Android has gotten noticeably better with regards to OS updates over the past couple of years thanks to Google's Project Treble push, which does separate OEM modifications from the original AOSP code in a certain way, but let's not go too much technical. Instead, we should focus on each Android release and how important those are for software testing.
Android versions and software testing
Each new Android release adds a new set of APIs and lots of other under the hood changes alongside. Thus, an application, in its development cycle, has to have baked in support for multiple API levels, aka Android versions. This may not be a simple task to do because numerous issues may occur on devices running, for example, on Android 6.0 Marshmallow, but not on ones running 9 Pie. Additionally, OEMs tend to provide their own tweaks on top of the barebones Android software, which may, sometimes, unintentionally break some of those APIs and other necessary functionalities.
The newest official Android release is Android 9 Pie, with Android Q on the horizon. Pie added support for display cutouts and multiple cameras, improved notifications and more. Meanwhile, the upcoming Q update, which may have the '10' moniker, brings graphics rendering enhancements like Vulkan 1.1 and Kotlin, plus NDK improvements geared towards developers. The list goes on, but you get the picture.
Here are some of the most popular Android versions.
- 2.3.3 - 2.3.7 - Gingerbread (API 9 - 10)
- 4.0.3 - 4.0.4 - Ice Cream Sandwich (API 14 - 15)
- 4.1.x - 4.3.1 - Jelly Bean (API 16 - 18)
- 4.4.x - KitKat (API 19 - 20)
- 5.0 - 5.1.x - Lollipop (API 21 - 22)
- 6.0 - 6.0.1 - Marshmallow (API 23)
- 7.0 - 7.1.x - Nougat (API 24 - 25)
- 8.0 - 8.1 - Oreo (API 26 - 27)
- 9 - Pie (API 28)
- 10 - Android 10 (API 29)
Just from a software standpoint, applications have to be compatible with dozens of different OS iterations running on a large scale of devices, so doing thorough on-device testing is extremely crucial, and beneficial. Otherwise, as we said already, bugs may ruin the user experience and bad reviews on the Google Play Store will be an indication of that.
Source: Android Developers