Apple has posted a chart of iOS fragmentation for developers with a message that it's OK to focus development on the current version of iOS because 93 percent of users are on it. This is a three-for-one for Apple in that it's a useful tool for developers, a slam at Google's Android, and a demonstration of the advantage of Apple's whole widget model.
The Chart Posted to Apple's Developer Site
(Accessible without a Developer Membership)
Apple first showed this data at the company's annual World Wide Development Conference (WWDC), contrasting it with Google's own Android fragmentation report, shown below.
Google's Android Fragmentation Chart
Some coverage of this issue has focused on the fact that Google's report is really a subset of Android devices. Google is only reporting on those devices that visit Google Play. By definition, that excludes Amazon's Kindle Fire devices, most of Barnes & Noble's Nook color tablet devices (the company recently added Google Play support), and the gagillions of devices sold in China.
Indeed, it also doesn't include the many low-end and cheap Android devices sold everywhere in the world that are little more than glorified feature phones with delusions of grandeur.
While all of that is true, it's not really the point of Google's report. Google offers the information to its own Android developers, and the only Android devices those developers should care about are those that visit Google Play.
Where folks get into trouble is when they argue that Android's huge shipment numbers around the world are the reason developers should focus on Android rather than iOS. The thing is, however, that it's partisans in the echo chamber that spout off that sort of thing, and developers smart enough to make an app that is worth downloading are smart enough to understand the truth behind the numbers.
Comparing Apples to Apples
To wit: Apple's own report is based on the same methodology. Look at the caption under the graph where it says, "As measured by the App Store during a 14-day period ending June 3rd, 2013."
This is a message for developers, not the echo chamber. By definition, there will be more iOS devices running earlier versions of iOS that don't visit the App Store. Many are past devices sitting in desk drawers after an upgrade (sell those things, folks!), while many more are in the hands of people who simply don't download apps.
Whole Widget, Baby!
Still, we're seeing the strength of Apple's whole widget model at play here. 93 percent of App Store visitors running the current version of iOS is an amazing statistic and a sign of how Apple's control of the hardware and software works hand-in-hand with the company's efforts to get customers to update to each new release.
It's Apple that is in charge of releasing updates. On Android, many devices rely on the carrier and/or the hardware manufacturer.
It also highlights the long life of Apple's devices. iOS 6 is supported back to iPhone 4, which is three generations old. iOS 7, which will be released in the fall of this year, will also support iPhone 4, which will then be four generations old.
Advantages to Both
There are many advantages to Google's open licensing model for Android. The two biggest are that you get an enormous variety of devices at all price points across the market; and, you harness the ingenuity and creativity of a vast array of companies to develop new technologies for the devices.
Apple's whole widget model has other advantages, advantages that we think outweigh the advantages of open licensing. You get tight hardware with amazing performance. You get devices with enormously long life spans. You get consistency in the user experience. You get hardware and software that were developed from the ground up to work with one another. You get the App Store with its moderated, walled garden selection of curated apps. You get great consistency within apps and the iOS (iOS 7 teething pains notwithstanding).
And, you get 93 percent of active iOS device owners updating to the newest version of the operating system.