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Jumping Jelly Beans: Android 4.1, 4.2 now the most widely used versions

Android 2.3 Gingerbread’s hold over the Android market has finally crumbled.

First introduced in late 2010, the longstanding version of Android has lost its place as the single most popular version of Android worldwide.

Two versions of Jelly Bean—4.1 and 4.2—now account for a greater share of the Android usage pie than Android 2.3, though it remains close. Jelly Bean now accounts for 37.9 percent of Android usage worldwide, while Gingerbread makes up 34.1 percent.

Google
Google’s latest stats for Android usage show that the two versions of Jelly Bean now account for a greater percentage of Android use than the aging Gingerbread.

Although Gingerbread is still a significant part of worldwide usage, Jelly Bean’s Android dominance is a huge leap forward for Google.

The company has battled fragmentation of its mobile platform for many years. Typically, Google would release a new version of Android, but device makers (and therefore users) would lag behind in adopting that updated OS for months. In 2010, for example, you could get a smartphone running one of four different versions of Android, and adoption of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich always lagged, as phones continued to be released that used Android 2.3.

The search giant has worked hard to solve its Android fragmentation dilemma in recent months, and those efforts appear to be paying off. As recently as December 2012, Jelly Bean accounted for less than 7 percent of Android devices worldwide.

Stopping fragmentation

Part of the reason for the Jelly Bean jump can be attributed to Google’s new method for counting Android devices that the company introduced in April. Previously, Google counted any device that pinged the Play Store, whether it was an automatic check-in from a device or a user-initiated visit.

The new method now discounts automatic visits, arguing that a user-initiated visit “more accurately reflects those users who are most engaged in the Android and Google Play ecosystem.”

Immediately after the new counting method was introduced, Android 4.X usage (Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean combined) beat out Gingerbread by 14.5 percentage points. A month earlier, in March, the difference between Android 4.X combined device usage and Android 2.3 devices was just 0.9 percentage points. In both instances, however, Ice Cream Sandwich had a larger usage share than Jelly Bean.

Google has also helped reduce Android fragmentation by slowing down its cycle of Android version releases. Instead, the company has focused on updates to the core apps.

Many Android watchers are anticipating a new version of Android (dubbed Key Lime Pie) that would presumably be marked as Android 5.0. There was some speculation that Google would announce Key Lime Pie at its I/O 2013 conference in May. So far, however, Google has stuck with the Jelly Bean moniker. Android 4.2, the most recent version of Jelly Bean, first debuted in November 2012, following the 4.1 release earlier that year in July.

Update for apps, not for OS

While Android critics and hard-core fans are chomping at the bit to see Key Lime Pie, Google has focused instead on improving the core Android apps.

The search giant began laying out a strategy of improving core apps separate from the Android OS in 2010. But the company really took things up a notch during last month’s I/O event when Google announced a slew of app updates. The company unleashed an enhanced version of Maps; cloud-synced game saves via Google Play Games services; Google Now reminders and new Google Now cards for public transportation and suggestions for digital purchases of books, TV shows, music and games; improvements to the Google Play store; and a new music subscription service called Google Music All Access.

Later in June, Google released an updated Gmail app with inbox improvements that had come out for the Web version a week earlier.

The popularity of Samsung phones like the Galaxy S4 also has boosted Jelly Bean’s usage.

Of course, the improvement in Android’s fragmentation problems can’t be entirely attributed to Google. The popularity of Samsung devices such as the Galaxy S III, Galaxy Note II, and Galaxy S4 have also given Jelly Bean usage a boost while hastening Gingerbread’s long-overdue demise.

But the real test for Android will come when Google finally releases a new version of Android that isn’t Jelly Bean. Google will have to get Android 5.0 into the hands of phone makers as soon as possible so companies can start working with it to create hardware for the new mobile OS release. But perhaps more importantly, Google also has to encourage device makers to update recently released smartphones and tablets to Android 5.0 within months.

If that doesn’t happen, Android will be right back where it started with millions of users sitting in the land of Jelly Bean, unwilling or unable to taste the delights of Key Lime Pie.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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