Google is ashamed of Android Pie's distribution stats

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Google is ashamed of disclosing Android distribution numbers
Not too long ago, tech journalists, bloggers, devoted fans, and most importantly, hard-working developers could all visit Android's distribution dashboard and easily see what the breakdown of Android versions was for the past month.  The information was succinct, neatly organized by either Android versions and APIs, and released each month. Aside from making headlines and giving Android fans food for thought, this tool was of immense help to small-time indie developers who find this data very useful when it comes to deciding which Android APIs to target, and that's rather important if you simply don't have the large budgets and data insights of the larger corporate app developers. 

Problem is, Google stopped updating the Android distribution dashboard late last year.

What happened to Android distribution stats?

From what we can tell, the last time Google updated the stats was back on October 26, 2018. That was 158 days ago, resulting in more than 5 months of no official information on the Android distribution stats. Has Android Pie been adopted by more than 4% of all Android devices? Has Nougat overtaken Marshmallow as the most widely-spread version of the OS? We wouldn't know, as the horse's mouth is dry.

Surely, there has to be a piece of information to give us an idea why the stats haven't been updated for so long, right? Of course! Google conveniently points out that, you see, there's an "update coming soon: data feed under maintenance". That's a pretty legit reason for a small delay of, say, a couple of weeks, but this maintenance message has been idly sitting there since December, with the page itself being last updated on December 11. Yep, I checked.

This is quite a lengthy delay, especially for one of the largest tech companies around the globe, which has a market cap of over $830 billion at the time of writing. For the life of me, I can't believe that Google, a company capable of doing spectacular things when it puts its heart to it, doesn't have the manpower or technical capabilities to fix a simple Android distribution table. I can't believe that all of the brainiacs working at the Android team are incapable of getting this nearly six-month maintenance done. Sounds like the kind of job that interns would be tasked with during their second month with the company, but no,

Is Project Treble a failure? How many Pixels have been sold?

It feels as if Google has either put this intriguing statistic on the back burner, deeming it a very low priority or is simply no longer willing to reveal these stats. What could these reasons be?

For one, Google is essentially preventing us from having any insights on Android Pie's early adoption. Once the distribution table gets updated (and it most likely will be), Pie will probably be comfortably sitting at the 4-5% mark as most Android manufacturers have already updated many of their devices to the latest official version. However, the adoption rate right after the release of Android Pie would have given us precious data on how well Google's Project Treble is doing. As you probably remember, Project Treble promised way faster software updates for non-Pixel Android phones by modularizing code and making it easier for OEMs to push updates. In other words, Project Treble wanted to cripple Android fragmentation. 

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However, by not releasing Android distribution stats, Google is keeping Project Treble tucked in the closet and not letting it come out until it's old enough to be in pre-school. Lame!

Another somewhat unlikely reason forGoogle's unwillingness to fix its distribution stats tool might be business competition. Now that Google really wants to be a hardware company like Apple and Samsung (which it is hardly at the moment), it might be not sharing Android distribution stats to... prevent its competitors and business analysts from guesstimating how many Pixel phones have been sold. A long shot, but not entirely impossible. It won't be a precedent either - Apple, for example, no longer shares sales numbers for all of its products. 

Would anything change?

However, think of the developers, the backbone of Android. These stats might not be a terribly-vital part of the app development process, but definitely come useful when you're simply lacking the budget of the big boys on the scene.  

Perhaps a little transparency on Google's side would have been enough to clear the air and diminish this issue. It's too late now and it would get a bit awkward, but hopefully this would be addressed at the upcoming Google I/O developer summit. After all, it's a developer-centric event and this data is important for developers, so... fingers crossed... maybe? 

After all, Android Q is already here as an official beta, and the final version is due out sometime in August, so we deserve to know how Android Pie is doing, right?

What do regular Joes think?

Of course, I'm hardly the first to notice the lack of Android distribution stats news in the past few months. A few threads over at the r/AndroidDev subreddit, for example, analyzed the lengthy maintenance and generally shared my perplexity as to why would Google simply cease sharing information. Here follow my favorite outtakes:

"Either they don't care about it or they are waiting until decent percentage of phones come to android P so they can say project treble is a huge success, " says redman1037. erikivy jokingly says, "Perhaps they will update it when the numbers change", which is a rather sick burn. Says kaszak696, "It's a Google service, so it'll probably stay like that for 3 years and then it's gonna get cancelled." This hits very close to home, especially in the wake of the recent demise of both Inbox and Google+.

We reached out to Google, but the company did not comment on the topic at hand, leaving the doors of speculation wide open.

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