KitKat 4.4 Accounts for Bigger Slice of Android Market Pie

Since April, KitKat deployment on all Android devices is up to 8.5 percent, an increase of 37 percent since March, when KitKat was on 5.3 percent of devices.

Google Android data

Android KitKat 4.4, the latest version of Google's Android mobile operating system, is gaining more use on more devices, according to the latest figures from Google.

The latest Android Developer Dashboard Website, which regularly tallies the market-share figures for Android operating systems, announced that KitKat 4.4 is now on 8.5 percent of Android mobile devices in use, which is up 37 percent from April, when 5.3 percent of Android devices were running KitKat 4.4, according to the site. The site is used to help developers learn which operating systems are most popular so they can target their apps for those users.

Older Android versions, including Jelly Bean, Gingerbread and Ice Cream Sandwich, still dominate Android deployments today, but the rise in KitKat installs was significant. In February 2014, KitKat was only running on 1.8 percent of Android devices, according to an earlier eWEEK report.

The KitKat deployment increase is particularly interesting since it follows moves by Google in February to get device makers to install the latest version of Android on more devices to boost its use and give users added features. That rumor was based on a leaked memo from Google to an Android device partner.

"Starting February 2014, Google will no longer approve GMS [Google Mobile Services] distribution on new Android products that ship older platform releases," according to the claimed memo. "Each platform release will have a 'GMS approval window' that typically closes nine months after the next Android platform release is publicly available. (In other words, we all have nine months to get new products on the latest platform after its public release.) The policy could only mean good things, especially for the smartphone user."

Such a policy could certainly be aimed at helping push device makers to a quicker use of the newest, most feature-filled version of Android that has been released so far. Much of the Android world remains fragmented because device makers continue to load older versions of Android onto their devices that they sell in the marketplace.

The continuing high usage figures for older Android versions out in the wild are certainly behind Google's reported efforts to get device makers to move forward more quickly with the latest version of the mobile operating system. Ending, or at least greatly reducing, the fragmentation of the Android market has been a goal of Google for some time. The idea is that by releasing and promoting the newest versions of Android, users will get the latest features faster, and its evolution will continue more strongly, compared with having multiple systems out there that are getting old rather than advancing the platform.

Google released KitKat 4.4 in October 2013 and gave it a host of features that allow it to perform well on older devices, according to an earlier eWEEK report. The first new device running KitKat 4.4, the new Nexus 5 smartphone, was simultaneously released at that time for $349 for a 16GB version or $399 for a 32GB version.

When the KitKat 4.4 operating system updates began to roll out, they were automatically being sent out initially to all Nexus 4, Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 devices, as well as the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and HTC One Google Play Edition devices.

One of the key features of KitKat 4.4 is that it includes reduced memory needs so that it can run on a much broader range of devices, including entry-level devices that have as little as 512MB of RAM. That big change was meant to help move the Android ecosystem forward as it battles with competitors from Apple, Microsoft and BlackBerry.

The first news about the new KitKat broke in early September 2013, when Google announced that it would go by the KitKat name as part of a marketing tie-in with the famous Hershey's candy bar. The KitKat name displaced months of rumors that the next version of the OS would be named Android Key Lime Pie.

What's perhaps more interesting for users is that the new version of the Android mobile operating system was numbered 4.4, and not 5.0 as was also long rumored, meaning that it is perhaps an evolutionary release rather than a revolutionary version.

Users were waiting for the next version of Android since Android 4.1 Jelly Bean debuted in July 2012 on various devices. The 4.1 final release came just a few weeks after its big splash in late June 2012 at Google's I/O developers conference.