Is Apple’s iOS fragmenting? Not nearly as much as Google’s Android

“Apple has a new selling point for iOS: Android’s fragmentation,” John Paczkowski reports for AllThingsD.

“The company this week published a chart breaking down iTunes App Store usage by operating system, demonstrating that most of the iOS user base is running the latest version of the OS,” Paczkowski reports. “According to Apple’s metrics, 93 percent of its customers use iOS 6, six percent are on iOS 5, and the remaining one percent are on a prior iteration.”

Paczkowski reports, “That’s a vastly different usage pattern than Android’s, which, according to Google’s own statistics, show Android users scattershot across the OS’s various releases. With a 36.5 percent share of the Android user base, version 2.3 — “Gingerbread” — is the most widely used version of Google’s mobile OS. And it’s pretty dusty, having been released in late 2010. ”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Fragmented versus integrated.

Google loves to characterize Android as ‘open’ and iOS and iPhone as ‘closed.’ We find this a bit disingenuous and clouding the real difference between our two approaches… Compare this with iPhone, where every handset works the same. Twitter client, TwitterDeck, recently launched their app for Android. They reported that they had to contend with more than a hundred different versions of Android software on 244 different handsets. The multiple hardware and software iterations presents developers with a daunting challenge. Many Android apps work only on selected Android handsets running selected Android versions. And this is for handsets that have been shipped less than 12 months ago. Compare this with iPhone…

…There will be at least four app stores on Android, which customers must search among to find the app they want and developers will need to work with to distribute their apps and get paid. This is going to be a mess for both users and developers. Contrast this with Apple’s integrated App Store which offers users the easiest to use, largest App Store in the world, preloaded on every iPhone.

“In reality, we think the ‘open’ vs. ‘closed’ argument is just a smokescreen to try and hide the real issue which is: What’s best for the customer? Fragmented versus integrated. We think Android is very, very fragmented and becoming more fragmented by the day. And, as you know, Apple strives for the integrated model so the user isn’t forced to be the systems integrator. We see tremendous value in having Apple, rather than our users, be the systems integrator.”

“We think this is a huge strength of our approach compared to Google’s. When selling to users who want their devices to just work, we believe integrated will trump fragmented every time. And we also think our developers can be more innovative if they can target a singular platform, rather than a hundred variants. They can put their time into innovative new features, rather than testing on hundreds of different handsets. So we are very committed to the integrated approach, no matter how many times Google tries to characterize it as “closed,” and we are confident that it’ll triumph over Google’s fragmented approach, no matter how many times Google tries to characterize it as “open.”Apple CEO Steve Jobs, October 18, 2010

Related article:
Before WWDC 2013, iOS 6 dominates iPhone with 93% adoption – June 6, 2013


  1. iOS fragmentation is mostly caused by AGE. Apple supports existing devices with software upgrades for a LONG time. But at some point, older devices are no longer supported by the latest software. And that’s not really “fragmentation”; it’s called PROGRESS.

    In comparison, Android fragmentation is mostly caused by DESIGN. Many brand new devices use a version of Android that is not the latest version, and they cannot be upgraded. Android device manufacturers just want to sell you the device, and then it’s out of their hands. There is usually no intention of supporting software upgrades.

    Some iOS fragmentation is also by design, but it is carefully managed by Apple to have minimal impact on the platform. For example, the Retina display changed the screen resolution on iPhone (and later iPad), but because it was exactly double the old resolution, the impact was minimized for users and developers. iPhone 5 got a larger Retina display, but width of the screen remained the same.

    1. ken1w I mostly agree with your statement with the exception of the iPad 1st generation, Apple abandoned it way before its time. They also sometimes hold new features from phones that could run those features but Apple want to push users to upgrade sometimes before they are ready (or in the case of users in Countries where we have 3 year contracts before we can get a penalty free upgrade).

      1. As an iPad first gen user, still to this day, I have to say, I don’t feel abandoned by Apple. I updated my iOS from a 4 to a better 4 or was it iOS 3 to 4? anyway, then updated 4 to 5. To this day, I have still been able to dowload apps for iOS 5 and below with only a few that I looked at and it required iOS 6. I still get as much use and enjoyment from it now, as I type this reply, as when I first purchased it three years ago. I intend to upgrade when iOS 7 is released and newer iPads introduced, but, I’ll still keep my iPad original around because, it ain’t done yet!

    1. Speaking of “bollocks”, it isn’t even true that “all Nexus devices are up to date”! The original Nexus One is stuck at Gingerbread. The Nexus S is upgraded to Jelly Bean, but that device won’t even be three years old until December!

      While it’s already been pointed out, it bears repeating: You could pave a road to the moon with all the other Android devices which have been locked by the manufacturer or carrier and aren’t upgradeable.

  2. The simple fact is that Android is for people who cannot afford a superior product / experience. This is why they get defensive and become fandroids. No one likes to be called poor or worse – cheap. But it’s a fact. And they will defend their choice despite the facts of fragmentation, cheap product design etc. Never let facts get in the way of opinion. That would be bad.

    1. ‘Afford’ is a surprisingly subjective experience. Apple hardware and software CONSISTENTLY last longer, are more usable for a longer period of time than the competition. This is measured in ROI (Return On Investment). It is ROI that consistently makes Apple produces LESS expensive than the alternatives. The problem that people consistently fall on their face believing that the shelf price has anything to do with ACTUAL price.

      IOW: Buy the cheap alternative gear and you’ll PAY for it. Buy Apple gear and you’ll be SAVING money. This situation has been consistent for decades and has not changed.

      1. While that is true, there are people who simply find it extremely difficult to justify $650 for a mobile phone. Especially when they can get an Android “smartphone” for less than $100 (running that Gingerbread, of course). In the Android world, $300 gets you a pretty decent Android device (spec-wise, ratio is very similar to the Windows world, where hardware can be had with similar sheet of specs for half the money of a Mac). ROI does come into play to a certain extent, but if you compare a Kia, or a Honda, to a BMW, you get exactly the same result. You very much get your money’s worth out of that BMW (whoever had a chance to own one will know), but for large swaths of population, it will remain only an aspirational item.

        Androids are Kias and Hondas of the mobile world. To the extent of comparison being a bit inaccurate, BMWs will always be unattainable for vast majority of people, while iPhone can be had (and often is) by almost everyone without catastrophic financial burden (God bless the carriers’ subsidy structure, hiding the true price of a phone…).

  3. That’s like the the straight-A student asking, “Am I failing as much as the rest of the class?” And the teacher replying, well, you only have a 93 while the rest of the class has a 34, so you are just barely passing”.

    What, is fragmentation graded on a bell curve now?

    Is iOS fragmenting? If 93-6-1 is fragmenting, I guess Google cannot be in the same discussion.

    1. I wonder if we’ll have to wait for the next WWDC for Tim to announce a milestone of iOS 6 users are now iOS 7 users or will it be a press release picked up by MDN and others for us to read and I wonder how many months it will take for that to happen?

  4. WTF?
    Apple has a new selling point for iOS: Android’s fragmentation

    NO. Fragmentation of Android is YEARS old. Why did he just notice? What is it with these oblivious tech journalists of the current age? You’re in the wrong job John Paczkowski who reports for AllThingsD. I’m getting the idea that AllThingsD is a nest so obliviousness. (0_o)

    As for iOS: What fragmentation? Apple consistently improve their technology and tough luck if that leaves legacy hardware behind. It’s called PROGRESS. Apple is very good about leaving a reasonable gap of time for compatibility with their updates. I have to remind people that Apple used to consider 18 months a suitable amount of time before they abandoned hardware. Obviously, Apple are far more generous these days. Deal with it. This is the field of technology. Boohoo my iPod Touch 4 can’t run iOS 7. Move along Apple! Move along. 😀

    1. What a compelling, lucid argument you’ve delivered based on a beta OS. I’m convinced. I’m going to skip iOS 7 entirely and rely on the older version. Thank you for saving me from what would surely have been devastating mental anguish and heartache.

    2. Have been Running iOS 7 since the day it came out for developers the only problem I have is I can’t play bejeweled l other than that all is great. I especially like the new photos app because it updated all of my 2/3 year-old photos with times and geographical locations works great even on my old iPhoto’s

    3. iOS 7 is the most hidious backward crap that Apple has ever released. Truly disgusting!

      Tim, I supported you until now, but you have proven that you are clueless.

      Saying hat as an Apple user since Apple II, designer for 35 years and iOS developer.

  5. There are many metrics which you can compare iOS to Android, such as fragmentation, malware, features, usability, security, data backup and syncing, cost of devices, …

    iOS devices are premium devices and are superior on a lot of metrics, however Google focus is on providing a wide feature set to appeal to a wide audience.

    Personally, I’ll be sticking with iOS for some time as I cannot be bothered with all the hassles of fragmentation and malware. I also still have that nagging thought, why does Google give Android away!?! The answer is simply the same as why they give other products away, ie, data mining and targeted advertising based on the data they mine from you. I don’t mind this for services I can control or use an alternative, but don’t want my phone to be a Google data hub!

  6. When Apple starts shipping devices running iOS 4, you can mention fragmentation. Having devices that are still in use that can’t take advantage of the latest OS and App options? For all intents and purposes, that is not fragmentation.

  7. Well, that’s a really old selling point. No news there.

    However iOS 7 with the iPhone 5S will introduce fragmentation to iOS. Allot of older devices will not be able to upgrade to this very important release. It will get better in time but the chart that Apple presented at the keynote came at a perfect time. A major new version around the corner. Most devices people are in now are allowed to run the latest version of iOS and that will not be the case with iOS 7. Especially bad is it for the iPod Touch line where only the recently introduced iPod Touch G5 will be allowed to run iOS 7. I bet 10s of millions if iPod Touches are still in use.

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