Yes, software upgrades are vital

by Volker Weber


This chart looks at Android and iOS versions in terms of years the software was released. Apple and Google count the number of devices hitting their app stores and tally them by operating system version.

Let's look at iOS: 87 percent are on iOS 10, less than a year after its release in 2016. 10 percent are on iOS 9 which came out in 2015, 3 percent are older. As a software developer you can disregard those three percent and only support devices on iOS 9 and newer, as a company you can safely demand iOS 10 as a minimum. Within iOS 10 you can demand that everybody moves to the latest patch release since all iOS 10 devices can also run the latest release. The oldest supported device on iOS 10 is the iPhone 5S, which came out four years ago. It will also run iOS 11, extensing the lifespan to five years.

For Android this looks very different. Only 13.5 percent run on last years version of Android. 86.5 percent are on 2015 and older. That is almost the exact opposite on iOS. Even the five years old Jellybean from 2012 still commands 8.3 percent, Kitkat from 2013 has 16 percent, Lollipop from 2014 has almost 30 percent. The biggest share are on two years old Marshmallow. As a software developer you better support Lollipop, maybe even Kitkat. That would be API level 19. As a company you can support 5.0, 5.1, 6.0, 7.0, 7.1 and now 8.0 if you want the least bit of MDM support that does not even match iOS 7. You would want to support only 6.0 and up, but that only covers less than half of the devices out there, not the 97 percent that iOS covers.

Very funny line of reasoning: updates may be important for iOS, but not for Android, because [fill in your Stockholm Syndrome here]. I call b/s on that reasoning. If you can't advance your platform, you are stuck in the past.

I'd like to place a bet. Within a month of the iOS 11 release, there will be more devices on iOS 11 than on iOS 9 and older. That is a pretty safe bet. I actually expect there will be more on iOS 11 than on iOS 10.


Is there similar data for Windows Phone? How is WP actually doing in the enterprise realm? I hear our IT being in favour of WP for its value for money over iOS. As an iOS user, I am not convinced that WP is the horse to bet on.

Axel Borschbach, 2017-08-22

Windows 10 Mobile is stuck at 11 percent, because Microsoft isn't selling and few devices are upgradable. 87 percent are on Windows Phone 8.1.

Windows Phone is dead. Developers are fleeing the platform and apps are being removed from the store. Everybody is moving to iOS, for obvious reasons. iPhone may be more expensive to buy, but far cheaper to run.

Volker Weber, 2017-08-22

Volker is dead right. We looked at WP since this worked also well with out first MDM solutions and also with Intune which we have now, since you could get at a time models with quite different (read: attractive) price points which were all working well. But since WP was late to the party and never took off we did not come beyond few pilot devices. Now we are left with iOS and Android, where we see that iOS just works and Android requires substantial more support. Fragmentation through more choices on the same platform is not necessary good.

Armin Auth, 2017-08-22

My current customer rolled out Windows Phone in a big campaign last year, while already people were disappointed over the lack of cool devices, they now found out that most windows phones are not really capable working with their chosen mobile iron solution(mainly too slow).
So now they are rolling out Apple phones, though as not VIP user you are only getting an iPhone SE.

Same weird reasoning with my current employer, iPhone SE is the standard and I couldn't get a 6S with the same price tag. I just wanted some bigger screen :(
Somehow Corporate IT always manage to disappoint.
Well actually my Laptop is quite nice.

Patrick Bohr, 2017-08-22

When you replace a device every 2-3 years, the advances come with the replacement cycle. For most folks - who don't live and die by each point release, that's more than enough.

There is Stockholm Syndrome of the "newest, prettiest, and greatest" as well.

Craig Wiseman, 2017-08-22

It's not a fair comparison, Android runs on thousand of different device models from different manufacturers with a multitude of different hardware combinations, some provide regular updates and some don't, iOS only runs on a few different phones, I do agree that Apple sets the bar and wish Android manufacturers would update as quickly and carriers would get out of their way.

David Guillaume, 2017-08-22

A relevant point is why/how Apple and Google add functionality to their devices.

Apple has the ability to push out OS updates without the carriers' meddling, so it has been adding features & functions as part of the OS, which makes OS updates more important for iOS users.

Google (and its partners) get OS updates blocked/glacially slowed by carriers all the time (Verizon is a poster child of this). In response, Google (and its partners) have moved to shift their feature adds to apps they can deploy via the play store and thus circumvent the carriers.

I just got Google Assistant on my device via an app update, something that in the Apple world would have come in an OS update.

Different ecosystems yield different behaviors and priorities.

Craig Wiseman, 2017-08-22

an older article, but pretty short and clear on this:

"Google has also added new APIs for developers to use, including a more efficient location API that dramatically reduces battery usage. The old method required each separate app to wake up the GPS hardware and determine your location on its own.

These are the kind of updates that would require a complete operating system update on other platforms. However, Google has managed to perform an end-run around the carriers and manufacturers slowing things down and release updates for nearly all Android devices. If your device has the Play Store, Google is updating it."

Craig Wiseman, 2017-08-22

You're placing too high a value on feature/API updates coming ONLY via OS updates.

Apple does them via OS updates because it can, Google is doing them via App/Services because it has to. Perhaps in Germany, the carriers are more friendly.

Craig Wiseman, 2017-08-22

Craig, why is Google bothering with new versions of Android? Let me read it to you:

"Project Treble - The biggest change to the foundations of Android to date: a modular architecture that makes it easier and faster for hardware makers to deliver Android updates"

It's just too difficult and expensive. It is NOT the carriers.

Volker Weber, 2017-08-22

If your smartphone contains sensitive data (like the password to your email account) and is used for "real" tasks (like online banking or business use), then the availability of security updates dictates when you need to bin your device and get a new one.
Suddenly the TCO of iDevices looks pretty appealing, because they stay secure for 4 years and not 4 months.

Carsten Lührmann, 2017-08-23

Craig, I am with Carsten here (and yes, given my job responsibility, I may be biased). Google provides monthly security updates, in the Android foundation. Those should not change the behavior of the platform dramatically. Of course, there are changes (otherwise they couldn't fix the bugs), but these should usually be encapsulated well. I think it is fair to expect that the supplier provide those fixes to their customer (and that includes that they need to find a business model for such support). In fact, the modularization strategy in Android also works that way - the smaller the Android core is, the less there is to break and the easier it is to simply deploy the monthly security updates below the device manufacturer's stack.
Especially professional users probably care not so much about the feature updates (they were happy enough with the features to buy the phone), but for sure they should care about their risks.

Ragnar Schierholz , 2017-08-27

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