Mobile

Here Are the 11,868 Devices—and Counting—That Every Android App Has to Work on

Jeff Chiu/AP

If you’ve ever compared an iPhone or iPad with a phone or tablet that runs Google’s Android, you may have noticed that the Apple gadget just seems to run more… well, smoothly. At Apple’s annual gathering of developers in San Francisco last month, Apple CEO Tim Cook gleefully displayed a pair of pie charts that explain why.

These show how much more unified iPhone’s universe is compared to Android’s. More than nine in ten iPhone users have the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 6. By contrast, three different versions of Android make up a comparable proportion. The single most prevalent version, Gingerbread (or v2.3), which is several versions behind the latest one, is used by only 37% of Android devices.

This, Apple users claim, is proof of the superiority of iOS over Android. Because only Apple makes iOS devices and constantly pushes their owners to update to the latest version of iOS, developers can easily create apps that work perfectly on every device.

Apple certainly has a point. This graphicfrom a nifty new report put together by app-maker OpenSignal, shows just how fragmented the Android ecosystem is. Nearly 12,000 devices, by a slew of different manufacturers, each of which not only chooses which version of Android to use but bolts on various modifications of its own,  wrestle for a piece of the action. And while Samsung makes up nearly half of those devices, no single phone can claim much of a lead over the others. The biggest-selling model, Samsung’s Galaxy S3, accounts for less than 6% of Android’s market. The highest-ranking non-Samsung device, Google’s Nexus 4, comes in seventh, with a meagre 1.1%. The phrase “long tail” has never been more appropriate.

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// December 19
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