publicly. Compare this to something like Apple’s iOS platform, and the adoption rate is a crawl. Later in the week, Google debuted a set of augmented reality AR stickers. This is a technology many have been excited about, but partly due to the platform’s fragmentation, few capable Android phones received the ability to use the stickers. This is, nonetheless, disappointing, but Google is working to get around issues like these.
Android for mobile is huge; it consists of 2+ billion active devices. And most of those vary by manufacturer and carrier. Therefore, it’s far from easy to administer software updates to scale, whereas on something like iOS which is very locked down and consists of less market share, updates reach more people a lot sooner. With Android 8.0 Oreo, Google is applying some extra force to get manufacturers and carriers updating their devices quickly. A beta program was also supposed to help prepare everyone for the update, and Project Treble had the same goal. Most of this hasn’t done the trick, at least when we first think about it.
So where am I going with this? Well, Google has, indeed, done a bit to go around Android’s fragmentation issue. Oreo for Android Wear, for example, began rolling out this week, and lots of devices, far more than we expected, have been confirmed to receive the update. Google is also making small updates easier to roll out using the Android Wear application, meaning that updates are funneled through the Play Store. The benefit of this is to prevent the need for every update to pass through manufacturers and all that mess, which consumes time and effort. And perhaps one day, Google could build on this concept and implement something like it for the Android platform that comprises smartphones and tablets.
For those rocking an Android smartphone running Marshmallow or later, life hasn’t been all that bad. The best feature to launch in the last two years by Google has undoubtedly been the Google Assistant. Despite Android’s fragmentation, Google has worked to make the machine learning and AI technology work on older devices. Coming into this week, the Google Assistant functionality was available on millions of Android smartphones, select iPhones, third-party appliances, speakers, headphones, TVs, and select Chromebooks. Soon, as announced this week, the Google Assistant will be brought to smartphones running Android as old as Lollipop, and for the first time, some Android tablets.
Android’s fragmentation hasn’t got in the way of Google’s roll out of the Google Assistant, arguably the best feature to come to Android in the last few years. In fact, hundreds of millions of Android devices can access the Google Assistant, which is a lot more than the narrow 0.5% of devices running Oreo, or the even slimmer margin able to use Google’s AR stickers.
If you’re still waiting on Oreo, just be patient. In the last few weeks, we’ve seen many Android handsets receive the update or go into beta testing to prepare the 8.0 update. This includes phones from all different manufacturers, and just this week, Huawei confirmed that its older Honor mid-range series will get the update, which is fantastic news! Let’s give it some time everybody.
This brings us to our poll of the week. Android still has its issues, but Google seems to be doing a lot to get its latest abilities in as many palms as possible. Is Android’s fragmentation really a problem for you right now? Do you care? Drop a comment letting us know and be sure to vote in our weekly poll down below. The poll will remain open all week and we look forward to hearing your response.
Below are the major stories from this week.