The problem with spraying OS adoption rates

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Over the past week a lot of news sites have gone to lengths praising how Apple’s iOS 8 has reached 72% adoption while Android’s Lollipop (5.0.x) has only reached 3.98% of customers. It’s not an accurate picture, and one that it seems a lot of people forget to paint correctly.

Oh, and the fact that Lollipop hasn’t rolled out to all that many phones as of yet since it’s still being worked on.

It starts with phone and tablet makers

A lot of the phone makers still roll out low end devices, eyes mainly on Samsung, that run poorly without certain elements of hardware. Upgrading to the latest version sometimes doesn’t equate to making money back for them, and so they simmply don’t. It makes sense if you think about it, since if a phone is selling for $50 or even $100 and it’s 2-4 versions behind, it’s going to cost time and money to re-code that phone to work properly on the new operating system, add their tweaks, UI, and then test it. Before it was Gingerbread, now it’s KitKat.

At the same time, it means customers are cut a buck short, perhaps never to see the latest update and getting a phone sometimes that’s a version or two behind from the time it’s released. Again, it’s a money saving technique that encourages people to keep buying more to stay up to date.

This method, however, is wearing thin on customers and some makers are seeing that. These makers are starting to produce high quality devices for cheap, knocking down profits to make a name for themselves again. With this I’m looking at OnePlus, and Motorola (the Moto X and Nexus 5 were awesome with this).

The comparison

Apple made one phone, then maxed it at two. They scaled the OS to work with the latest, but still cut back on some parts for older phones. This is a key point, because while it scales back, that doesn’t mean all iPhones that have iOS 8 also have the same functionality.

Android has scaled back on things before but that was mainly due to hardware or country specific things, so it’s similar but not quite the same. Android also has to deal with having so many different vendors creating so many different devices. It’s two quite different strategies, and both work effectively to a degree.

Then there are other devices

These are the funky ones, the microwaves, the fridges, cars, or in essence the internet of things. Android was the key part of this revolution that even started to get these things operable for smartphones. It made news when a guy placed Android on his microwave, another when some guy put it on a fridge, and it blew away people when another made an Android device for his girlfriend for only $25.

These are all ANDROID, and they count against the mark. Chances are, none of these get the latest update. There are hundreds, if not thousands of devices that people worked on together, showed off their idea, and then dropped the development. Is this the problem? In part, but not on a whole.

The comparison

Apple’s only just recently gotten into the Homekit scene. Yes, some people have used apps to control things on their device, but their device was never truly powered by iOS, just operated by. A hook in to move a puppet, so to speak.

So what should be done?

This is a toughie, but Google needs to enforce that companies work on upgrading devices that have the hardware to support newer software. This means companies like Samsung, Huawei, Alcatel and others will re-define their marketing strategy. Yes, Samsung may move to Tizen but their time to shine is coming slowly to a close with their lackluster attempts to show innovation after the past few years. There’s still hope for what we see at Mobile World Congress, but we’ll see.

For the others, moving to create less types of devices so that they don’t have to spend time on upkeep would likely be the move they make. This might take time for them to accept, since the point of Android is to diversify, but that only lasts for so long. If you create 10 versions of pretty much the same phone, but just change the operating system on it, people will start to detest that brand and move on.

Oh, and perhaps fixing both of the latest OS’s might help too—looking at both Google and Apple here.

If you have any thoughts on this matter, let us know by commenting below.