Tony Bradley recently wrote an article on Forbes (6/21/13), wrote about how the iOS environment is more fragmented than generally stated. Whilst the journalist does point out that iOS is miles ahead of Android in the fragmentation department, he does make some assertions that I believe are incorrect.
Don’t get me wrong, iOS is far better than Android in this department. Three years after it first became available, Android “Gingerbread” is still the most widely used version of the Android OS. Android “Jellybean”, which came out a year ago, is in second place with about a third of the Android population, and Android “Ice Cream Sandwich”–launched in October of 2011–stumbles into third place with quarter of the Android devices.
When Apple releases a new version of iOS, it is immediately available to all supported devices. However, when a new Android version is launched, it has to go through multiple levels of testing and approval both with the various device manufacturers and the wireless services providers before lucky Android users finally get access to it. It took nearly eight months for Android “Jellybean” to be available for Verizon Galaxy Nexus users–and that’s a flagshipGoogle GOOG -0.49% device.
The writer then evaluates Apple's updating process, pointing to individual features that appear on certain devices and not others:
Siri–the semi-intelligent virtual assistant feature–has been available on the iPhone since the iPhone 4S launched with iOS 5. However, Siri did not work with the iPad until the iPad 3 came out with iOS 6, and it still doesn’t work with earlier generation iPhones, iPads, or iPod Touch devices.
That’s just one example of the subversive fragmentation within iOS. While almost every iOS device is running the latest and greatest version of Apple’s mobile OS, the available features and general experience vary widely from one device to the next. The highly-touted Passbook feature works with all iPhones and iPod Touch devices, but not on the iPad. The Panoramic picture feature of the camera app works with newer iPhones and iPod Touches, but not the iPad. (Forbes)
I don't believe there is evidence to show that Apple intentionally leaves out features from older devices, whilst including them on newer devices with sinister intentions, or to get people to buy the newer devices and toss out their older ones. Firstly, there is no other device manufacturer that provides updates to devices as far back as Apple. Even iPhone 4 works to an extent with iOS 7, with certain omissions. That to me, states that Apple is interested in providing services to their older-device customers, but choose to omit certain features for performance reasons. Siri requires a bit of processing power, and the journalist isn't privy to the technical requirements for Siri, to assert that it should work on the older iPhones and iPads.
Further more, the chart states that there is a huge proportion of users who are on the latest operating system, which does state that probably a lot of users are using newer devices, but in any case, taking features out for a moment, Apple will certainly patch security problems and bugs and push them down to the older devices. If you had an HTC Android for instance, you would still have to wait for carriers to receive the patch from Google, before they patch and shoot it off to their customers, assuming they are willing to provide updates to their customers.
So in summation, features may be fragmented amongst the various Apple iPhone devices, but not with general updates. Apple devices which devices are capable of getting which features, but they still maintain servicing of important updates across a wider range of older devices. I just felt that statement from Bradley needed some clarification.