Although it is the world's most popular mobile platform, Google's Android has been fragmented because different versions of the operating system, sometimes implemented somewhat differently, have split the installed base. But now Google has announced that its Jelly Bean version has reached 50 percent of the installed base of Android devices.
Jelly Bean, the tasty name for Android 4.1, was released in June of last year. The newest Android dashboard from Google, which includes the percentage distribution of a given OS version, now shows 52.1 percent of Android devices with some flavor of Jelly Bean.
The actual breakdown is 4.1.x with 37.3 percent, 4.2.x is at 12.5 percent, and 4.3 is 2.3 percent. While the largest share is the oldest Jelly Bean (4.1.x), the 4.2 version was only 6.5 percent in August, while 4.1, which had been at 34 percent, now seems to have leveled out.
KitKat on Halloween
The previous major version, Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0.3-4.0.4) is currently showing 19.8 percent, a drop from August's 22.5 percent, while Honeycomb (3.2) is barely alive at 0.1 percent, the same as last August.
The only other major version of Android in double digits is 2.3.3-2.3.7, aka Gingerbread. It's now at 26.3 percent, a dip from 33.1 percent in August.
On Halloween, Google unveiled its newest Android version, 4.4, whose Halloween-appropriate name of KitKat also inspired the company to issue limited-edition candy bars in Paris that commemorated the occasion.
Avi Greengart, an analyst for industry research firm Current Analysis, told us that the 50-plus percent milestone for Jelly Bean "certainly does" make a difference in Google's attempt to defragment its platform. "It's very important for Google to have a large installed base with the most modern versions of Android," he said.
Only 50 Percent
He pointed out, though, that it's "only 50 percent," and developers would prefer a much larger installed base for the most recent versions, but the latest numbers shows progress. "If Google can push the lion's share of Android devices to Jelly Bean, including the newest tools and APIs in Jelly Bean," he said, it will mean a substantial difference for developers as well as for Google itself.
Greengart noted that the latest Android versions, in addition to providing the same version on comparable smartphones, enlarge the market for developers because they have the ability to display the same app, if created properly, in different resolutions for different-size screens, including tablets. Additionally, the new KitKat is designed to work on devices with lower memory requirements, thus helping Google expand the platform in third-world markets where less expensive smartphones are being released.
But, Greengart said, the most important factor in these two most recent Androids is their "major, major improvements in the user interface, making the devices much better to use" -- and thus making users more likely to employ Google's search and other services that generate revenue.