Google’s Android installed base has long suffered a major problem with fragmentation at the OS API level, due to the fact that licensees continue shipping low end phones paired with old versions of Android. Here’s what the company is ostensibly doing to address that in a new project introduced at its I/O 2016 conference: Instant Apps.
At this year’s Google I/O conference, the installed base for the latest release of Android (from a year ago) fell by 20 percent compared to just one year ago, while users stuck on very old versions of Android (four years old or even older) increased by 120 percent, now making up a quarter of Google’s active users. In 2013, just 4.8 percent of Android’s installed base was stuck on a version of Android that old. It was a problem back then, but it’s a crisis level catastrophe today.
Previous efforts to turn things around and get more users on its latest software release, such as 2011’s Android Update Alliance and 2014’s Google One, have ended in failure.
Instant Apps seek to solve a problem for Google
The enthusiast answer to Google’s problem with backward progress in Android deployment is that it doesn’t matter what version of Android users are running, because more of a phone’s software can be updated as part of Google Play. That’s true to an extent, and Google’s Instant Apps addressed the fact that an increasing number of Android users are stuck on an older platform by announcing support back to 2012’s release of Jelly Bean.
The technology involved is similar in some respects to Apple’s App Thinning introduced at WWDC last year, which customizes and optimizes the components of an App Store title to be appropriate for the iOS device that downloads it. App Thinning directly addresses issues related to download size and the amount of storage taken up on the users’ device.