Apple this week updated its App Store Distribution report, revealing that iOS 8 adoption among current Apple devices has continued to grow, reaching 68 percent as of January 5. That’s an 8 percent increase from Apple's last progress report in November, which showed iOS 8 adoption at 60 percent, but still well behind the pace set by iOS 7 during its first three months in 2013.
Apple’s numbers roughly match those provided by mobile analytics firm Mixpanel, which shows iOS 8 adoption at approximately 70 percent.
Following its release on September 17, 2014, iOS 8 quickly jumped to just under 50 percent adoption, but uptake of the free iOS upgrade slowed significantly in the weeks following, settling in the mid-to-low 50 percent range. iOS 8 adoption has started to grow again in the past two months, but not as fast as iOS 7 did during its first quarter on the market in 2013. By comparison, iOS 7 reached nearly 80 percent adoption a month after release, peaking at 95 percent the week before the release of iOS 8.
There are many theories about the relatively slow adoption of Apple’s latest mobile operating system, most based upon plausible factors that play to iOS 8’s disadvantage. For example, iOS 8 requires between 4 and 6GB of free space in order to download and install, compared to around 1GB of required free space for earlier versions of iOS. With recent low cost iPhones only offering 16GB of total space, it’s likely that many users simply didn’t have the ability to perform an over-the-air upgrade, absent removing large amounts of user data from the device.
Another theory is that the relatively poor performance of new versions of iOS on older devices is finally starting to be noticed by the broader community of iOS owners. Although Apple has occasionally improved the performance of new versions of iOS on older iPhones via software updates, iOS 8 still isn’t a great experience for those who haven’t made new hardware purchases in the last two or three years.
Still others posit that iOS 8 in its initial form wasn’t that interesting to non-power-users, with features like Apple Pay only arriving weeks after launch and other features like Continuity limited to those with newer devices (not to mention those who own Macs or other compatible iOS devices).
Likely all of these reasons play a role in explaining why iOS 8 is a bit behind its predecessor in terms of adoption rate and, right now, it’s of little concern to the average user. But if Apple can’t get iOS 8 above 80 percent by the launch of iOS 9, the company, and customers, may begin to see some of the issues caused by ecosystem fragmentation that have plagued Android for years.