Android 4.x Jelly Bean now commands 37.9% market share when it comes to just Google’s OS followed by Gingerbread at 34.1% and Ice Cream Sandwich at 23.3% as the older versions make up less than 5% of Android market share. Out of the two versions of Jelly Bean – 4.1 and 4.2, the former commands 32.3% share as compared to just 5.6% of the latter. More details can be found on Android developers website.
The above stats point to one long standing issue of fragmentation and its penetration in the Android market. The main reason behind fragmentation is Android’s openness and its support for diverse devices. Smartphone and Tablet manufacturers select an Android version based on the hardware they have used to manufacture their mobile device. This invariably leads to fragmentation and with no guarantee by vendors for an update this issue becomes a huge problem.
There are other related issues that arise out of fragmentation problem. First and foremost is the development of apps that work on all version of Android and affinity of developers towards iOS because of less fragmentation.
Security weaknesses in older versions of Android would leave a huge number of users vulnerable as they wouldn’t be able to update their devices as they don’t support newer version of Android.
Google is very well aware of this and working towards streamlining the development process and making the operating system more layered. Further, Google is finding new ways to ensure that vendors in emerging markets stick to latest Android versions. Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie is also set to arrive some time this year (most probably) and this will further add to the fragmentation.