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. At the beginning of July, Android Nougat hit double figures with a 2% increase on June’s tally, reaching 11.5% of total devices. For the rest of July, the distribution has progressed in much the same way, as the August numbers reveal another 2% increase for Nougat, which can now be found on 13.5% of all active Android devices.
Nougat has seen comparatively small monthly gains since it first appeared on the LG V20 last September, increasing by little over 1% per month on average up to now, but it stands to see a bigger rate of adoption from October onwards. This is when the devices set to launch at IFA 2017, which include major phones like the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and LG V30, will likely be in circulation (and probably running Nougat), as older devices continue to be upgraded.
What this also means, however, is that the Android Nougat distribution may not reach 20% of devices by the time its successor, Android 8.0, is released sometime around September.
Devices which have received Nougat in July have been few, and those that have, like the European Galaxy A5 (2016), and the Moto M in India, arrived within the timeframe of the last distribution count. The South Korean LG V4 and US LG V10, on the other hand, got Nougat later in the month, which will have made a modest difference to the latest tally.
Here’s a look at the official install numbers from August 8:
Android 6.0 Marshmallow increased from 31.9% to 32.3% in the last month, so it’s still growing, despite being at a slower clip than Nougat, while Android Lollipop continues to lose share in total install numbers, dropping from 30.1% to 29.2%.
Android KitKat, on the other hand, fell by 1.1% to a 16% total, meaning it’s still on 2.5% more phones than Android Nougat, despite that its last update was three years ago with 4.4.4. But, judging by the current trend, Nougat should have this beat by next month.
We’ve also seen changes at the bottom this month. Jelly Bean, Ice Cream Sandwich, and Gingerbread now have 7.6%, 0.7% and 0.7% of the install base respectively, down from 8.8%, 0.8% and 0.8% the previous month.
Are Android updates getting slower?
From KitKat, to Lollipop, to Marshmallow and now Nougat, each new version of Android appears to be hitting fewer devices and doing so in a slower fashion (see the chart below). Why is that? It’s possible that OEMs are becoming less concerned with rolling out updates quickly, which would explain the weaker curve in the graph below, but this likely isn’t the major issue (OEMs are probably well aware of the importance consumers places on timely Android updates).
We know that 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. Further, 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.
However, the increased rate of release for major Android versions may be one of the big reasons for the shape of the graph above. 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.
The other key factor here is that each new Android version arrives with more Android devices in circulation, meaning its immediate impact is decreasing. When all of the major OEMs got their flagships up and running with Ice Cream Sandwich, it represented a significant share of Android phones because there were far fewer of them. There are more than two billion monthly active Android devices in use now, so there is simply more ground for the latest Android version to cover.
Being on the latest version of Android isn’t as important as it once was, though. 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.