A couple of weeks ago I was saying that KitKat distribution was just 1.8%. That’s less than one in fifty Android devices running the latest version of the operating system.
Any way you look at it, that’s pretty poor, but Google has a cheeky plan to improve things significantly: insist on the latest version of Android for new device releases. Why did no one think of that before?
KitKat Android 4.4 is almost four months old, having debuted on the Google Nexus 5 back on October 31 last year, but it’s still relatively rare.
Updating existing devices is one thing (a number of high-profile devices are still awaiting KitKat Android 4.4), but compounding the problem, we’re still seeing devices announced with Jelly Bean.
The Huawei MediaPad X1 7.0, for example, is tipped to arrive at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2014 next week with Jelly Bean. Beautiful.
However, a leaked internal memo suggests Google will soon stop approving new Android devices with anything less than KitKat. Opt for Jelly Bean, and you’ll have to go without services like Google Now, and presumably Google Play access.
As relayed by Mobile Boom, the memo states: “Starting February 2014, Google will no longer approve GMS distribution on new Android products that ship older platform releases.
“Each platform release will have a ‘GMS approval window’ that typically closes nine months after the next Android platform release is publicly available. (In other words, we all have nine months to get new products on the latest platform after its public release.)”
The wording isn't great, but it suggests to me that the approval window for Jelly Bean will actually close nine months from the release of KitKat i.e. nine months from October 31, 2013 i.e. July 31, 2014. That's not actually that big a deal, surely; we're not seeing (m)any new devices with Ice Cream Sandwich, and we could still - technically - see Jelly Bean devices released in the second half of 2014.
Some publications (not naming any names) seem to interpret the first paragraph as "Death to Jelly Bean!" But I'm pretty sure that's not the case, as Jelly Bean is not yet classed as an "older platform release".
In any case, having more devices running the latest version of Android can only be a good thing. KitKat Android 4.4 was specifically developed with low-end devices with 512 MB of RAM in mind.