Not only are you contending with frequently released operating systems and versions, the back log of versions you need to support isn’t shrinking as quickly as most developers would probably like. Just how old is some of the software people are still clinging to? Let’s look at some numbers.
The old standby browser, Internet Explorer, is famous for having users who aren’t the quickest to update. Despite repeated rumors of its demise, IE6 is still kicking ever so slightly (with less than 1% of IE market share), according to stats from W3Schools. Internet Explorer’s market share is mostly spread across versions 8-10, though IE 10 hasn’t quite caught up to the others. So, if you want to cover the entire fragmentation of Internet Explorer, you need to test on five different versions.
In the mobile world things aren’t any better. We’re up to the seventh major version of the Android operating systems (with several sub-versions mixed in). If developers want to support all versions with a sizable market share, they need to account for Gingerbread, Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean – all of which have more than 25% of the Android distribution. While it pales in comparison to the big players, Froyo still accounts for nearly 4% and even Eclair has almost 2%. Total: 3 major versions that definitely need support and 2 older versions that should possibly be considered (location and popular device manufacturer of your target market will be a major deciding factor).
iOS is less forth coming with their distribution stats but David Smith took a look at the users of his Audiobook app to give people a general idea of what overall version distribution might look like.
On all mobile platforms (iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch) users are overwhelmingly using OS versions 6+ (more than 80% of users). Step down a major version and you reach another 10%. Anything lower than OS 5 is pretty nominal and developers like David have stopped supporting these versions (which each grab 1-2%).
Audiobooks no longer supports iOS versions prior to 4.3.0. The population below these limits was below 4% when support was dropped. Residual usage will occur at these OS versions but no new customers are being added.
Now for the kicker. Windows XP was released 12 years ago and is still in use … by a lot of people. From CNET:
Microsoft’s XP operating system is still used on more than a third of the installations out there, according to figures from Net Applications. Is it really still that popular? …
On Friday, figures from Net Applications showed XP with a robust 37.74 percent of all Windows and Mac OS installations worldwide, down only slightly from 38.31 percent in April.
It’d be difficult to support all past versions of software and the hope is that if enough developers stop supporting it eventually these holdouts will update. In the meantime it’s important to pay attention to the version distributions in your field (be it mobile, desktop or web) and support as many versions that have significant users.
As with all data, don’t take these stats blindly. Do a little digging to figure out which versions are most important to your user base and be sure to develop and test for those. If you’re having trouble achieving test coverage in this fragmented world, crowdsourced testing can give you access to a lot more hardware/software combinations than you could ever house yourself. If you’re going to support multiple versions, do it right, don’t skip testing.