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Android vs Apple: iPhone software updates are light years ahead

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It is nothing new, actually: Android lags far behind Apple's operating system iOS in terms of updates. Apple recently published new figures about just how up-to-date iPhones are, with the statistics probably exceeding even the boldest expectations.

The problem of Android fragmentation is as old as Google's operating system itself. Manufacturers that rely on Android for their smartphones usually have plenty of customizations to do of their own. This, in turn, means that major updates such as moving from Android 12 to Android 13, cannot be adopted for old phones without making major adjustments.

In addition, such product maintenance is very time-consuming and thus expensive for the manufacturers. Therefore, it is not uncommon for some manufacturers to stop supporting older devices. NextPit reported about the update policies of Samsung, Xiaomi, and others a few times prior.

Unfortunately, Google hardly publishes figures about the exact Android distribution, with the most recent one being April this year. This indicated that the relative share of Android 13 installations more than doubled from 5% to around 12% between January and April. Over 70% of all Android smartphones are still running on Android versions that are a few years old. For example, Android 10 is the common operating system on more than 18% of all active Android smartphones.

Android distribution as of April 2023.
Android distribution as of April 2023. / © Google

Such fragmentation isn't just a problem for consumers. After all, they don't receive so many features (and sometimes important security updates) that are now available in the latest OS versions. It's also a challenge for many app developers, who have to adapt their programs to these realities.

iPhones are much more up-to-date

It's a different story for Apple, which not only offers software support for iPhones that are up to 5 years old — the smartphones are also updated much more consistently by their owners. According to new, official figures, 90% of all devices launched in the last four years use the latest iOS 16 operating system. If you were to take all active iOS devices into consideration, the figure is still extremely high at 81%.

Apple is definitely pulling away from the Android competition at this point, leaving the latter in the dust.

What about you? Which operating system version do you currently use on your smartphone? Did you also have an annoying (or great) experience with software updates? Tell us about it in the comments!

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  • 49
    storm Jun 5, 2023 Link to comment

    I think the idea of fragmentation is an overblown bit of marketing propaganda.

    Now yes, updates are good. And more complicated in the Android market.

    But most of the problem is the skinning of Android from the brands trying to differentiate themselves in what turns out to be harmful ways. The added customization baked in to the ROM only complicates the brand's updates and they're not generating revenue from the updates besides consumer good will.

    If brands offered their skin and apps separately from the ROM, OS updates could be nearly free to the brand and the user. Essential demonstrated this with their same day updates to the Essential phone. Moto could do this but seems strangely reluctant. But brands have naively focused on the hope for apple-like consumer lock in.

    On a related note, ARM has been historically reluctant to release drivers and updates beyond the 2 year mark too, so it's not just about Android. Though this has improved and also for device drivers a bit. And this is why you only see two OS related updates and then security patches for more.

    So fragmentation is IMHO about brand greed. Not an Android flaw, or a Google flaw. It's about Samsung, OnePlus, Xiaomi and every other heavily skinned crapware pusher.

    But keep your eyes on ARM and the other included device makers for poor support policies too that drive the issue in the Android market.

  • 14
    Davin Peterson Jun 2, 2023 Link to comment

    Unfortunately, it's not like a Windows PC where we can go to Windows Update to download/install an update. We have to wait for the manufacture to release the update to the phone. Each Android OEM has its own software update policy and Samsung has the best. I don't like that Motorola only provides 1 major Android upgrade for its phones. I think Android phones should get a minimum of 2 major Android upgrades. We should not have to buy a new phone every 2 years to get the latest version of Android. In addition, Motorola is very slow to upgrade despite being nearly stock Android as they don't put a skin on as other OEMS do

    Rubens EishimaFabien Röhlinger

    • Rubens Eishima 30
      Rubens Eishima
      • Admin
      • Staff
      Jun 2, 2023 Link to comment

      As much as I criticize Motorola* (deservedly, in my own opinion :) ), they at least seem to be improving (not fast enough, however).

      The new Razrs are promised to receive "3 years of OS updates" and 4 years of security updates.

      They are still lagging behind Apple, Google, Oppo/OnePlus, and Samsung, but at least it is an improvement... Let's hope they also improve the situation in the often neglected Moto Gs.


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