Google brings Ice Cream Sandwich to market … slowly

By releasing Android 4 first on Nexus, Google gets the OS into the hands of early adopters--such as my Android-loving self--who then in essence test the bejesus out of the thing. Bugs are reported. Issues are discovered. The inevitable updates begin to roll out.

Samsung Galaxy Nexus: The first, and so far only, Android to run Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4).
Samsung Galaxy Nexus: The first, and so far only, Android to run Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4).

Quick! What’s the opposite of hasty? Or rushed? When it comes to bringing its nextgen OS to market, Google is doing anything but. Slowly is more like it. Or, thanks to thesaurus.com, how about: leisurely, sluggishly, drowsily. Ok, scratch that last one. According to its own data, Ice Cream Sandwich (or Android 4.0, as the chronologically inclined might prefer to call it) holds only 0.6% of the market for Android devices.

Imperceptible by design

This, of course, is largely by choice. Only one device is available to consumers that runs ICS. And by all accounts the Samsung Galaxy Nexus (review) is impressing – at least the early adopters that is. Whether it’s burning up the sales charts or not, we won’t know until Google releases official numbers. Some estimate unit sales of 700,000 for the flagship smartphone.

In 2012 ICS will land on more devices. Expect a firestorm of announcements at CES in 2012 next week. Several vendors including Lenovo and Samsung have already announced upgrade plans for existing devices that running the older Android 2.x Gingerbread or Android 3.x Honeycomb variants.

Why the glacial pace?

I’m guessing it’s because Google want to get it right.

A lot is riding on ICS. This is the OS that is going to bridge tablets and smartphones, and possibly reduce the oft-discussed “fragmentation”.

Android Distribution (or "fragmentation"?). Source: Google.

By releasing it first on Nexus, Google gets it into the hands of early adopters–such as my Android-loving self–who then in essence test the bejesus out of the thing. Bugs are reported. Issues are discovered. The inevitable updates begin to roll out (now at 4.0.3 there have been three to date). Because we, the must-have-it-right-away geekset, are used to playing with beta or 1.0 products we know the deal. So it’s no biggie to Google or us, and massive negativity in the marketplace is avoided (though, the battery and some reception issues to make the rounds, but quickly abated). Google promptly squashes the major bugs, and as ICS begins to hit the masses across the hundreds of devices in Q1 2012, mainstream buyers will experience a smoother ride.

Google has done this before. Like with Gmail; first they lower expectation–“oh, it’s only in beta”–before eventually over delivering on a supreme user experience.

Another reason is that OEMs need time to test and update their product lines. Unlike Apple’s closed (“integrated”) approach, Google’s (relatively) open model means there are several vendors manufacturing Android devices.

The real shocking number, however, has to do with Honeycomb. Bad news bears, indeed. At just 3.3% share it’s an unmitigated bomb. Perhaps it’s not that surprising really, given the lack of consumer acceptance of anything but an Apple iPad tablet. Which might help explain why Google is taking its sweet time getting its new baby to market.

So when you see the 0.6% market share floating around today related to Android 4, keep in mind it’s by design. It’s merely the calm before the storm.

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  • everygamer

    Ah, its been just over 30 days since the Galaxy Nexus was released as the first ICS phone. They then added the Nexus S II to the list. Traditionally android updates can take 2 to 3 months before the market share spikes. This is because Google releases the stable release, then each manufacturer has to roll it out to its individual phones. 

    If you knew anything about this market, you would have realized that this post is pretty worthless. Gingerbread took close to 6 months before its market share passed Froyo.

    Also, Honeycomb is not more than 3% because it is only on tablets. There are about 30-40 phones running different versions of android and they are activating 500,000 units a day. There are about 6 to 7 android tablets running honeycomb and that market goes back to last March when the original Xoom was released (so less than 1 year). And the Xoom was a flop because Verizon forced a data plan with it (Apple sells the vast majority of iPads as wifi only too). So most estimates state that Google has activated between 220 and 230 million android devices. If we do the math that means that android tablet sales are around 6 to 7 million units. Now the iPad way out sells this, but then again the iPhone used to out sell android phones and no longer does, but it took about 2 years before that happend, it has been less than 1 year since android tablets with honeycomb started showing up.

    Lastly, if we go back to total activation’s that would mean in less than 30 days more than 2 million devices have been sold running ICS (Galaxy Nexus, Nexus II, Asus Transformer Prime).

    So, when you post information, maybe a little analysis and knowledge of the history of the market would be good. ICS will likely be the dominant android OS by June as Motorola/HTC/Samsung roll it out to existing handsets.

  • everygamer

    One other note, when Gingerbread was released, they did the same thing, they released it on a few new phones at first. Not a big rush, this is status quo for how the manufacturers roll out new Google OS’s, once Google releases the new OS its mostly in the hands of the manufacturers to plan and distribute not Google.