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iOS 9 Adoption Hits 70%, Blowing Away Android 6

iPhone and iPad owners have updated to iOS 9 at a quicker pace than last year's iOS 8, according to Apple.
10 iPhone, iPad Apps Optimized For iOS 9
10 iPhone, iPad Apps Optimized For iOS 9
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

The majority of people who own Apple-made smartphones and tablets have upgraded to the latest operating system, according to the company. The number of devices still running older variants of iOS continues to dwindle. iOS 9 is far ahead of last year's version of Android, let alone this year's.

Apple says 70% of devices accessing the iTunes App Store through Nov. 30 are running iOS 9. It took 11 weeks for iOS 9 to cross that mark. About 22% of iOS devices are still running iOS 8, and just 8% are running iOS 7 or older versions.

iOS 8 was not adopted as quickly last year. Only 60% of users had updated to iOS 8 by Nov. 21, 2014. Several factors played a role in creating this difference. iOS 8 was a large update that required gobs of internal storage. Many people who owned 16-GB iPhones were unable to install the update lest they remove files from their device. Moreover, iOS 8 broke compatibility with some older iPhones.

The opposite is true of iOS 9. Apple took pains to slim down the operating system. Not only is iOS 9 a smaller platform to download, it requires far less free space on smartphones and tablets. Further, iOS 9 maintained compatibility with a wider selection of aging iPhones. Put simply, more people were able to download and install iOS 9 with less hassle than iOS 8.

Back in 2013, people adopted iOS 7 at a faster rate than both iOS 8 and 9. Apple said 74% of iPhone and iPad owners had upgraded to iOS 7 by early December of that year.

These numbers are interesting to watch unfold, but only truly matter to app developers. Developers need to ensure their apps support the right selection of devices and operating systems.

Android Adoption

Adoption rates for Android-based devices are a completely different story.

Google released Android 6.0 Marshmallow in late October. According tothe latest numbers from Google, 0.3% of Android devices accessing the Google Play Store in recent days are running Marshmallow. That's three-tenths of 1% over the course of about seven weeks. Marshmallow's availability is extremely limited. It ships installed on the Google Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X, and the HTC One A9. Google also offered it as a download to the Nexus 9 tablet, as well as the Nexus 5 and Nexus 6 smartphones. That makes for a total of six devices.

Only 25.6% of Android devices are running the 2014 version of Android, 5.x Lollipop. The largest percentage of Android devices -- 37.8% -- are running Android 4.4 KitKat. Another 29% are running Android 4.1-3 Jelly Bean.

[Read Google Targets Enterprise IT With Android For Work.]

At issue is how the updates are distributed. Apple updates all its devices directly, side-stepping its carrier partners. Aside from Nexus phones, the vast majority of Android devices are updated by the OEM and carrier together. It takes a lot more work for OEMs and carriers to develop and approve system updates. Most Android handsets will only see one major system update in their lifetime.

It is important to point out, however, that every Android handset running 2.3 Gingerbread and up (96% of all Android devices) relies on the same version of Google Play Services. Play Services 8.3 is the current generation, and it is what app developers need to ensure API compatibility across the thousands of Android devices and platforms.

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