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Android 4.x Finally Surpasses Gingerbread

All versions of Android 4.0 and up for the first time account for a larger portion of the Android installed base than those running Android 2.3 Gingerbread.

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It took Android 4.x more than 17 months to go from zero adoption to 45.1% of all Android devices. That's the combined total for Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and Android 4.1/4.2 Jelly Bean. Still fewer than half of all Android devices are running 4.x and newer, though. Last month, Android 4.x devices represented 42.6% of the total, and this month's number shows a small uptick of 2.5 percentage points.

The percentage of devices running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich actually dropped for the second month in a row, from 29% to 28.6%. A small dip, to be sure, but a dip just the same. Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and 4.2 Jelly Bean both saw increases. Android 4.1 climbed from 12.2% to 14.9%, and Android 4.2 inched up from 1.4% to 1.6%. Together, Android 4.1 and 4.2 Jelly Bean account for 16.5% of all Android devices. Jelly Bean's growth can largely be attributed to devices being updated from Android 4.0 to Android 4.1, as few new Android 4.1 devices reached the market during February.

Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich was introduced in October 2011. Jelly Bean was announced in June 2012 (4.1), and later updated in October 2012 (4.2). Most of the devices running version 4.2 carry the Nexus brand, which is a small number compared to more widely available handsets.

[ While operating systems are important, what people really care about is apps. Read Android To Dominate 2013 Mobile App Downloads. ]

The fact that Ice Cream Sandwich has reached just 29% of Android devices is a testament to how long it takes to fit the operating system into hardware and get it approved by wireless network operators, a process that typically consumes months. In fact, Android 4.0 appears to have peaked, as it retreated the last two months while Android 4.1/4.2 grew. Fewer devices are being updated from Android 2.3 to Android 4.0. Instead, devices in the market now are being updated from Android 4.0 to Android 4.1. Most new phones ship with Android 4.1 installed.

The groan-worthy part is that Google is just two months from announcing yet another version of Android. Google is expected to debut Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie at its I/O developer conference in May.

Apple's success rate at convincing iPhone and iPad users to update is much better. For example, Apple released iOS 6.1 on January 28. Within 36 hours, more than 22% of all iOS users had adopted it. Further, since iOS 6 was released in September 2012, 60% of all iOS devices have updated to the newest system. That's in stark contrast to how new versions of Android are adopted by Android hardware makers. Google will point out that it sells far more devices, and has developer momentum in its favor.

The rest of the Android OS field continues to dwindle. Gingerbread (Android 2.3) dropped from 45.6% to 44.6%. Gingerbread has long been the most-deployed version of Android, but it is finally retreating into the distance. Android 2.2 Froyo runs on 7.6% of all Android devices, Android 2.1 Eclair powers 1.9%, and Android 1.6 Donut runs on just 0.2% (the same as February). The percentage of devices running Android 1.5 Cupcake has apparently dropped to a number so low that Google no longer reports it.

Google deduces the percentage of devices running different Android versions by analyzing which devices access the Google Play Store over a 14-day period. It reports these findings once per month.

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