FORTUNE -- The chart at right, taken from the Wikipedia entry for Android version history, illustrates the problem app developers call Android fragmentation -- the splintering of Google's (GOOG) installed base into incompatible fragments. Applications that run on one combination of hardware and software don't necessarily run on others.
Unlike Google, which gives hardware manufacturers license to modify Android, Apple controls both the hardware and the software. That gives Apple two advantages that matter to developers:
The result is a considerably less fragmented mobile ecosystem. As of Dec. 1, according to Apple, 96% of iPhone users were running either iOS 6 (22%) or iOS 7 (74%).
UPDATE: To facilitate apple-to-apple comparisons, reader marc (full name withheld) has eyeballed the data and created new versions of the charts in which the colors, the date range and the orientation are roughly the same. I've attached them below.
The rate of innovation on Android devices is so great that many buyers may feel alienated.
Google's Android platform is morphing at an amazing rate. So fast, in fact, that consumers may be hesitant to jump on board for fear that a new, better device may be right around the corner.
Another concern: Will the device you bought be able to handle the firmware updates that come out toward the end of MORESeth Weintraub - May 24, 2010 5:39 PM ET
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