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Want the latest Android version? Good luck with that

With 4.4 on the way, 4.3 is practically a no-show

Mobile application security vulnerability report

The latest stats from Google show that Android "Jelly Bean" continues to gain ground as the most popular version of the platform, but the very latest releases of Google's smartphone OS continue to face slow adoption.

Jelly Bean is a bit unusual as Android codenames go, because Android versions 4.1, 4.2, and 4.3 all bear that moniker. Other point-releases have all been given separate codenames.

Based on figures compiled during a seven-day period ending September 4, 2013, 36.6 per cent of all Android devices in active use are now running some patch level of version 4.1. But only 8.5 per cent of devices are running the more recent version of Jelly Bean, Android 4.2, which started shipping in November 2012.

Android 4.3 has been released since then, but only for a very limited number of devices. In fact, so few customers are using Google's most recent OS that it doesn't even show up in the latest statistics. According to Google's report, that means less than 0.1 per cent of customers have it.

Chart showing Google's Android usage statistics for September 4, 2013

Android versions 2.1 and earlier have dropped off the charts, but the latest Jelly Bean hasn't arrived yet

That doesn't bode well for customers hoping to upgrade to Android 4.4 "KitKat", which hasn't been released yet but was announced on Tuesday.

As has always been the case, slow adoption of the latest Android version is largely the fault of carriers and device makers. Google announced firmware images and began pushing updates of Android 4.3 for several of its Nexus devices in July, but other companies have been slow to follow suit. Samsung says an update for the Galaxy S III and Galaxy S4 won't be available until October.

That sluggish uptake of new Android releases has resulted in a persistent fragmentation problem for the platform. While 45.1 per cent of Android devices are running Jelly Bean, 21.7 per cent are running Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich", and a disappointing 30.7 per cent are still on Android 2.3 "Gingerbread", a version that was last updated in 2011.

That's especially problematic given that later Android releases include security fixes as well as new features. According to security research outfit Kaspersky Lab, only Android 4.3 is impervious to the Backdoor.AndroidOS.Obad.a Trojan, yet virtually no one is running that version.

If there is a bright spot, however, it's that Google seems to be steering developers away from supporting older versions of Android, albeit gradually. Its latest usage statistics ignore all versions of the platform before Android 2.2 "FroYo", reportedly because those releases are incompatible with the latest version of the Google Play Store App.

Ironically, in the Chocolate Factory's Android usage report for August, Android 2.1 "Eclair" and earlier accounted for 1.3 per cent of all devices in use, which is still a larger share than Android 4.3 enjoys today. ®

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