Jul 27, 2021 | Updated: 04:53 PM EDT

Android Lollipop Only 18% Of The Market, Pundits Say Forking To Blame

Aug 07, 2015 01:14 AM EDT

One of the biggest woes of the Android as an ecosystem is the so-called “fragmentation” issue. Being an open source platform, it is very open to minor UI tweaks, additions to the code, as well as major changes in the OS kernel itself. More than that, since it is an open system, with any OEM free to download the source code and integrate it into its devices of choice, the Android team at Google does not have control as to how these OEMs will use the OS. In fact, because of the nature of Android, the “forks” in Android had reached 20%, this time last year.

A “fork” is a major modification in an OS code that renders it radically different from the original or “pure” OS. An example is the Cyanogen Mod for those who like to flash their phones and install a lean system on it, or the Android on a Nokia X. Another example of an Android fork is Xiaomi’s MIUI OS.

Even Android itself is a fork from Linux. When Andy Rubin created the OS for the mobile demographic, he took Linux code and turned it into the Android of today.

So, a “fork” is just an OS modification. What’s the big deal?

For one, because of the differences in the OS characteristics, it’s difficult to roll out a universal patch for vulnerabilities and open doorways for malware, such as the Stagefright code. Another is that, Google and the team at Android cannot guarantee that Androids across the board can be as efficient as those with the latest OS.

And it is with a bit of disappointment that the tech world reports that even 9 months after its first rollout, only 18% of Android devices have upgraded to the latest version, Lollipop. A good majority, at 39.3%, are still on KitKat.

A little bit of perspective, however: Some of Apple’s devices will forever be stuck on the last best OS that’s compatible with their hardware (i.e. iPad 1 will forever be on iOS 5.1.1 and will never have a chance to upgrade to iOS 6.0, let alone iOS 8). While the iOS has never forked into different OS’s and flavors, it’s safe to say that a few thousand surviving iPad 1’s are on iOS 5, and a staggering tier of different-generation devices are on the different iOS versions they got stuck on.

Tech pundits should stop waving their arms around in the air and panicking as if the sky is falling. Forking and not adapting to the latest OS is okay. It’s just like how Windows users got stuck on Windows XP way into the Windows 8 era. That shouldn’t be so bad.

Until things like the Stagefright vulnerability comes into play, of course.

However, at the end of the day, the end user should be vigilant, and be wise enough not to install or run things they shouldn’t.

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