Ice Cream Sandwich – Do consumers care?

Google will eventually need to find a better way. If consumers are stoked about a new OS, like they are with the iPhone 4S and iOS 5.1 ("Siri, let's talk"), then it drives demand for the latest device that runs it.

Google Android
Ice Cream Sandiwch: Where are you?
Google Android
Ice Cream Sandiwch: Where are you?

Ice Cream Sandwich powers about 1.6% of all Android devices. That’s abysmal as far as OS launches is concerned. Keep in mind this is nearly five months after the ballyhooed launch. Slow, much? Hurry up and wait!

If you head to your local Verizon or AT&T store you’re going to have a tough time finding a smartphone that runs Google’s latest and greatest. The shotgun approach (Android has 11 major variations in the marketplace), also commonly referred to as “fragmentation,” demonstrates a key difference between Google and Apple. By contrast, the iPhone (and iPad) receives one annual update. Apple makes a huge deal out of the launch. Typically all handsets receive the upgrade on that day or soon after. With Android, however, the process is much stickier because of its open nature. Manufacturers such as Samsung, HTC and Motorola need to test new versions of Android across multiple devices. Will fragmentation eventually stymie Google’s hugely successful mobile OS?

But there’s a bigger question: Do consumers care about Ice Cream Sandwich or any other Android OS for that matter?

I do. I know that. I want ICS now, already. And if I can’t get it — say, for the Galaxy S2 — well, then, there’s a rom for that! When I look in the mirror, however, I see an outlier. We’re the hardcore few. For the mainstream, it doesn’t seem to matter much if their smartphone runs Froyo, Gingerbread or Ice Cream Sandwich. Case in point: 850,000 Androids are activated daily. What’s likely important for most is the ability to surf the web, chat, connect with friends on Facebook, and check email. The (Mr.) Roboto font, which you and I think is pretty slick, is the furthest thing from their minds.

Google will eventually need to find a better way. If consumers are stoked about a new OS, like they are with the iPhone 4S and iOS 5.1 (“Siri, let’s talk”), then it drives demand for the latest device that runs it. We’re trained to upgrade every year. Upgrade or die. With Android, the confusion lies in: (1) the massive number of look-alike devices on the market (leading many to create horrible overlays like Samsung’s Touchwiz which obfuscates Google’s best intentions); (2) the perplexing amount of OS versions, and little understanding of why or what is different about each of them; and (3) a release cycle that is both frenetic and mysterious.

Mainstream USA may not care about Ice Cream Sandwich. But I wonder, does it really matter?

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  • Jerry

    You write that 85,000 are activated daily. I think it’s 850,000.

    • Thanks for the catch. You’re right: Approx. 850,000 Android devices are activated every single day. A mind-boggling number isn’t it?! I wonder where all these smartphone users are coming from… when will the first Verizon (or Apple) store open on Mars?

  • dukeinlondon

    Absolutely right about the missed opportunity of a coordinated lauch from Google and manufacturers but also about the fact that most buyers don’t even know there are different versions.

    It’s 2 different market segments but it is the phone manufacturers that should do the coordinated OS launch. The handset sale boost is for them.

    As for Google, they only cares about the number of connected devices, for there might be x different versions, they all connect to the mother ship.

    • I like that “that all connect to the mother ship.” Well said. 

      Android phone -> Google Account -> Google Apps / Search -> Ads -> $$$$$

  • Josefd8

    It does really matter to
    programmers and developers. Is discouraging to make and app that
    should run perfectly on different OS versions (not to mention the
    different hardware and skins among the hundreds android devices out
    there). The process of bug fixing, maintenance and upgrade could get
    really annoying, and cause to developers to leave the platform, who,
    at the end, are the ones how keep it alive. The final costumer will
    eventually notice this when in the number of available quality apps.

    I’m planing to get a
    Galaxy nexus device so I can stop worrying about updates, even if it
    will be surpassed very soon by the next generation of android
    devices, the possibility to count with direct support from Google, on
    time OS upgrades, and better software/hardware integration really
    worth the try.

    • Good points. If it negatively impacts devs, it will eventually impact consumers too. I’ve been seeing more articles, especially over the past two weeks (here’s another:, about how challenging it is to maintain code for multiple iterations of Android devices. ICS is supposed to be a step towards fixing that. I wonder if Google will make Motorola their new Nexus maker?