Tuesday, 16 August 2016 09:33

Top 5 Android smartphone maker's support policies revealed

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Which Android smartphone manufacturer pushes out updates fastest? Which has the fastest response times and least app crashes? Which countries have the highest Android fragmentation rates?

Apteligent, a US-based leader in mobile app metrics, has released its “Android Manufacturer Edition July 2016” report that tracks a range of metrics.

It concludes that Google is working on several remedies for Android fragmentation, such as pushing more functionality via Google Play services, as well as partnering with device manufacturers to build its Nexus line of devices. Those devices represent the “purest” form of Android without bloatware and custom skins. They also are the first devices to receive Android updates.

Non-Nexus devices still face a lengthy approval process between carriers and OEMs, but clearly, Google has been working to mitigate this issue – or Android may lose its crown. Read on for a summary of the report.

The Top 5 manufacturers by volume are — in no particular order Sony, Motorola (Lenovo), HTC, Samsung, LG and ZTE. “By volume” is the important word, as many of these have multiple models in multiple markets.

Fastest Android Update

Samsung’s Galaxy series has a commitment to push out updates for at least “one version above” the shipped Android version. If it comes with Android 6.x, it should get 7.x. But its lower-cost handsets where the volume and money is have no such commitment. The same is largely true of Sony, Motorola, LG, and HTC for their flagships. But not so with ZTE that appears to have a “sell and forget” mentality.

In many cases, it is not the manufacturer who is tardy, but the telco carrier who may have further customised the OS for locked devices or carrier-specific frequencies.

In the US, Motorola, Samsung and HTC were neck and neck in pushing out Android 6.x to flagship devices. LG was not too far behind but Sony was, and ZTE (which does not do flagships in the US) was conspicuous by its absence. Nexus devices are excluded as they get updates as fast as Google can roll them out.

Motorola was the fastest at three months’ post-release because it only had Moto X Pure and X Style, LG and HTC were next, while Samsung and Sony took five months.

App crash rate

Again to be fair, this relates to the range of models. According to the data, Samsung had 117, LG 70, Sony 35, ZTE 18, Motorola and HTC 17 apiece. Data was normalised to exclude older devices (on earlier versions of Android).

Sony had the lowest crash rate at .08% followed closely by the rest (except ZTE) – there was not much between them. ZTE showed up at .28% which is around thrice the average.

And the most popular devices for the remainder of 2016?

At the time of writing, it is going to be an interesting few months with Samsung’s Galaxy Note7 (just released), LG soon to up the ante with its premium V20, HTC building all the new Nexus devices, Motorola with a new Moto Z/Force, Sony to launch more of its X series, and ZTE to bring out a premium Axon 7.

Apteligent says that, based on user feedback in the US, Nexus (HTC) and Motorola will elicit the strongest interest followed closely by LG. That is not to say that Samsung’s Note7 will not outsell them all – it has far superior marketing and distribution.

Android fragmentation – why Google is tearing its hair out

There have been too many articles on Android fragmentation (iTWire’s latest is here) but suffice to say that the older a device, the older its version of Android is and the more vulnerabilities it has. Older devices also crash more and have higher network access latency. This also puts a huge strain on app developers who must cater for different devices and Android versions.

Russia has the highest fragmentation, with the top 10 devices having 27% of the market compared to the US, at 44% and Australia, at 74%.

Comment

Apteligent does not claim to be totally statistically correct. Its data is benchmarked across tens of thousands of mobile apps representing hundreds of millions of application launches. The adoption rate is based on app loads and network data, which means it is based on actual usage of the operating system.

But it shows that of the majors — Samsung, LG, Sony, and Motorola — you can be reasonably sure that you will get at least one more Android version OS upgrade from what you purchased.

But for all others, that is not a given. To be fair to ZTE, it is all about volume and “sell and forget” low-cost devices. If it wants to play in the flagship or even mid-range segment, it will need to pick up its act significantly.

Apteligent also tracks iOS. Apple pushes out iOS updates to all users so fragmentation is not an issue (about 90% run iOS9.x).

They also track carrier latency (essentially ping times). China leads the way with 174ms reflecting huge infrastructure upgrades, the US is next at 278ms, Canada comes in at 279ms, and and Australia is at 399ms. Our NZ neighbours look forward to 500ms.


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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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