At the macro level Android’s fragmentation is a problem. It sees an operating system that has less than 2 percent of devices running the latest version (Android 4.1 Jelly Bean), and over 72 percent of devices running a version of Android at or over two-years old. To offer even further perspective, iOS 6 is already on over 60 percent of iPhones in the U.S., after being available for only two weeks; with Ice Cream Sandwich or higher (Android 4.0, 4.1) only available on a quarter of smartphones after nearly year (three months for Jelly Bean 4.1).
At the micro level Android has a solution in their Nexus line of devices. This offers immediate updates, prevention of fragmentation (don’t tell Verizon Galaxy Nexus owners), and choice at the individual consumer level. Then weigh this with one of Apple’s unspoken problems: its planned obsolescence. It sees certain iPhone models, still technically capable, neglecting to receive the whole iOS package of updates.
For instance, iPhone 4 owners fail to receive Siri, turn-by-turn navigation, flyover, Facetime over cellular networks, and others, while still receiving iOS 6. This is not a choice centered around the limitations of the device, but rather the incentive to sell new ones. Weigh this against Nexus S owners, a device that shipped two months after the iPhone 4, which still received Jelly Bean and all of its associated features.
With its Nexus brand, Google is willing to give you more, while it battles its independent OEM’s fighting to get you to move from device-to-device. So because Google really doesn’t have a horse in the race, from a hardware perspective, they can focus on user experience within their stock Android platform. Apple has to worry about selling devices while also pushing software – so naturally its incentives are different.
Ultimately Android’s fragmentation hurts more consumers, but iOS’s planned obsolescence is unavoidable. Independent of preference (iOS vs. Android), Nexus devices are clearly more sustainable than iOS ones – you just have to know what to look for. Of course, Nexus devices are not the majority, with Android’s strength being its differentiation, and iOS’s its consistency. So like always, the decision will ultimately be left up to you.