For the first time ever, Gingerbread is running on the majority of Android devices in the wild. Google released its December fragmentation numbers for the Android ecosystem and Gingerbread 2.3-2.3.7 grew from 43.9% a month ago to 50.6%. Gingerbread also took a double-digit lead over Android 2.2 for the first time, with Froyo dropping 5.4% to 35.3% of all Android devices.
The consolidation of the Android ecosystem is accelerating, as we noted when Gingerbread made big gains to overtake Froyo for the first time last month. For the first time in many months, there are only two flavors in double digits, with Éclair dropping below 10% for the first time in 2011. Where is Ice Cream Sandwich?
The newest numbers from Google do not show any blip for Android 4.0.1, the release that is coming to the Galaxy Nexus later this month. What that tells us is that the number is too insignificant in the limited number of test devices and prototypes out there to make a dent in the rankings. So far, the only people that have Ice Cream Sandwich are those with very early access to the device and any hackers that took the open source code that Google released a couple of weeks ago and loaded it onto a device. The guess here is that the total number of people who have done either of those things is several thousand, at the most. With close to 200 million Android devices in the world, that is not a significant amount.
At this point, when it comes to a full year of fragmentation numbers and mobile device market share analysis, we are mostly just waiting for the yearly numbers to be produced. The Galaxy Nexus will drop this month in all likelihood and will sell reasonably though not as well as a device like the iPhone 4S. It will also compete with Samsung's other flagship Android phone, the Galaxy S II across carriers. The S II is shipping with Gingerbread and will likely be one of the first upgraded in early 2012 when the carriers and Samsung can agree to a rollout of ICS.
By the end of 2011, most of the early Android adopters that bought phones like the original Motorola Droid will likely have finished their original two-year carrier contracts. That likely has spurred the recent growth in Gingerbread devices and will be a boon for Ice Cream Sandwich early adopters as well.
On the lower end of the spectrum, it is likely that the actual numbers of people using Éclair 2.1 or before are neither upgrading nor buying new phones for the time being. Yes, many will be ditching older models for newer and fancier versions, but the persistence of those numbers in the monthly fragmentation posts shows that users are not doing that in droves. Rather, the Android ecosystem is growing so rapidly that lower version numbers go down by default as the pool grows.
Are you waiting for Ice Cream Sandwich before you buy a new Android device? Are considerations like 4G and NFC important to you before you buy a new device? Let us know in the comments.