The overall smartphone market is beginning to level off as the market becomes saturated. That’s why many small players are being squeezed out, and even Apple is seeing sales dip. The overall Android platform is still growing, though. At Google I/O, the company confirmed that Android runs on more than 2.5 billion devices worldwide, which is up from 2 billion in 2017. The latest platform distribution numbers also prove that more of those phones are running the latest version of the OS than in previous years.
Google’s latest numbers show continued strong growth for Android, but we’re not sure which part of the market is expanding. It’s likely the budget category and entry-level devices in developing countries. Between September 2015 and May 2017, Google added 400 million new Android users. Fast forward two years, and there are 500 million more. So, growth isn’t accelerating, but you wouldn’t expect it anymore.
While most Android users are plugged into Google’s services and seeing Google’s ads, that’s not the case in one of the world’s biggest markets: China. Google’s decision a decade ago to pull out of China means it has no presence on those phones. Android is open source, so there’s nothing stopping OEMs from launching devices in China.
Perhaps more interesting is the return of Google’s Android platform distribution numbers after a six-month hiatus. This chart shows the usage share for each version of Android going all the way back to Gingerbread. The distribution numbers are helpful for developers to properly target devices based on API level, but it’s also been a point of embarrassment for Google. Invariably, the latest version of Android has only a small sliver of the total market. Apple has even used these numbers to poke fun at Google during WWDC.
Google says Pie’s improved rollout is thanks to Project Treble, which modularized Android updates starting with Oreo. It’s faster and easier for OEMs to get new versions of the OS out the door than it once was. That means users are more likely to get timely security and feature updates. It’s still far from an Apple-like monolithic update model, but Google is making progress.
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