Every month Google releases updated Android distribution numbers, and every month we get to see just how slowly the latest version has been rolling out to devices. In June, Android Nougat was on the verge of double figures, live on more than 9% of total devices. This month, it sales past the threshold with a 2% increase: it can now found on 11.5% of all active Android devices.
While that 2% jump might seem insignificant from one perspective, what this means is that, in the past month alone, Nougat has been activated on an extra ~20% of what it had in the whole time since launch. This percentage is also likely to grow exponentially for the next few months as more devices come to market running Nougat and others are upgraded.
Since the start of June, we’ve seen the Galaxy S6 get Nougat on T-Mobile, Asus begin pushing it to the ZenFone 3 Zoom and Laser, while several other Motorola and Sony devices received it also. In addition, the OnePlus 5 and Sony Xperia XZ Premium were two notable Android smartphone releases with the latest Android version.
Here’s a look at the official install numbers from July 5:
Android 6.0 Marshmallow increased from 31.2% to 31.9% in the last month, while Android Lollipop continues to lose share in total install numbers, dropping from 30.8% to 30.1%. It looks pretty likely that the 0.7% change across these software versions comes directly from devices being upgraded from Lollipop to Marshmallow (rather than more Marshmallow devices being released).
Android KitKat, on the other hand, fell by 1% to a 17.1% total, meaning it’s still on 5% more phones than Android Nougat, despite that its last update was three years ago with 4.4.4.
Why have Lollipop’s numbers gone down while Marshmallow’s have stayed the same?
Jelly Bean, Ice Cream Sandwich, and Gingerbread remain unchanged in the last month, representing 8.8%, 0.8% and 0.8% of the install base respectively.
If you take a good look at the graph below, you’ll see that initially, each new version of Android is hitting fewer devices and doing so in a slower fashion. Why is that? It’s possible OEMs are taking their time at rolling out updates, which would explain the weaker curve in the graph. Another thing to consider is that several major OEMs have been putting out fewer devices each year and, as we’ve been reporting for a while now, the smartphone market generally has plateaued. That means fewer new phones in the wild.
People are also holding onto their phones for longer periods of time, which means the number of active devices running older versions of Android stays high. And while this isn’t often the case, there are still Android devices launching without the latest version of Android out of the box, attributable to the rise of lower-cost Chinese devices and increased market growth in developing countries.
The increased rate of release for major Android versions is probably the major reason for the shape of the graph above, however. A quick history lesson should illustrate the point well enough: Jelly Bean was out for about 16 months before KitKat arrived. KitKat stuck around for slightly over a year followed by Lollipop which just scraped past 11 months before Marshmallow hit the scene. Then Marshmallow itself was only out for ten and a half months before Nougat showed up in mid-August. Shorter OS version shelf lives equal lower market penetration.
It’s also worth pointing out that being on the latest version of Android isn’t the most important thing nowadays. With Play Services, for instance, Google can push out important updates to just about every Android device without the need to bake it into Android (thus requiring an entire software update). Plus, a good amount of OEMs have been focusing on rolling out the latest Android security patches to their devices, which means Android phones aren’t as vulnerable to attacks as they once were.