Monday, November 20, 2017 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Operating System Update Rates

Dan Luu:

In May 2017, Google announced that there are over two billion active Android devices. If we look at the latest stats (the far right edge), we can see that nearly half of these devices are two years out of date. At this point, we should expect that there are more than one billion devices that are two years out of date! Given Android’s update model, we should expect approximately 0% of those devices to ever get updated to a modern version of Android.

[…]

For reference, iOS 11 was released two months ago and it now has just under 50% iOS marketshare despite November’s numbers coming before the release of the iPhone X (this is compared to < 1% marketshare for the latest Android version, which was released in August). It’s overwhelmingly likely that, by the start of next year, iOS 11 will have more than 50% marketshare and there’s an outside chance that it will have 75% marketshare, i.e., it’s likely that the corresponding plot for iOS would have the 50%-ile (red) line in the second plot at age = 0 and it’s not implausible that the 75%-ile (orange) line would sometimes dip down to 0. As is the case with Android, there are some older devices that stubbornly refuse to update; iOS 9.3, released a bit over two years ago, sits at just a bit above 5% marketshare. This means that, in the iOS version of the plot, it’s plausible that we’d see the corresponding 99%-ile (green) line in the second plot at a bit over two years (half of what we see for the Android plot).

Dan Luu:

This is the most common😡response to this which is😂because I literally wrote this while talking to someone who recently quit the Android team because of how painful the Android update model is and I also link to a PhD thesis which shows that play store updates aren’t sufficient.

Matt Birchler:

I get that Android has different incentives than iOS, but there are more active devices out there using a version of Android that came out to compete with iOS 4 than there are on Oreo.

Adam C. Engst:

If you’re running macOS 10.12 Sierra or earlier, and do not want to upgrade to 10.13 High Sierra right now, be careful because Apple has started pushing High Sierra to older Macs and making it easy to upgrade inadvertently. In short, if you get a macOS notification asking you to install High Sierra, click the Details button to launch the App Store app, and then quit it.

[…]

Apple is clearly trying to move macOS in the direction of iOS, where upgrades are difficult to avoid. However, macOS is a much more complex environment and one that’s usually more important to people’s livelihoods, so we recommend approaching upgrades carefully. Presenting people with a one-click install that offers no chance to back up first and that will take hours of time prioritizes ease of use over doing what’s best for the user, and that’s a dangerous tradeoff.

Stephen Hackett (Hacker News):

I don’t know if this is what the whispers about forced upgrades was about or not. I really don’t want Apple to get even more aggressive about this.

Update (2017-11-20): Yalım K. Gerg:

What I also despise is that Apple tricks people into upgrading to ios 11. When the phone prompts you there is not an option for No, only Later. Then it asks for your password to upgrade overnight. The No is hidden down at the bottom in small fonts. Many regular people fall for it

Update (2017-11-27): James Thomson:

Because of a bug on 10.8, I spent the morning looking at stats for PCalc usage over the last two months. Nothing too surprising, although High Sierra lagging a bit in adoption.

2 Comments

Didn't Microsoft do a famously disastrous forced upgrade with a Windows version recently? Surely Apple must have been paying attention to how that went.

Dan Luu

For reference, iOS 11 was released two months ago and it now has just under 50% iOS marketshare despite November’s numbers coming before the release of the iPhone X (this is compared to < 1% marketshare for the latest Android version, which was released in August). It’s overwhelmingly likely that, by the start of next year, iOS 11 will have more than 50% marketshare and there’s an outside chance that it will have 75% marketshare, i.e., it’s likely that the corresponding plot for iOS would have the 50%-ile (red) line in the second plot at age = 0 and it’s not implausible that the 75%-ile (orange) line would sometimes dip down to 0. As is the case with Android, there are some older devices that stubbornly refuse to update; iOS 9.3, released a bit over two years ago, sits at just a bit above 5% marketshare. This means that, in the iOS version of the plot, it’s plausible that we’d see the corresponding 99%-ile (green) line in the second plot at a bit over two years (half of what we see for the Android plot).

Okay, Dan Luu is a brilliant guy, way above my level, but I still don't 100% agree with this argument. The narrative is still framed from a very traditionalist, Apple centric view of updates. I would argue there is a problem with Android updates, but it has little to do with OS updates. I could not care less about OS updates. Well, not if the only reason is just to say "look, shiniest and newest." When I used iOS devices, occasionally newer versions of system software would slow down the devices. To a notable extent. iOS 4 on my 2nd gen iPod touch was a disaster and to be fair, on the Android side, the 2012 Nexus 7 with Lollipop was likewise "not great" to say the least. Those are my most painful reminders of the problem, but there are other examples.

Look, on iOS you pretty much have to get an OS update to get a security patch, maybe the occasional app update from the iOS app store. Android is different, it seems to update primarily in four ways, as far as security (None of them are mutually exclusive):
1. Whole OS update (Nougat to Oreo or a point release like 7 to 7.1)
2. Google Play Services (which only applies to devices with Google Play of course)
3. App updates via direct APK or app store (E.g. Google Play, Amazon, etc.)
4. Separate security updates.

Some examples:
1. I have a Fire Phone as one of my many Android devices. Fire OS on that device is long since abandoned by Amazon which leaves the device is a state of perpetual Kit Kat existence (Android 4.4). Even worse, I have rooted the device, but a locked boot loader means I can only install Kit Kat based ROMs. Here's the twist, the Kit Kat based ROM I ended up installing has up to date Android apps via Google Play, with an up to date version of Google Play Services, and I have an "Android security patch level" of October 1, 2017. I bet there's a November update too, but I haven't checked yet.

2. I have an LG G Stylo, T-Mobile branded, will likely never get an OS update past the current version of Marshmallow (Android 6.0). However, I do receive security patches separately. The problem? My last update was in May and I'm stuck on a patch level of 2017-03-01. Look, I'm fine with a three month roll up, which is what some companies end up shipping, but I'm at 9 months without patches here. Again, I don't care there's no Nougat or Oreo update, I simply want security patches and a stable system. The former needs work on this device, but the latter is fine.

3. I have three family members with a Blue R1 HD (Amazon ad supported model). While these $60 phones will likely not receive an OS update, they have received security patches every few months. Current patch level is August 5, 2017, fingers crossed they will receive a few more security roll ups here on out. If not, yes, it is disappointing. Yes, monthly would be idea....

Android needs work, but the basics are pretty solid. Apple has to provide these huge OS updates to deliver security updates, which is arguably a flaw, even if Apple's actual commitment to patching is commendable. I want the best of both worlds frankly. I want a guarantee of security updates for maybe two years or so and I want my security updates decoupled from OS updates.

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