Chart Proves That Android Smartphones Are Bad Deal Compared To iPhones

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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.

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  • Gregory Wright

    I have a different thought. I think it is the telecoms who have the most influence on the rate at which Android phones are replaced. The telecoms have an incentive to push customers to buy newer models Android phones over keeping theirs older phones. Android customers don’t mind the turnover rate because Android devices are cheaper than iPhones. Apple has much more control over how the telecoms manage iPhones than the Android manufacturers because of the competition between Android makers.

    I recently replaced my Samsung S2 Galaxy Smartphone with the iPhone 5s, 64 GB at a contract price of $423 from Sprint. At that price I expect to keep the phone for at least 3 years. So, that chart only tells part of the story.

  • RobGcf

    I can’t help but think this is pretty much a non-problem being touted by the pro-iOS crowd, of which I am no longer a part. I ditched my iPhone 4S for a Galaxy Note 3 because iOS 7 just plain sucks and I was tired of the tiny screen and lack of new features.

    Mr. Wright is also correct — carriers have a vested interest in pushing people to buy newer devices. So yeah, they stop investing effort in keeping the older phones up to date. Plus, the older phones are slower and have less memory and really can’t handle the newer versions of Android.

    Over on Cult of Android, it was posted just the other day, that half of Android phones are now running Jelly Bean. I consider that quite good since Jelly Bean is about the same age as iOS 7.

    It’s worth mentioning that while there are still people using the oldest iPhones, they are the super-budget-conscious types who probably wouldn’t upgrade anyway. The people who use their phones the most are the ones who will stay up to date.

  • InheritTheLand

    “Jelly Bean is about the same age as iOS 7.” JB was released in 2012. I see your point about the screen size though. I’ve used both platforms and see advantages of each.

  • OneHungLow

    This article makes me chuckle. It’s a great article, well laid out and poignant. This article should be posted with every publication that discusses smartphones. Excellent work!!

  • OneHungLow

    I have a different thought. I think it is the telecoms who have the most influence on the rate at which Android phones are replaced. The telecoms have an incentive to push customers to buy newer models Android phones over keeping theirs older phones. Android customers don’t mind the turnover rate because Android devices are cheaper than iPhones. Apple has much more control over how the telecoms manage iPhones than the Android manufacturers because of the competition between Android makers.

    I recently replaced my Samsung S2 Galaxy Smartphone with the iPhone 5s, 64 GB at a contract price of $423 from Sprint. At that price I expect to keep the phone for at least 3 years. So, that chart only tells part of the story.

    I think has more to do with the various mfg willing to update each model they spit out because it costs them money to do that and they don’t make much profit on most of their products with the exception of their flagship models.

  • OneHungLow

    What’s sad is the 99% (the only exception is Nexus) don’t even run the latest OS version the day you buy it. To me, that’s just bad business practice. Obviously, Google doesn’t care and maybe they are just too immature of a company to even do anything about it, since they are the developers of the OS and they COULD put out one version and write their OEM agreements to stipulate that no product should be sold that does not come with the latest version of OS. Or something to that effect.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his girlfriend and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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