Android's fragmentation is considered the platform's Achilles' heel. Apple executives mock it with regularity while Google and its supporters downplay its significance.
A new report from OpenSignal details how Android's fragmentation is more nuanced than the rhetoric shouted by either side.
The number of different devices running Android now stands at almost 19,000—up from 11,000 one year ago. Yet a smaller percentage are running the ancient Gingerbread 2.3, down from 34 percent last year to a mere 11 percent in this survey. Previously, it was the second most-popular version.
OpenSignal tracked the data through anyone who downloaded its Android app, collecting information about Android versions, screen sizes, and location.
About 21 percent of the devices are running the latest version, Android 4.4. They tend to be clustered in well-developed markets, however, with the majority in the United States and Western Europe.
Samsung still dominates Android, though its 43 percent of the market is down slightly from 47 percent. Competitors LG, Motorola, Sony, and Lenovo have sizable chunks to themselves and have released some popular devices. More are on the way this fall at the IFA conference and a Motorola event in September.
The OpenSignal report has a number of interactive graphics that make it worth exploring for anyone interested in a broad perspective of the Android platform. It further details device types by region and specifies fragmentation by sensor types.
While only 20 percent of devices running latest version of Android may sound dire, in practice it is far less problematic. Google has unbundled Google Play Services and its core applications from the operating system, giving it the power to push updates directly instead of waiting on carriers and hardware makers. About 75 percent of devices are running at least 4.1 Jelly Bean, and should have access to the latest in Play Services. So even if one is not on KitKat, they may still be able to run Google and third-party apps with minimal issues.
Android's fragmentation has worked out favorably in one respect: it has allowed an incredibly diverse number of manufacturers to offer devices. This, among other factors, has helped Google's mobile operating system surpass iOS in web traffic for the first time.