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Only a few Android users will get a taste of Google’s Nougat operating system today

The official release of Android Nougat is in stark contrast to how Apple's iPhone handles updates.

Google Hosts Its Annual I/O Developers Conference Justin Sullivan / Getty

Today Google is officially releasing its latest Android version, dubbed Nougat.

But because of the way Android works, only a relatively small group of Android owners will get a taste of it.

The over-the-air release is coming to the latest Nexus devices, which represent a small slice of the diffuse Android hardware world. By contrast, millions and millions of iPhone owners will have access to iOS 10 as soon as Apple releases it, likely toward the end of next month.

Google is well aware of this problem. It is taking several stabs at Android fragmentation, including the very early developer preview of the latest software, which comes with new features like multi-window display and a boatload of emojis.

But Google does not control how Nougat spreads to the bulk of Android devices. The latest Samsung Galaxy phones — and those from Sony, HTC, LG and others — will have to wait for the phone makers to issue an update and carriers to approve it.

And, of course, there will be a new crop of phones that come with Android Nougat pre-installed. LG said earlier this month that its upcoming v20 smartphone will be the first non-Google phone to come with Nougat out of the box, which Google confirmed on Monday.

Additional reporting by Mark Bergen.

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