Google is ashamed of Android Pie's distribution stats

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Google is ashamed of Android Pie's distribution stats
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. 

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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24 Comments

1. Cat97

Posts: 1978; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

One other reason is that their new Android versions don't really offer any new, useful features, just very small updates. So hardware vendors simply have no reason to increase their costs by re-skinning the new versions, re-testing, etc.

2. Phonehex

Posts: 768; Member since: Feb 16, 2016

Honestly , except for security updates...atleast I dont care much about android versions.

5. lyndon420

Posts: 6878; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

I stopped updating my OS when they removed the ability to record phone calls. Thumbs down for Google in that regard.

7. LBLBLB

Posts: 21; Member since: Oct 19, 2017

For some reason, it does work fine on Pixel 2, but only on some versions of Android (including Android Q beta 1) . I wonder if it will stay.

13. lyndon420

Posts: 6878; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

Until there's confirmation that the ability to record phone calls is doable on Pie...I'm staying put with my current OS version.

18. michaelny2001

Posts: 346; Member since: Aug 01, 2012

did you check the play store? do they have any apps to record phone calls? if not native, maybe some app

24. LBLBLB

Posts: 21; Member since: Oct 19, 2017

I think it worked on Pie too, at some point. Maybe even today. Do you have Pixel 2?

16. sgodsell

Posts: 7574; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

Umm, lyndon420 you do know that you can root your Android device, and add call recording yourself, right? This article title from Peter is ridiculous because why would Google be embarrassed of Android at all? Especially when 1.3 billion Android smartphones sell globally every year. To Apple's 200 million iPhones, or less this year.

23. LBLBLB

Posts: 21; Member since: Oct 19, 2017

Do you know of a way to add call recording via root? I know only of apps that might work when using root (like BoldBeast), but even if the device is rooted, it's not guaranteed that the recording will be fine (plus you need to play with a lot of settings to reach a conclusion whether it works or not)

3. bucknassty

Posts: 1373; Member since: Mar 24, 2017

not gonna lie... i dont think i'm a fan of the one ui update for samsung... oreo was much faster especially switching between two apps ... might be different for vanilla, but the whole swipe gestures aren't great... they even have an app from goodlock that performs better

15. Blazers

Posts: 764; Member since: Dec 05, 2011

You can disable the gesture based navigation in settings.

22. bucknassty

Posts: 1373; Member since: Mar 24, 2017

already have... the issue i have is when i do that quick switch with the recent button, there is a pause for gesture navigation for someone to actually click the app, I do not need this... i just want to double tap the recent button and it switch fast... each time i do it the UI is not responding fast enough and often will just stay on the recents app screen

4. Whitedot

Posts: 867; Member since: Sep 26, 2017

Google does f**k all to push manufacturers to keep OEM update software timely. Even providing partitions for that purpose is not enough.

6. D34ever

Posts: 236; Member since: Jul 14, 2018

Crocodile tears. Google doesn't give a damn about this issue.

9. TheOracle1

Posts: 2340; Member since: May 04, 2015

That's because it's not an issue when OEM's have their own skins that are generally two iterations ahead of stock android. Security patches are more important.

8. LBLBLB

Posts: 21; Member since: Oct 19, 2017

Created a new request to update this webpage on the issue tracker: issuetracker.google.com/issues/129730290

10. yalokiy

Posts: 1111; Member since: Aug 01, 2016

Android is open source, so it can't be compared to iOS stats regarding OS updates. How many manufacturers produce iOS based smartphones besides Apple? Zero. If you compare only phones produced by Google, then the picture is pretty much even with iOS.

17. Xijah

Posts: 8; Member since: Jan 16, 2019

Ye but thats the point android isn't just google, so yes we can compare to iOS..or I guess every phone can go make there own operating system..either way they are slack !

19. TheOracle1

Posts: 2340; Member since: May 04, 2015

Huh!? You don't know what you're talking about.

11. JMartin22

Posts: 2388; Member since: Apr 30, 2013

When you have something open-sourced and so heavily customized by OEMs and third party vendors, such as carriers, you shouldn’t expect parity or unification that you have with something like Apple, that’s closed sourced and controlled by one OEM exclusively. But that doesn’t make Android bad as a product. Even the older versions have plenty of functionality and features still not available or properly matched by the competition.

12. User123456789

Posts: 1150; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

Security is more important ... Some stuff added to android 7 , I had since 5

14. Budhainthemood

Posts: 103; Member since: Mar 03, 2018

Well, that’s Giggle, pardon Google and its so called OS. If you want cheap, that’s what you get:)))

20. tokuzumi

Posts: 1961; Member since: Aug 27, 2009

Android versions have become less and less important over the last few years. Most of the OS look and feel hasn't changed a lot since Nougat. There have been numerous behind the scene changes, though. But I'm more concerned with security updates. If that is up to date, I'm happy. I won't complain if my phone gets updated to the latest OS release (I was excited to see the OG Pixel is approved to get Q), but I'm more concerned with my phone working as designed.

21. Valdomero

Posts: 704; Member since: Nov 13, 2012

It's either lock everything and have total control or make it available everywhere and have no control at all.

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