As we close 2011 and head into 2012, we're still running into the same confused messaging, empty promises, and delayed announcements that have plagued Android OS updates from the beginning. This means that for all intents and purposes, the Google Android Update Alliance is already dead.
The whole OS update process is what concerns me most about Android and what I feel leaves a big opening for iOS and Windows Phone to innovate and push out new features to users. Unfortunately, it does not look like Google has adequately addressed this issue or sees it as a concern.
iOS is already beta testing iOS 5.1 and has caught up to Android with over the air updates in iOS 5.0. Not having to go through multiple channels of approval means they can push out the update in a very timely and coordinated fashion.
For developers fragmentation of operating system versions "out in the wild":http://developer.android.com/resources/dashboard/platform-versions.html makes a big difference. With the huge variance, many Android apps and developers target Android version 2.0+ when writing their apps. In comparison, many iOS developers target iOS 4.0+ which also supports ARC (without weak references).
So the issue is, if Android comes out with new features or API's in newer versions as they have with Android 4.0, then older phones can't utilize those new features or API's. And because of fragmentation, developers are hesitant to target applications with a newer version of the operating system because of the smaller audience that could potentially download their application. The same theory applied to Honeycomb tablets where the market penetration was quite low and has led to fewer apps targeting Honeycomb tablets.
Fragmentation of software versions means lots of testing to see what does and does not break across different versions.
I simple over the air update policy means iOS can put out Siri in beta form and gather lots of speech data and improve a lot on the back end. They can also gather data on how Siri is being used (ways they never thought of) and improve on that.
From a security perspective it means a lot too. Updates usually contain a lot of security updates so imagine if your web browser never received updates. You would be a lot more susceptible to exploits.