It’s time for Android developers to take the Ice Cream Sandwich plunge

It’s time for Android developers to start creating their applications for Android version 4.0 or higher.

My own personal and experimental Android applications are seeing a bigger Android 4+ user base than anything else. Kana Mind, for example, supports Android 2.2+ but only 5% of its user base is using this version… 36% is on 2.3, 41% is on 4.0, 10% is on 4.1, and 3% is on 4.2. This is a stark contrast from 6 months ago, where 2.3 led with 64%, against 16% for 4.0.

And these are just active installed numbers. New installation numbers are even more optimistic: 72% of new installs are using Android 4+, while only 19% are using Android 2.3 (the rest is 2.2 and lower).

Here’s a chart of how Android version has fluctuated among its install base for the past 365 days:

Android version installation share for Kana Mind, Nov 27 2012

Now, of course this is anecdotal evidence, and a weak one at that – Kana Mind only has 2,411 active user installs. Globally, Android 2.3 still has wider user penetration overall (54% according to the Android dashboard). But it as anecdotal as it is, the evidence leads me to believe that people using older versions of Android are just not installing applications as much, or are part of a market that is not reached by my applications (e.g. India or China). Those are the feature phones of today: the cheap phones people get because they’re free or nearly free with a contract, but they don’t do much with them.

Statistics of the commercial applications I have access to are not as positive towards Android 4+, but they’re still doing better with recent version than what Google’s dashboard would lead me to believe (they are all applications with a long version history, though, so there might be some inertia in its audience).

Android version adoption will never be as fast as Apple’s iOS, that’s for sure. But for Android 4+, things are getting pretty good. If you’re creating an Android application today, unless you absolutely want to reach the largest audience, I’d say, go with Android 4. It will be a better application for the users, and development will be much, much easier (many├é┬áimportant APIs, widgets and features have been introduced since 2.3).