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Android software fragmentation visualized over a three-year lifecycle

Android update history infographic
Android update history infographic

The chart you see immediately above (full version here) contains no news. By now, it's common knowledge that carriers and manufacturers have repeatedly stiffed customers when it comes to timely Android updates. In recent months, Google has pledged a fix, partnering with every major US player to bring eighteen months of support to new Android devices.

Still, it's good to see how we got into this mess, and that's what this infographic from Michael Degusta does rather well, charting the update history of the first eighteen Android handsets ever sold. (Most are still on contract, assuming their owners haven't moved on.) Only a few devices have a significant update history, with upgrades for other handsets dropped while they were still on store shelves, and it's quite a sight to see how few of the phones shipped without a fresh operating system at launch, not to mention how far behind they are a two-year contract later.

While most of these data points seem to check out with our personal tallies (the Evo 4G is actually still on sale), we don't wholly agree with all of Degusta's points or his presentation. You'll see a lot of green on the Apple side of the sheet even as Android phones are dinged for not running Gingerbread, even though Android 2.3 doesn't bring all that much to the table. There also might be something to be said for not updating a phone just for the sake of a version number. We recently got Gingerbread on our Motorola Droid 2, and we're still trying to figure out where the battery life went. That doesn't mean we wouldn't jump at a fresh Ice Cream Sandwich, though.