Google has recently published its Android distribution numbers for early August in which it revealed that KitKat has reached almost 21% market share of all Android phones now in use. While that’s an important milestone for Google, the road was rather long and tedious, as software updates still depend on OEMs and carriers. The same thing will likely happen with Android L adoption as well and Android fans looking to buy a new Android handset should check out Ars Technica’s massive guide on the state of the Android ecosystem and Android updates in the U.S. that reveals “who’s fast, who’s slow, and why.”
When it comes to unlocked flagship devices, the fastest handset to receive the latest KitKat builds was the Nexus 4 at 0.5 months, followed by the Moto X at a surprisingly fast 0.6 months. Other 2013 flagships took their time to get KitKat, although last year’s HTC One got it in about a month. Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy S4 received KitKat in 2.4 months and 3.7 months, respectively, while the LG G2 only got it after almost 5 months, as you can see in the following graph.
Things change when looking at subsidized devices, as carriers become involved in the update release schedule. Of the four U.S. carriers, Ars Technica found that T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint released KitKat for flagships it 3.3 months to 3.4 months after its release, with Verizon needing an extra month (image below). Comparatively, unlocked flagships received KitKat in about 2.4 months after release, as carriers were not a part of it.
In addition to comparing averages per carrier, the publication has also looked at the flagship handsets mentioned above and their respective carrier updates across carriers and found that, generally, Verizon is the latest one to release an update to Google’s latest Android version.
Because not all smartphone buyers go for flagship devices, the publication also looked at on-contract non-flagship handsets and revealed that Motorola’s phones were by far the fastest ones to receive KitKat, getting it about 2.4 months after its release. Comparatively, the HTC One Max on Verizon got its KitKat build after a 5.3-month wait, AT&T’s Optimus G Pro received it 6.7 months later, while the Galaxy S4 Mini on Verizon and Sprint got it 7.6 months later. Other non-flagships got it earlier, though.
Wait times further increase for those handset owners that have even older flagship handsets, with the KitKat update having arrived to such devices some 6 months to 8 months after being officially released.