Slow Android Lollipop Uptake Is No Surprise to Mobile Market

Lack of unique applications and modest improvements in functionality mean users are in no rush to upgrade to Android 5.0 Lollipop, analyst says.

Android Lollipop 2

Figures released by Google this week showing barely anyone using its new Android Lollipop mobile operating system even six weeks after its release is likely an embarrassment for the company. But there are a few reasons that might explain the slower than expected uptake, one analyst said Friday.

Google released Lollipop in early November touting it as the company's most ambitious Android release yet. Yet, two months later, the operating system has not even registered a blip on a dashboard that Google uses to track use of its different Android versions.

The dashboard uses data gathered from devices that visit the Google Play store. The latest numbers reflect data gathered from devices over a seven-day period ending Jan 5.

It shows that Google's Android KitKat released in 2013 currently holds 39 percent of the market, followed by multiple versions of Jelly Bean and Gingerbread. Lollipop did not even make the chart because it had less than the minimum 0.1 percent distribution threshold needed for an operating system version to be included.

That uptake is markedly slower than even the modest 1.1 percent market share that KitKat garnered in its first two months following launch. But it reflects the broader realities of any new operating system adoption curve, said Steve Brasen, research director at Enterprise Management Associates.

"There are principally three drivers that motivate adoption of a new OS on any user device—applications, features, and device attrition," he said in an email. The availability of unique applications for a particular operating system version or of very desirable features can both spur rapid adoption of a new OS, he said. "If neither of those drive adoption, then the OS will be distributed as new devices are purchased to replace old devices," he said, suggesting that may be the case with Lollipop.

"The slow adoption of Lollipop is most definitely impacted by the newness of the release," Brasen said. "To my knowledge, there aren't any significant applications that have been released yet that only operate on Lollipop, and there hasn't been enough time for device manufacturers to broadly adapt the OS to their disparate hardware platforms," or even for users to trade in old devices for new ones, he said.

Lollipop introduced some significant improvements for developers with its Material Design language and APIs through which it hopes to spawn new applications based on Lollipop. But that could take some time to happen. Meanwhile, other features in Lollipop, such as its improved notification capabilities and battery life improvements, are not significant enough to spur broad user migration to a new device just so they can take advantage of the new operating system features, Brasen said.

There is also an unfortunate tendency among some to compare Android releases with those for iOS, Brasen said in an email. "Since iOS only supports a single device architecture, new releases will immediately provide features for improved interaction with the hardware environment." Users who upgrade to the latest iOS version get immediate improvements in performance, camera functionality and other features. With Android, such improvements can only be obtained after the operating system is supported in the hardware and developer community.

Jaikumar Vijayan

Jaikumar Vijayan

Vijayan is an award-winning independent journalist and tech content creation specialist covering data security and privacy, business intelligence, big data and data analytics.