Whether you are an iOS app developer or an Android app developer, both platforms have their strengths and weaknesses. For Android app builders, it is always a challenge to make sure the app will run on all existing operating systems.
Currently, the oldest operating system still in use is Donut, which was introduced on 15th December 2009. Other systems in use are Éclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, and Ice Cream Sandwich. According to a recent post on the Android Developer’s website, Jelly Bean 4.1 has a market distribution of 12.2%, while version 4.2 has a distribution of 1.4%, for a total of 13.6%. The most widely used Android OS is Gingerbread, which operates a total of 45.6% of all Android devices.
Android introduced Jelly Bean 4.1 to the market last June, and released it to the Android Open Source Project on 9th July. Jelly Bean was the operating system used for the launch of the Nexus 7. Version 4.2 was released as the operating system for the Nexus 4 and the Nexus 10, which were launched on 13th November.
Android also released statistics on what screens people are using for their Android mobile devices. 51.1% are using high density screens, while 28.7% are using xhdpi, or “extra high density” screens. An example is the Samsung Galaxy S III.
The good news here is that close to 60% are using either Gingerbread or Jelly Bean. The bad news is that there are still a lot of older versions of Android out there. So, what does this mean to an Android app or game developer? Not a lot, but it definitely makes us work a bit harder here as Android app builders. One thing it definitely means is that the launch of the Nexus tablets and the Galaxy S III was very successful.
Android is open source, and manufacturers often lend their own tweaks to the system for their own devices. While this is often a problem, when all is said and done, it works mostly in the developer’s favour.
Android devices generally cost less than Apple devices, and they can be more-easily replaced. A lot of users who are frustrated with older phones simply buy new ones. Google usually provides major updates to Android every 6-9 months. Since smartphones and tablets are evolving yearly, this isn’t as much of a problem as one may think.
Without getting too technical here, an app can easily be made to work on older operating systems, but don’t forget that as the Android updates occur, the hardware becomes more advanced, too. If you develop an Android game that is made to take advantage of newer hardware with better graphics and larger memory, it often won’t work on an older smartphone, just as an elaborate game program won’t work on a five year-old computer due to CPU and memory requirements.
We think that yearly evolution is good for business on our end as an Android app builder and on your end as a developer. While some apps may last forever, there is a lot of competition out there, and a lot of new apps being developed every day. The bottom line is that no app lasts forever, just like no software or computer operating system lasts forever.
People are used to buying updates and upgrades on both windows and iOS computers. They are used to new versions of software, and spend upwards of $100 on some of them. No consumer is going to complain that he has to spend between $1 and $5 on a new app for his new smartphone; he is just going to buy the new version for his new phone.
That gives you the opportunity to debug and update any apps. If you solicit feedback, you may include new features on your next version because a lot of people requested them. If you have a game where a lot of people have reached the top level, you might want to upgrade it with a few new, higher levels to give them a challenge. Nobody who has thrashed a game at the highest level is going to resist getting another chance to prove his superiority over a game he has already “defeated.”
The same logic applies for office apps, social apps, and the like. If you have an avenue for customers to keep in contact, or a forum for users, their feedback will give you a lot of directions for tweaks, added features, and even new products. So, when a new operating system comes out, you simply come out with a new, enhanced version of your app, optimised for the new operating system.