Android fragmentation continues to be a serious issue not only for application developers and manufacturers, but also for end users.
The most recent Google Play stats show the state of fragmentation clearly. The most recent version of Android, Marshmallow or Android 6.0 is on only 0.3% of devices while the bulk of devices is still running older versions of Android going all the way down to Android 2.2 which is still on 0.2% of all devices.
For end users, the main issue is not that they don't have access to the latest features and improvements of newer versions of Android, but that their devices may be vulnerable to exploits and vulnerabilities that were patched in newer versions of the operating system.
Google, aware of the issue, started to produce monthly security updates for Nexus devices to deliver patches faster to them.
Other manufacturers, LG and Samsung for example, confirmed that they have joined Google in producing monthly security updates for their Android devices.
While that is a welcome step in the right direction, manufacturers have yet to take into account users running older devices.
One big issue here is that older devices may not receive upgrades to newer versions of Android which leaves the owner of the device with little options when it comes to security.
One option that may be available is to install a custom ROM on the device to upgrade the version of Android to a newer version. That's however only possible if custom ROMs are available for the device and that is not always the case.
The only other option is to be very careful when using the phone. This includes activities such as installing applications on the device, visiting websites or using specific applications on it. Even if you are careful, you may be exposed to vulnerabilities depending on what they attack and their attack vector.
All in all, you may not be getting more than 18 months or 24 months worth of upgrades out of the device before the manufacturer stops producing those.
What you can do about it
Manufacturers have an interest in short support lifecycles to sell more devices to users. Many seem to stop supporting their older devices as soon as new ones are released, and while that is not always the case, it seems to be the norm these days.
It may be time to select the next Android device based on the manufacturer's track record of rolling out upgrades quickly, or at least make it an important point when you jot down the positives and negatives of Android devices you may be inclined to purchase next.
You cannot go wrong with Nexus devices in this regard as it is guaranteed that you get monthly security updates and regular upgrades to new versions of Android if you own a Nexus device.
Motorola and HTC have a solid track record as well, but they are not as fast as Google usually when it comes to upgrades.
Now You: What version is your Android phone on currently?Advertisement
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.