We are getting better mobile devices every day, not only the specs are getting more powerful, but we are getting more software features to improve the overall experience. Visual changes in an operating system are nice to have as those are the ones that get noticed mostly, but some under-the-hood features can make those visual elements look smoother, work better and safer. Google is supposed to release the newest version of the Android OS known as Marshmallow relatively soon, but the list of devices that will get the update remains to be seen. Apple has just released iOS 9, the newest version of their operating system and the list of compatible devices includes the iPad 2, that was released more than 4 years ago. A chart created by Android Police shows the lifespan of some mobile devices using these two operating systems.
Every iPhone and iPad is listed, and on the Android front, the Nexus lineup was chosen, as those devices follow some guidelines from Google and they get updates from Google itself. Fragmentation on Android has always been a known issue, but it is inherent to the openness of the operating system, as any company could add more features to enhance the experience, but this issue only gets worse as more devices get stuck on older versions of the OS. Apple also has fragmentation to some extent, as not very feature is available on every device, for example, the iPhone 6 Plus with its rather large screen can rotate the whole UI, but the smaller iPhone 6 can't despite running the same version of the OS. The same goes for some of the new split screen functionality that's only available on recent iPad models.
The chart shows that Apple devices get to live a little longer as older devices get updated to the newer operating systems and that's good news, because even if they don't get all of the new features, they would be supported a little longer, the average time they get supported is 43.9 months and the iPad 2 being supported for over 54 months. On Android, the first Nexus devices got less than two years of updates, although more recent devices have gotten more support. The Nexus 7 from 2012 has been supported for over 38 months and it is set to receive Marshmallow, and although it will probably be the last time the tablet gets an official build of the OS, it will still get security updates for a little longer. The average time Nexus devices get supported is 28.2 months. Another advantage is that on Android, some of the apps that come with the OS are available on the Play Store, so users can get the latest version of those apps even on an older OS.
Most people won't see this as a problem, as they buy new smartphones or tablets every two years at most, although it's always nice to see those devices that are kept in drawers to get new life with a new update. Plus, the chart only tells one part of the story, newer versions of an OS probably won't run as well on older devices and the updates are often not available for all of the devices at the same time. Google has promised to keep their devices with the latest version of the OS for 2 years and release security updates for an additional year, but it is still less time than the support Apple is offering on average.