Google is announcing that last year’s version of Android, Android 9, accounted for 22.6 percent of the ecosystem as of this past August. That’s more than twice as good as the update rate from Android 7 to 8 was the year before, but it’s still abysmally low compared to the update rates on the iPhone — less than a month after launch, iOS 13 now accounts for half of all iPhones.
By comparison, fewer than a quarter of Android users had even made it to the previous version of the operating system when Android 10 launched on September 3rd.
But credit where due: Google has made significant progress in getting manufacturers and carriers to push out Android updates more quickly. It’s just that Google has so much further to go with Android updates that even significant progress doesn’t look like it’s enough when compared to iOS.
Google is marking that progress today as a way to show that its Project Treble technology is having a meaningful impact on updates. Treble modularizes Android in order to make it easier to update. It’s a technical solution that is just one of several ways Google is trying to solve the update problem for Android.
Google has also put out a chart showing these adoption rates in raw numbers of users, which makes things look quite a bit rosier than they would if it were a percentage-based chart. Then again, 600 million active users is nothing to sneeze at:
The other promising sign is the improved cadence of phones launching beta versions of Android 10. Samsung launched its Android 10 Beta for Galaxy phones just over a week ago, which was a month or so earlier than it managed last year. Betas aren’t shipping software, of course, but it’s a move in the right direction.
Again, it’s important to keep this all in context: Google may have doubled the number of phones updating to its most recent software, but it’s measuring itself a year or so after that software was released. Google has made significant progress on getting critical security patches out to many more phones more quickly, however, and the new Project Mainline should improve those numbers, too.
Given the way the Android ecosystem is structured, Google will likely never be able to match Apple’s upgrade numbers for iOS — but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t aim to double itself again next year. Or better yet: aim for those Android upgrades to happen after just a few months, rather than waiting a year.