Over a billion of currently active Android devices are heavily outdated and the number of used smartphones and tablets running an obsolete version of Google’s operating system could even increase going forward, programmer Dan Luu suggested earlier this week after analyzing and comparing some data sets, including Google’s monthly Android distribution numbers, as well as the company’s previous revelations regarding the scope of its mobile OS like the recent announcement that there are more than two billion Android devices in the wild. According to Mr. Luu, approximately half of those units are running an OS version that’s at least two years old, thus being obsolete in virtually every relevant software aspect. Out of all presently active devices that are now out of date, none are expected to ever be updated to a new firmware version in the future due to the Android update model adopted by Google and the heavy fragmentation of the platform, as suggested by the same source.
The current state of affairs is also hostile to developers looking to target apps at the vast majority of Android users seeing how they’re expected to optimize their offerings for a wide variety of different software builds, in addition to already facing challenges regarding scaling their development to account for massive hardware differences between the broad range of Android devices available on the market. By somewhat separating the Android platform from the hardware that powers it with Project Treble, Google is hoping to facilitate the process of issuing smaller OS upgrades and allow original equipment manufacturers to do so in a swifter manner. However, the benefits of this solution will only affect devices that run Android 8.0 Oreo out of the box and whose developers will be willing to support it.
While some OEMs have been improving their software support practices in recent times, finding an Android phone that’s older than two years yet runs an official build of a contemporary Android version remains a virtually impossible task. Even though the data analyzed by Mr. Luu isn’t entirely conclusive, it still suggests that either software support for Android is now additionally weakening, Android growth is slowing down, or people just aren’t replacing their smartphones and tablets as frequently as they used to.