Android Version and Device Stats for LQ Native App II

Now that the native LQ android app is in the 5-10,000 download range, I thought I’d post an update to this previous post on the topic of Android version and device stats. See this post if you’re interested in browser and OS stats for the main LQ site.

Platform Version
Android 4.4 29.54%
Android 4.1 20.42%
Android 4.0.3-4.0.4 13.59%
Android 4.2 12.49%
Android 2.3.3-2.3.7 11.70%
Android 4.3 9.27%
Android 2.2 1.96%

 

Device
Google Nexus 7 (grouper) 6.13%
Samsung Galaxy S3 (m0) 3.53%
Google Nexus 5 2.75%
Samsung Galaxy S2 2.28%
Samsung Galaxy S3 2.20%
Google Nexus 7 (flo) 2.12%
Samsung Galaxy S4 1.81%
Google Nexus 4 1.73%
Samsung Galaxy Tab2 1.49%

So, how has Android fragmentation changed since my original post in February of 2012? At first blush it may appear that it’s actually more fragmented from a device version perspective. Previously, the top two versions accounted for over 70% of all installs, while now that number is just 50%. That’s misleading though, as almost 90% of all installs are now on a 4.x variant. This clustering around a much more polished version of Android, along with the fact that Google has broken so much functionality out into Google Play Services, means that from a developers perspective things are significantly better than they were during the time-frame of my previous post. I will admit I’m surprised by the age of the top devices, but they may be specific to the LQ crowd (and it’s no surprise to me to see the Nexus 5 as the second most popular phone).

–jeremy

Google Nexus 5 Review

This review was originally done for Bad Voltage, but I figured it may also be of interest to my general readers.

In this episode I’m going to review the recently released Nexus 5 phone, manufactured by LG. While the 5 in the product name is a reference to the device’s nearly 5 inch screen, it’s also the 5th iteration of the Google Nexus line (the predecessors being the HTC Nexus One, Samsung Nexus S, Samsung Galaxy Nexus and the LG Nexus 4). The exterior of the Nexus 5 is made from a polycarbonate shell, unlike the Nexus 4, which used a glass-based construction. At 5.42 inches tall and 2.7 inches wide, it’s a big phone but is shaped to feel smaller than it looks. It’s surprisingly light for its size, at only 4.6oz, and is 8.6 millimeters thick. The phone feels a bit more solid than a Samsung Galaxy S4, but sitting next to an HTC One it looks a bit, well, plain. But being flashy or ostentatious was never Google’s goal with the Nexus line. It was to showcase the unbridled, unadulterated and bloatware free vanilla Google Android experience. And the phone’s 445 pixel per inch, 4.95-inch, 1080p IPS screen helps a great deal in doing that. At the time of this review the Nexus 5 was the only phone officially running Android’s latest version: Kit Kat. And that’s a big part of the Nexus experience and something no other phone is going to offer. Manufacturers often take many months to port new versions of Android to existing handsets and in some cases ports you think will come never do. Even the new Google Play edition of phones will likely never receive updates as quickly as the Nexus line. If that’s important to you, most of this review probably doesn’t matter. Get yourself a Nexus 5. It’s hands down the best Nexus phone to date. On that note, Kit Kat is the best Android version to date as well, and is a fairly significant change from previous versions of the software. It’s sleeker, cleaner, more refined and more modern looking while being considerably more responsive. Google Search and Google Now are integrated much more seamlessly than in previous versions. And while I’m not personally a fan of Hangouts replacing SMS and MMS, one nice thing about Android is that you can easily change that.

Now, back to the phone itself. Some good: The quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor with 2G of RAM means that the phone is astonishingly fast. By far the fastest phone I’ve used to date. The display is absolutely gorgeous. The battery life has also been better than most Android phones I’ve used. The  overall build quality of the phone is high and the form factor is extremely usable. The Nexus experience is also difficult to beat. Some bad: While battery life has been better, it’s still fairly unpredictable at times. The camera is probably the weakest part of the phone and is considerably worse than other flagship offerings. That said, Google claims that much of the issue is software related so we may see some marked improvement here. The speaker, while fairly loud, is also frustratingly distorted at times. While I like the overall form factor of the phone, it is quizzical that they chose to give it such a large bottom bezel, especially considering the phone has only software buttons. The lack of an SD card slot is also disappointing.

So, what’s the Verdict? If you want the Nexus experience or would like to buy an off contract phone, at $349 for the 16GB model and $399 for the 32GB model I think the Nexus 5 is going to be impossible to beat. I’m certainly extremely happy with the device myself. That said if you’re in a position where you have to buy a phone on contract, the HTC One (which I’ve seen as low as $75 with a 2 year contract) or possibly the Samsung Galaxy S4 are probably better options.

–jeremy
Google+

Android Version and Device Stats for LQ Native App – Is Fragmentation an Issue?

Now that the native LQ android app has a few thousand installs (and since members really seem to enjoy LQ-related statistics posts), I’ve decided to post the platform version and device statistics for the app.

Platform Version
Android 2.3.3+ 48.1%
Android 2.2 24.4%
Android 2.1 7.1%
Android 3.1 2.1%
Android 4.0.3 1.9%
Android 3.2 1.5%
Android 4.0 1.5%
Device
Samsung Galaxy S2 8.0%
HTC Desire HD 6.0%
Motorola Droid X 5.4%
Samsung Galaxy S (GT-I9000) 4.6%
HTC Thunderbolt 2.5%
HTC G2 2.5%
Samsung Nexus S 2.5%
Asus EeePad Transformer TF101 2.4%
HTC Desire 2.4%
Samsung Galaxy Tab 2.2%

So, is Android fragmentation a problem? Well, I think this is an issue with multiple facets that get conflated into a single issue.

First you have the version aspect. I have to admit I’m surprised by just how many Android handsets are running 2.2 and *gulp* 2.1 (which was released over two years ago; a veritable eon in mobile terms). Gingerbread 2.3 and Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0 are huge improvements over previous versions of Android. While I think it’s a shame that so many users are stuck on older versions, I think this part is one that vendors and Google are working on and one that will improve significantly moving forward. Android was revving quickly in the earlier days and some of the hardware just couldn’t run future versions. Couple that with that fact that many vendors were new to Android and new to an ecosystem of this nature, and you had an initial learning curve that I think was destine to result in a suboptimal experience for end users. Fast forward to today and the press releases and public statements from vendors about which phones would be upgraded to ICS, along with time lines in many cases, and I think it’s clear this will become less and less of a problem.

Next you have the device aspect. This one is a bit trickier. The number one device here, the Samsung Galaxy S2 (which I incidentally own and really like), only represents 8% of all devices. The Android handset market is extremely varied. Not only that, it’s varied in many aspects; from screen size and quality, to device capabilities, to carrier restrictions… the list is almost endless. Unlike say, iOS and related apps, which only have to support a very finite number of configurations, Android and related apps have to deal with an almost endless number of combinations. This is an issue that Google is also working on, and has made significants strides with, but one that I think may take a little more time to figure out completely. It’s an issue they have to figure out if they want Android to be a long term success though, so I’d say there is a good chance they will succeed.

So, is Android fragmentation a problem? I’d say much less so than in the past. More importantly, I think it’s an issue that Google is well aware of, is working on intently, and will eventually mitigate to a large extent.

–jeremy

PS. If you have an Android-related question, don’t forget to visit LQ’s new sister site: AndroidQuestions.org.

Announcing AndroidQuestions.org and Introducing The Questions Network

I’m extremely excited to announce that AndroidQuestions.org is now officially out of BETA. AndroidQuestions.org is for the discussion of all Android-related topics; from phones, tablets and other hardware devices to Android applications and development. Along with LinuxQuestions.org, AQ starts off what we’re calling The Questions Network. All sites in The Questions Network will share a unified login, meaning that if you’re one of the half a million members who have signed up for an LQ account, you’re able to login to AQ and start participating immediately. This will hold true for any future TQN sites as well; registering for one means you’re able to log into any. (Note that you’re account on an individual TQN site is not created until the first time you login.) The rapid adoption, vibrant ecosystem and its Linux roots made Android an easy selection as the topic of choice for the first addition to The Questions Network. What’s we’re hoping to do is take the lessons we’ve learning scaling and growing LQ and apply that to some other related topics. While we don’t have a definite selection for the next TQN site, we do have a couple ideas and are interested in what others think. I’m looking forward to this new challenge and anticipate learning some new things that we’ll be able to apply back to LQ. Note also that AQ runs the next generation platform that will eventually run LQ.

–jeremy

Happy New Year & Browser and OS stats for 2010

First, I’d like to wish everyone a happy new year on behalf of the entire LQ team. 2010 has been another great year for LQ and we have quite a bit of exciting developments in store for 2011, including a major code update. I’ve posted to this blog far less frequently in 2010 than I’d have liked to, and I’m going to work to change that this year (I do post to twitter fairly often, for those interested).

As has become tradition, here are the browser and OS statistics for the main LQ site for all of 2010 (2009 stats for comparison).

Browsers
Firefox 57.11%
Chrome 16.44%
Internet Explorer 16.40%
Safari 3.43%
Opera 3.25%
Mozilla 2.21%
Konqueror .47%

Firefox is now on a multi-year slide while Chrome has passed IE to move into the number two position. Safari made some significant gains while Konqueror use was cut in half.

Operating Systems
Windows 51.71%
Linux 41.33%
Macintosh 5.78%
iPhone .21%
Android .15%

Windows use is slightly down this year while both Linux and OS X use are slightly up. As expected both iPhone and Android are up significantly. While Android saw more significant gains, it’s still a bit behind the iPhone. The iPad, for reference, is at .06%

I’d also like to take this time to thank each and every LQ member. You are what make the site great.

–jeremy

My First Android Experience: intriguing, extremely encouraging but a bit disappointing

I recently got my hands on a Nexus One, which believe it or not is my first Android-based phone. I’ve been trying to acquire an N1 for quite some time now, so after finally tracking an AT&T version down it quite simply couldn’t ship fast enough. By the time it finally arrived I was champing at the bit. I’ve had the Android SDK on my Ubuntu desktop for quite a while now, so I was ready to go as soon as the phone came in. I decided to keep stock Froyo on the phone for a couple days, just to get a feel for what the intended Google experience was like. Here comes my first disappointment: with a non-modified froyo install on a Google branded Nexus One, I was getting a fair amount of force closes. Mobile phones are tough (specifically, memory-challenged) environments so in some cases I can understand, and am fairly tolerant of, some minor issues. The force closes here were in the most basic of apps, however: namely the dialer and most often the messaging app.

I’ve been using Linux long enough that a few force closes aren’t really going to deter me from using what should prove to be the most significant Linux-based entry into the mobile market. So, now it’s time to start moving things over from my previous phone. Unfortunately, said phone does not store its contacts on the SIM card and has no built in export (unsurprisingly, it has an import). No problem I’m thinking; I’ve actually been meaning to tinker with funambol for a while now, and this is the perfect excuse to do so. My first market download goes smoothly, and aside from the brain-dead decision on gmail’s side to try to import every person I’ve ever emailed as a contact, everything imports smoothly (as an aside, funambol is a great product that I definitely recommend having now used it). Here comes the first weirdness, due to a bug in the way Android handles contacts. You can’t actually edit imported contacts with the default editor and the will not sync with Gmail, meaning the built in backup mechanism won’t see them. While this is really frustrating, the workaround (export the contacts while funambol is installed, uninstall funambol and the then import as native contacts) is easy enough that I wasn’t too worked up about it. While on the topic of backups, I’d say android has some pros (the cloud-based contacts sync is fantastic) when compared to the iPhone, but the overall backup/restore process on the iPhone is still unparalleled.

With a couple free apps downloaded, I decided to purchase a few apps. Next disappointment; if the Google account you use on the phone is a Google apps account, you can’t actually purchase anything from the market. So, basically, I’m paying Google for an apps account and then using a phone OS made by Google, but I have to create a new free Google account to actually buy anything from the android market. It’s almost like they don’t actually want you to use Google-related services on your Google phone. Which brings me to this entry in the Android issue tracker. How is it possible that there’s no Google Docs app for android??

With those frustrations and disappointments out of the way, let me say that the rest of the android experience has been very positive and that even with the significant time lead that Apple had, android is either ahead or rapidly catching up in almost every single aspect. In my opinion, the iPhone wasn’t nearly that good until OS 3. I anticipate version 3 of android being very similar in this regard. That android has come this far in a version 2.2 is truly impressive. Many of the issues I have with the iPhone are related to the closed nature of the platform and android has the potential to completely alleviate that. Whether the carriers with intercede and ruin this potential for their own gain remains to be seen, however.

Now, as nice as this thing is from a user perspective, from a Linux user’s perspective it’s absolutely phenomenal. Being able to quickly rsync my music collection to the phone is really refreshing. Being able to simply ‘adb push $foo’ to get files/apps/whatever onto the phone is equally refreshing. That’s just the beginning though. Being able to download entirely new android-based ROM’s such as Cyanogen makes me excited about a phone in a way that the iPhone never did or could.

So, what does the future of android hold? That’s a more difficult question to answer. First, you have some deeply entrenched competitors in place who have a lot to lose. Next, you have some patent FUD and multiple lawsuits already in the works. You then have the aforementioned carriers who may see the freedom that android offers as a threat, but one they’re able to remove due to the Open Source nature of of android. It’s also clear that at some point android will have to deal with a fragmentation issue that no other mobile OS has had to content with on this level. Even with all those issues, however, I think it would be *very* difficult to bet against android at this point. There’s simply too much going for it and it’s only going to improve from here. After using my Nexus One for a couple of weeks I can honestly say that I don’t miss the iPhone one bit, and I think that’s saying a lot.

–jeremy

Oracle, Google and Java – Oh My

A follow-up to this post, now that some additional information is coming out.

James Gosling has made another interesting post with some historical information, including the fact that as a result of an IBM lawsuit some Sun engineers made an unofficial game out of seeing how ridicuouls of a patent they could get approved:
In Sun’s early history, we didn’t think much of patents. While there’s a kernel of good sense in the reasoning for patents, the system itself has gotten goofy. Sun didn’t file many patents initially. But then we got sued by IBM for violating the “RISC patent” – a patent that essentially said “if you make something simpler, it’ll go faster”. Seemed like a blindingly obvious notion that shouldn’t have been patentable, but we got sued, and lost. The penalty was huge. Nearly put us out of business. We survived, but to help protect us from future suits we went on a patenting binge. Even though we had a basic distaste for patents, the game is what it is, and patents are essential in modern corporations, if only as a defensive measure. There was even an unofficial competition to see who could get the goofiest patent through the system. My entry wasn’t nearly the goofiest.

He notes that “Apple’s expected entry into advertising” (now iAds) may have been the initial impetus for Android and adds “Don’t interpret any of my comments as support for Oracle’s suit. There are no guiltless parties with white hats in this little drama. This skirmish isn’t much about patents or principles or programming languages. The suit is far more about ego, money and power.”

Charles Nutter has an extremely detailed post where he breaks down each of the patents one by one. While lengthy, if you’re interested in this topic you should read the entire post (probably twice). Here is part of his conclusion:
So, Does the Suit Have Merit?

I’ll again reiterate that I’m not a lawyer. I’m just a Java developer with a logical mind and a penchant for debunking myths about the Java platform.

The collection of patents specified by the suit seems pretty laughable to me. If I were Google, I wouldn’t be particularly worried about showing prior art for the patents in question or demonstrating how Android/Dalvik don’t actually violate them. Some, like the “mixed mode” patent, don’t actually seem to apply at all. It feels very much like a bunch of Sun engineers got together in a room with a bunch of lawyers and started digging for patents that Google might have violated without actually knowing much about Android or Dalvik to begin with.

But does the suit have merit? It depends if you consider baseless or over-general patents to have merit. The most substantial patent listed here is the “mixed mode” patent, and unless I’m wrong that one doesn’t apply. The others are all variations on prior art, usually specialized for a Java runtime environment (and therefore with some question as to whether they can apply to a non-Java runtime environment that happens to have a translator from Java code). Having read through the suit and scanned the patents, I have to say I’m not particularly worried. But then again, I don’t know what sort of magic David Boies and company might be able to pull off.

He also gives his opinion on the “possible outcomes” as: The Nuclear Option (ie. the death of android, which is *very* unlikely), a Google Licensing Deal, Nothing At All, and the Total Collapse of Software Patents (wouldn’t that be nice).

Matthew Aslett attempts to answer the question of whether Oracle should now be seen as anti-open source:
I want to address is whether Oracle should now be seen as anti-open source.

I believe this theory is flawed. Firstly, because it assumes the open source community is a single, sentient being. As Matt Asay notes: “There is no Santa Claus. No Easter Bunny. And no such thing as an open-source community separate and distinct from the profit-driven free market that drives software development, generally.”

Secondly, because it assumes an emotional relationship between Oracle and open source that is equally non-existent.

As Simon Phipps has explained, corporations are reptiles that react instinctively to survive and thrive. Google’s call-to-arms of the Java open source community can be seen in the same light, especially since Google’s prior relationship with the Java community in relation to Android has been somewhat tenuous (rather than repeat what has been written elsewhere I recommend reading Carlo Daffara for the details).

And let’s not forget that Google’s approach to using open source resulted, at least in part, to the creation of a whole new license, one that the company has actively discouraged.

The statement by Oracle’s chief corporate architect Edward Screven, that “Oracle doesn’t really have an open source-specific strategy” must be understood in the context of this opportunism. The company’s engagement with open source is tactical, and changes on a case-by-case basis. It is wrong, therefore, to expect continuity in Oracle’s approach to different open source projects.

I’m not trying to excuse Oracle’s actions with regards to either Java or OpenSolaris, but I think each must be considered separately. [update – to clarify] Any Oracle related open source project should be approached with caution but… we should all be equally cautious about being encouraged to see the patent claims as a matter of good versus evil or open versus closed.

This is a legal matter between two corporations both of which are opportunistic in their approaches to open source engagement (unless it suits them to be otherwise).

In other words, as Matt Asay explains: “This isn’t about open source for Oracle, really. Nor is it about open source for Google, however much it may want to publicly posture as such.”

Stephen O’Grady attempts to answer a question that has been on many people minds with this post: WHY?
The latter point is perhaps the most important. It’s the only real clue we have to answer the only real question here: what does Oracle want?

Because the answer to that is: not what they’ve asked for in the complaint. Oracle may indeed request recompense for “the damages sustained and will sustain” as well as “any gains, profits, and advantages obtained by Google as a result of Google’s acts of infringement and Google’s use and publication of the copied materials.” But you can be sure that that’s not all they want.

As Andy Updegrove covers, the obvious motivation is financial. Specifically, maximizing the return on the six and a half billion capital expense that bought Sun’s assets, the patents in question included. If Oracle realized the same return as Sun from the Microsoft settlement concerning Java, for example, the cost of Sun becomes four billion. Remaking what was arguably a bargain into a steal.

Purely financial justifications for this suit are less than satisfying, however.

To begin with, Oracle would effectively be trading long term ecosystem health for a short term cash windfall. Unless the settlement is historically immense – a difficult outcome to rely on from a planning perspective – it’s not clear that this would be a net win. For all of its sustained success in the application and database markets, Oracle remains as fundamentally dependent on the Java ecosystem as Sun was before it. Even for a company that’s sought and found growth through stack ownership and category dominance, the health of the ecosystem is and must remain a concern. While the original technology was technically groundbreaking and differentiated, the key to Java’s success lay outside its featurelist. What drove its ascension within enterprises was the reality that Java offered at least the potential for independence from vendors. That will not be surrendered lightly, whatever Oracle may believe. A Java ecosystem dominated by Oracle is a doomed ecosystem. While it’s far from clear that this action by itself would create that perception amongst current Java ecosystem participants, it, coupled with Oracle’s own aggressive history, would be unlikely to be beneficial from a participation standpoint. As Andy put it, “it’s less clear to me what the strategic value would be to Oracle to prevent Google for incorporating Java into Android, or to impede the marketplace generally from relying on Java.”

It can be argued, then, that this is a high risk exercise for Oracle. The only satisfactory return for high risk exercise is high reward. Based on past software settlements, it’s difficult to project this being material to Oracle financially over a multi-year timeframe. Which is why I suspect there’s more at stake here than royalties.

What that is is non-obvious. All that we know about what Oracle wants, realistically, is what they are prepared to surrender. Aside from bearing the hard costs of litigation, Oracle is willing to absorb soft costs in risk to reputation and participation rates in the Java ecosystem. We must expect then that Oracle’s expected return will be commensurate with these costs. Oracle is many things, but stupid generally isn’t one of them.

Perhaps, as Forbes speculates, this is a prelude to a cross-licensing arrangement. Though if that’s the case, I’m far less certain that this suit actually has anything to do with Android; might patents like this “Large-scale data processing in a distributed and parallel processing enviornment” or this “Information extraction from a database” be relevant to Oracle’s core businesses? Perhaps Google is already or plans to compete directly with Oracle in ways we are not aware of yet. Or maybe Oracle just wants Google to buy a bunch of database licenses.

Whatever the real reason, this is a surprising decision even for a firm as aggressive as Oracle. The only thing more surprising is how quickly it turned Google – excoriated around the web for their questionable net neutrality proposal with Verizon – back into the good guys. Even if you speculate about differences in Oracle’s evaluations of its own assets – that Oracle believes that Java has peaked in popularity, for example, and that this is a one time opportunity to cash in on an asset that must, inevitably, decline – the calculus of this move fails. Nothing in Oracle’s product roadmaps hint at such a realization. Nor would a one time windfall, however large, be sufficient to offset the costs of a significant decline in Oracle’s Java related products.

As for predictions, I’ll make only one: whoever wins will also lose. This suit is going to negatively impact – probably substantially – Java adoption. The enterprise technology landscape is more fragmented by the day, as it transitions from .NET or Java othodoxy to multi-language heterogeneity. Oracle’s suit will accelerate this process as it introduces for the first time legal uncertainty around the Java platform. Apple and Microsoft will be thrilled by this development, and scores of competitive languages and platforms are likely to see improved traction as a result of Java defections.

Add up these costs, and the only supportable conclusion is that Oracle’s ambitions here are big.

As Stephen notes, it’s exceedingly difficult to ascertain what Oracle is *really* after here. As more information comes out, their motivation may become more clear and I’ll guess this won’t be nearly my last post on the topic.

In tangentially related news, it’s now confirmed that Oracle is killing OpenSolaris although it remains committed to Solaris itself and will be bringing Solaris Express back from the grave. It also appears that Oracle will continue to commit resources to MySQL, at least for the time being.

–jeremy

Additional Reading:
Techdirt
SAI
Matt Asay
Groklaw
Bradley M. Kuhn
VAR Guy

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