The iOS/Android debate often devolves into a basic analysis of market share. This makes sense given that market share analytics provide a simple and easy-to-digest manner with which to compare the two competing platforms.
But market share only tells one part of the story. In detailing the strength and popularity of each platform, there are a number of other metrics to consider. One such metric is the ability to run updated versions of an OS on older hardware models. In this regard, iOS runs circles around Android.
The following chart was put together by Fidlee and demonstrates how iOS continues to support iPhone models that were released a number of years ago. In stark contrast, many current Android devices ship with iterations of Android that, at the time of sale, were already a generation behind the current version.
Even more jarring is that some Android models, just two years after their initial release, are two major versions of Android behind. Three years out, you'd be hard-pressed to find an Android device that isn't three or four major versions of Android behind.
Things look a whole lot different on the iPhone side of the equation. An iPhone 3GS for example, a device which first launched in June of 2009, was compatible with all iOS updates up until Apple released iOS 7 this past summer. The takeaway is that when you purchase an iPhone, you can be confident that you will be able to take advantage of future iOS features and enhancements many years down the line. The value proposition provided by the iPhone in this aspect is simply unmatched by Android.
Fidlee also provides some interesting data points:
Zero of the 16 devices were discontinued less than or equal to an year after release.
Six out of 16 devices never ran a current version of Android.
Four out of 16 devices stopped getting any updates less than an year after release.
None of the 12 devices received updates for two years after release (excluding the top four devices, which are scheduled to receive future updates).
All 15 devices (except the Nexus 4, which still has 11 months left for completion of two years from release date) were at least one major version behind within their two-year contract period.
13 out of 15 devices were at least two major versions behind within their two-year contract period.
Eight out of 16 devices were at least two major versions behind within one year of their contract period. The Galaxy Nexus was on the current version of Android for the longest duration of one year and 10 months.
Indeed, the very thing that makes Android attractive to some users -- options, options and more options -- is what also makes getting users on the latest and greatest version of Android a daunting, if not impossible, task. Pesky carriers and older hardware that sometimes isn't up to snuff remain lingering problems.
Apple, meanwhile, has an unparalleled ability to quickly get the majority of its users onto the most recent version of iOS. With iOS 7, for instance, analytics firms found that the adoption rate for Apple's revamped mobile OS had already crossed 50 percent by September.
A similar iOS/Android support chart was compiled back in October of 2011 and it doesn't seem like all that much has changed.