Motorola Usually First With Android Updates for U.S. Users: Study

Motorola, LG and HTC send out Android OS updates more quickly than their smartphone competitors, some of whom wait as long as five months, according to an Apteligent report.

Android Marshmallow

Not all smartphone vendors distribute their Android updates on the same schedules—a fact Android users know only too well.

This and other trends about the frequency of Android OS updates can be seen clearly through a new study by mobile app intelligence vendor Apteligent, which ranks the Android update schedules of an assortment of phone makers.

In the lead for Android 6.0 updates in the United States is Motorola, followed by LG and HTC, according to the report, "Android Manufacturer Edition." Apteligent analyzes actual mobile user data to help app developers "see" how their software is working in the real world on the devices of end users.

"Motorola tried the update first on a smaller set of devices, such as the Moto X Pure Edition / Moto X Style, for about two months and then rolled it out more widely," the report states. "LG took the same approach starting with the LG G4 for about a month while HTC basically just pushed the release out to all compatible devices from the beginning."

Samsung, the market-leading Android device maker, took longer, waiting more than five months before releasing the update for compatible devices, according to the report. Sony also waited five months, while ZTE took even more time—updating only a handful of devices starting with the Axon line of devices in February 2016, the study concluded.

The report excluded Nexus devices because they receive the latest Android updates on the

day they are released. The update cycles were listed for updates from Android 5.x Lollipop to Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Android 6.0 Marshmallow was released Oct. 5, 2015.

Jeremiah Edwards, an analyst with Apteligent, told eWEEK that the biggest surprise in the Android update research was the wide range of OS update release times, depending on the maker of a smartphone.

"That's six months of difference whether you have a Motorola or Sony phone," he said. "It's a long time difference, especially in the software world. Compare that to Apple, which is typically updated once a month in maintenance mode. It's just nuts."

Samsung, which sells more Android devices than any other smartphone maker, is "solidly in the middle of the pack" with its software update frequency and schedule, said Edwards.

Apteligent also looked at crash rates for Android devices, analyzing apps that have more than 500,000 downloads a day, according to the study. Sony had the lowest average crash rate at 0.08 percent, compared with 0.09 percent for Motorola and 0.11 percent for Samsung and LG, the report states. ZTE came in fifth at 0.28 percent.

Around the world, Russia has the worst Android fragmentation, said Edwards, because users there continue to maintain a large number of older devices, which keeps older operating systems in the user base, said Edwards. No other nation has more Android operating systems in use on smartphones than in Russia, he said.

"Because of that it makes it harder to keep a wider range of devices updated," he said. "Android 3.0 is still in the Top 10 on devices in Russia."

In June, Apteligent reported that overall global Android fragmentation is not as big an issue as some critics have argued in the past, according to an earlier eWEEK story. In reality, about 93 percent of Android devices today are using one of the latest three versions of the mobile operating system. According to the data, about 48.2 percent of Android users are running Android Lollipop 5.0 on their devices, while 24.9 percent are running Android KitKat 4.4. Another 19.4 percent are running the latest version of Android, Marshmallow 6.0.

In comparison, 97 percent of Apple iOS devices today are running either iOS 8 or iOS 9, the two latest versions of that OS, according to Apteligent's data.