When people talk about Android’s “fragmentation” problem, what they are referring to is the fact that the majority of Android devices are not running the most current version of Google’s mobile operating system.
The reason this is a big deal is because an ecosystem is only as strong as how many devices are running a current version of the operating system: older versions of Android are not only more vulnerable to malicious exploits that have been patched in more recent versions, but apps running on them can’t make use of newer Android features.
A new chart released by Fidlee shows exactly how bad Google’s fragmentation problem has become. Although iOS 7 runs on almost all Apple iPhones released in the last five years, there are few Android devices that are supported by the most recent version of Android just two years after they are purchased.
And things get worse. Three years out, more than half of all phones are more than 3 major versions of Android behind the current version. And four years out, an Android phone is considered essentially dead, without ever getting another update.
Compare this to the iOS side of things. Because Apple only ever has, at most, three iPhones on the market at any given time, and because Apple makes both its own hardware and software, history has shown that you can reasonably expect an iPhone purchased today to be supported for at least four years, and to only be slightly behind after five.
This is worth considering next time you buy a smartphone. An iPhone’s life extends past a two-year contract. An Android smartphone’s life, on the other hand, rarely lasts even that long.