50% Of Android Phones Now Running OS 2.1

Every few weeks, Google’s Android team updates their Platform Versions page that breaks down how many Android devices are running each version of the OS, based on data from the official Android Market.  Today’s it’s reached a big milestone: exactly 50% of Android phones are running 2.1, the latest officially released version of Android (2.2, or Froyo, went live for a small number of users last month, but has not officially been deployed on a wide scale).

This is a big change since early May, when only 32.4% of phones were running 2.1. Since then, a number of older phones have been upgraded, and the new Sprint Evo and some other newer devices run it as well.

So why does this matter? We’ve written pretty extensively about Android fragmentation, or the fact that there are many phones running older versions of the OS. The Android team contests the use of the word ‘fragmentation’, (one blog post actually calls the term useless because it has been used in so many ways).

But the fact remains that nearly 50% of phones are running older versions of the OS, and if a developer wants to make use of the latest Android features, they’ll leave a big chunk of the Android userbase behind.  Case in point: when the official Twitter application was released in April, it was only available to 27.3% of all Android users.

Still, the tide appears to be turning. OEMs are going to get faster with their updates, and Android upgrades will eventually start coming more slowly, which will hopefully result in fewer phones getting left behind.