Every month Google releases a report that details the distribution of the various Android operating system versions. These reports have long been used to see how slowly or quickly various versions are adopted and fade away. For as long as I could remember the accounting method used was simply having a device touched by Google Play, such as for an update or other communication that showed it was an active device. Starting this month that has changed and unsurprisingly Google sees Android OS distribution shift as it changes accounting methods.
If you ask ‘what is the purpose’ of these monthly reports, you will get a different answer from pretty much everyone. Not because of the intended reason, but rather because of HOW the data has been used over time. The intent was to help developers understand the target audience distribution as they develop apps. However, it has been used and misused as a metric for wide-spread fragmentation of the Android ecosystem.
However, unsurprisingly some sites have immediately jumped on the data as showing a HUGE upswing in the adoption of Android Jelly Bean. The newest versions (4.1x-4.2x) jumped from 16% to 25%, while Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0x) remained flat and Gingerbread (2.3) dropped several percentage points. While the general movement is expected, the magnitude would not be anticipated.
Now I am not accusing Google of trying to hide this information, in fact they were very up front about it, listing it before the graphs and tables:
“Note: Beginning in April, 2013, these charts are now built using data collected from each device when the user visits the Google Play Store. Previously, the data was collected when the device simply checked-in to Google servers. We believe the new data more accurately reflects those users who are most engaged in the Android and Google Play ecosystem.”
Not only that, I think that Google is ABSOLUTELY CORRECT in making this change. Why? Think about it – if you are an app developer and you walk into a room of 100 people, all of whom have Android smartphones, what you really care about is the 60% of them who will actively visit the Google Play store looking for apps, rather than the 40% who perhaps grabbed a couple of apps like Pandora when they got their phone a year or so and have never returned. That’s right – you care about the demographics for the people who will actually be grabbing your app!
So while I had an immediately cynical reaction upon hearing this accounting change, upon taking a few seconds to reflect I found myself in total agreement with the move and the reasoning behind it … and also reminded myself that these fan sites need to stop using every bit of data as a hammer to assert their favored brand over the competition.