If you’ve been following the Android distribution charts over the past few months, you’ll know that the answer to the question posed in the headline is – any way you look at it – an emphatic “YES!”
Android’s “fragmentation” problems have been well documented, but Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) has really taken things to the next level.
It took the previous version - Gingerbread (Android 2.3) - nearly an entire year to reach 50% distribution, having made its debut on the Samsung-developed Google Nexus S in December 2010.
Ice Cream Sandwich, seven-and-a-bit months after arriving on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, recently reached the 10% landmark. Unless distribution shoots up exponentially (arguably possible as new devices are released), it looks like ICS will struggle to match even Gingerbread.
Of course, to make matters worse, amusingly coinciding with the 10% announcement was the launch of the Asus Nexus 7, a budget tablet that marks the debut of – wait for it – Jelly Bean (Android 4.1). Oh dear.
Crazier still is the fact that some new smartphones are still being released with Gingerbread – two versions behind Android’s latest and greatest.
So what’s the problem? Well, Ice Cream Sandwich was a fairly significant release, hence the jump in numbering. Also, it’s ambitiously aimed at both smartphones and tablets. Previously, tablets had their own slice of Android in the form of Honeycomb (Android 3.0).
Manufacturers, while incredibly slow, have been fairly open about battling away with the Ice Cream Sandwich update.
Motorola, for example, has Android Software Upgrade News, with devices listed at Evaluation & Planning, Development, Testing, or Available. However, Team Christy recently warned that Ice Cream Sandwich would only be made available if it “improves” device performance.
HTC, meanwhile, has its Android 4.0 Update FAQ. It recently disappointed users of the HTC ChaCha, Salsa, Wildfire S and Explorer with the news that “devices with 512MB ROM or less will not be upgraded to Android 4.0”.
Similarly, HTC’s tablets will remain firmly on Honeycomb.
And worst of all (tongue firmly in cheek) is the suggestion from Canadian network Telus that the HTC Desire HD won’t get Ice Cream Sandwich. Sonofa…
Sony initially wowed Xperia users with the promise that its entire 2011 range – the Xperia Arc and Arc S, Xperia Ray, Xperia Play, Xperia Neo and Neo V, Xperia mini, Xperia mini pro, Xperia Pro, Xperia Active and Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman (phew) – would all get Ice Cream Sandwich.
However, more recently, Sony warned that Ice Cream Sandwich “may impact performance in some user scenarios”, and ultimately the manufacturer decided not to push out the update over the air (OTA).
Which kinda brings me to my next point: only a small percentage of users are even aware of updates like Ice Cream Sandwich. I recently asked a friend with a Samsung Galaxy S II if he’d updated to Ice Cream Sandwich, and his response was: “Yeah, I think there was some sort of firmware update recently. I dunno.”
Also, does it really matter if consumers are stuck on Gingerbread, aware or not? It’s not like there are tons of apps that demand Ice Cream Sandwich or Jelly Bean as a prerequisite. Developers would be shooting themselves in the foot.
I’m suddenly aware that I’ve pretty much dismissed this entire feature in a single paragraph. Ice Cream Sandwich a bit of a farce? Absolutely. Does it really matter? Nah, not so much.