I'm not surprised that Android users don't upgrade their software sooner

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from Kansas City, MO
Published: January 4, 2013


On Thursday, Google released their new numbers on their Platform Version web page for Android. To the delight of many, numbers are finally showing a shift for the better. Jelly Bean has passed the 10% usage mark, ICS gets close to 30%, and Gingerbread dips below the halfway mark by a little over 2%. People who use Froyo are sitting at 9%, which is good because that finally moves it out of third place and moves Jelly Bean up.

The numbers themselves don’t surprise me, but the surprised reactions I’m seeing from some others do. Why are we so surprised?

The first issue comes from the people who are contract bound. From a standard customer’s perspective, we sign a contract and get a device upgrade every 20-24 months, presumably. One upgrade every two years: I think we all still agree that although it’s a tactic we’re all familiar with, we’re pretty unhappy about it. But that’s beside the point.

Here’s where the math comes in. Gingerbread, which currently ranks in at number one with the most usage, was released in December of 2010. That means it was released 20-21 months ago. Most people who bought new phones around that time (which would make sense given the closeness to the holiday season) are still unable to upgrade their actual device. ICS, which finally makes a statement with its numbers, was released in October of 2011. That makes it about 15 months old, which puts the people that bought a device on or around that time even less likely to be able to upgrade devices, and I presume a good number of those people just upgraded their software from Gingerbread - if their phones were compatible. And I bet a lot of them don’t have the option or the specs to upgrade to Jelly Bean, even if they wanted to.

So again, why are we so surprised?

If these companies – if Google – is interested in a bigger threshold to upgrade their software sooner, then something has to change. Either upgrade dates arrive sooner, we start making our phones more compatible with future software versions, or we stop pumping them out so quickly. It’s a fat chance that any of them are going to happen, because that’s how these businesses make their money. But we can at least stop acting like it’s a surprise.

It’s good that the bigger picture has shifted – slightly, but still, a move in the right direction is a move in the right direction. But the fact that our phones were only meant to handle only a finite number of software upgrades and our carriers prevent us from getting anything newer when these upgrades hit the market every year really puts a damper on how fast these numbers can actually move.

We’re celebrating because Jelly Bean moved up a couple of decimals, and it’s predicted to move up very quickly this year – probably because those users who bought new Androids when Gingerbread was released can now get a phone compatible with Android 4.2 and higher. However, even if the numbers start to gear in favor towards Jelly Bean, who knows how long this celebration will be last with the anticipated release of Key Lime Pie, and the cycle restarts.

Image credit: Sony