Irony, thy name is Google Now. Mountain View’s answer to Siri has been gracing Jelly Bean devices since last year, and today, the iOS app for Google Now has entered the stadium. Some say it’s as good as Siri, others say it’s even better. But for many Android users running older versions of the OS, they have no idea which is true because they still can’t use it.
Google Now runs on Jelly Bean, or Android 4.2. But according to Google’s statistics, only one out of four Android devices run Jelly Bean. Much more common is 2-year-old Gingerbread (Android 2.3). In fact, since it accounts for 39 percent of all Androids, it’s the most common version on this platform.
In other words, as of today, more iOS users may have access to Google Now than Android users.
Why are so many people ambling along with old software? Two words — custom skins. Whenever a new version of Android comes along, companies have to tweak their custom interfaces and skins, to make sure everything still works. For major updates, they might even add new elements or features on top of the OS, which means they can’t simply push updates out as soon as they get them.
Sure, customized skins can be cool — HTC’s might be one of our favorites — but when it comes to software update path, every would-be Android user needs to take a hard look at whether potential delays are worth that spiffy interface. My guess is that, today, stock Android may have just gotten more attractive to a lot more users.
Meanwhile, let’s spare a little empathy for our Gingerbread friends. It can’t be easy peering through the gates, eyeing all the iOS users playing ball with Google Now while they themselves are still shut out of the playground.