December 12, 2013, 12:08 PM

Apple iOS is consistent while Android is deeply fragmented

74% of iOS mobile device users are running iOS 7, easing the app development process for retailers. Android, on the other hand, is a mishmash of ice cream sandwiches, jelly beans and KitKats.

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Apple Inc. and Google Inc. have released up-to-date figures on the adoption of their industry-dominating mobile operating systems, detailing the percentage of users on different versions of the platforms. The tech giants paint two very different pictures: one consistent and easy, the other messy and difficult.

The latest version of Apple’s mobile platform is iOS 7, which debuted in September 2013. According to Apple, 74% of iPhone, iPad, iPad Mini and iPod Touch users are running iOS 7, 22% iOS 6 and 4% earlier versions.

The latest version of Google’s mobile platform is Android 4.4, dubbed KitKat, which debuted in November 2013. According to Google, only 1.1% of Android smartphone and tablet users are running Android 4.4. The version of Android known as Jelly Bean, which includes versions 4.1 through 4.3, claims the largest group of users: Android 4.3 4.2%, Android 4.2.x 12.9% and 4.1.x 37.4%. Ice Cream Sandwich, Android 4.0.x, is run by 18.6% of Android device users; Honeycomb, Android 3.2, 0.1%; Gingerbread, Android 2.3.x, 24.1%; and Froyo, Android 2.2, 1.6%. Making matters even more complicated for Android, many manufacturers of Android smartphones and tablets customize the versions of Android they adopt.

The clear takeaway from this new data from Apple and Google is that it’s far less complicated to optimize mobile sites and apps for Apple devices than it is for Android devices. When it comes to retailers creating mobile commerce sites and apps, the mass shift to iOS 7 is the icing on the cake for Apple, as retailers, research firms and m-commerce technology vendors report that Apple mobile device users shop and buy far more often than Android mobile device users. For example, last month, 72.3% of sales via smartphone generated by the U.S. and U.K. affiliate networks of Affiliate Window occurred on iPhones, 24.5% on Android phones and 3.2% on other phones, while an overwhelming 86.2% of sales via tablet occurred on iPads, 11.8% on Android tablets and 2.0% on other tablets, Affiliate Window reports.

But Android does have a sizable lead over Apple when it comes to smartphone market share. In October 2013, 52.2% of smartphone owners used Android phones while 40.6% used iPhones, web measurement firm comScore Inc. finds. As a result, even while Apple offers a far less fragmented mobile OS and users that engage in much more mobile commerce, retailers cannot ignore owners of Android mobile devices, many m-commerce experts say.

Consumers are embracing shopping on mobile devices and it’s in a retailer’s best interest to optimize for both Apple iOS and Android, maybe even for Windows Phone, too, says Tony Danova, an analyst at mobile technology research firm BI Intelligence whose specialties include mobile platforms.

“The sheer volume of Android devices out in the wild warrants equal attention from retailers looking to expand their mobile presence,” Danova says. “While very few Android devices are on the latest version, in recent years the adoption time after a new version is launched has quickened.”

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