Is Android fragmented? Yeah, mostly

Is Android fragmented? Yeah, mostlyIf you skipped Mobot town on Thursday, you might’ve missed OpenSignalMaps’ shocking declaration that Android is – in many ways – a rather fragmented ecosystem. Tell us something we don’t know, man.

However, despite being completely innocuous, said news item yielded the craziest comment/rant of the week. Clearly someone hasn’t read Chill. The fug. Out.

I intended to reply at the time, but I a) was incredibly busy, and b) realised that the resulting rant could probably be spun into a balls-out feature, efficiently killing two broads with one stone. Huzzah!

The offending story was all very light-hearted and full of interesting stats and stuff. Essentially, OpenSignalMaps was saying: “Hey, look at all these different Android devices that downloaded our app over a six-month period.”

Now, the thing that really got Android developer yowanvista’s goat was my use of the word “fragmented” in the headline. In my defense, I was - quite clearly, I thought - quoting the OpenSignalMaps article, which uses the word several times throughout.

Similarly, if I were to scribble the headline: "Tim Cook: Windows Phone 7 sucks", that's me telling you that Tim Cook said Windows Phone 7 sucks. You see how that works?

Contrary to yowanvista’s belief, I’m not an Apple fanboy intent on taking down Google’s thriving OS via a 200-word news piece on fragmentation (a bit beyond even my, er, "talents"). Nor was I out to score cheap hits; if that were the case we’d relay every single bloody iPhone 5 rumour out there, and there are plenty of them. Yawn.

Nah, conspiracy theories aside, it’s simply what I hope is a semi-interesting news piece about the vast array of Android devices out there. Stats, stats, stats… blah, blah, blah… let's all laugh at the Hungarian tablet... everyone goes home happy.

Unless you’re a belligerent Android developer.

See, yowanvista’s beef is that “fragmentation” – to him, at least – occurs when apps are only compatible with certain devices. There could be, for example, a requirement for minimum resolution or Android version. That’s the way yowanvista defines fragmentation, because – in his own words – that’s what “Google Executives” told him.

Sorry, guy, but the Oxford Dictionary definition of fragmentation – regardless of what Schmidt or Cook say – is: “the process or state of breaking or being broken into fragments”.

Is Android fragmented? Yeah, mostlyThat’s why us writers (ok, bloggers) use fragmentation to describe the situation with all the different versions of Android. The latest figures from Android Developers suggest that – almost six months after it hit shelves – Ice Cream Sandwich appears on less than 5% of active devices, with 11 - count 'em - versions of Android in total. Regardless of which OS you’re rooting for, that figure ain’t so good.

Incidentally, it’s much like when we report that Windows Phone 7 has a tiny share of the smartphone market. That’s not an opinion, man, that’s a fact. Deal with it.

Now where was I? Ahh yes; those troublemakers at OpenSignalMaps. In The Many Faces of a Little Green Robot, they describe fragmentation as both a blessing (choice) and a curse (compatibility). This is coming from a company that provides a friggin’ Android app, so – again – there’s no bias there. Well, mostly.

And just to show that I’m not biased, I’m all in favour of Google’s rumoured tactic of bringing up to five developers on board for the next round of Nexus devices. It’d make perfect sense.

The theory is that the multi-manufacturer move would appease concerns about favouritism for Google’s Motorola, while – this is the relevant bit – ensuring that more devices are on board with Android Jelly Bean from day 1, thus reducing – wait for it, yowanvista – fragmentation.

Apologies for not including this 600-word disclaimer in the original news piece, but, y’know, most of our readers aren’t paranoid, Android-obsessed developers.

Rant over.

Read more about: Android

Add a comment

JanSt / MOD  May. 21, 2012 at 13:25

You iScoundrel. Have you no shame? It's differentiated not ...well, Eric Schmidt said so. So shut %&%£$@*&^%^*(*&^%$

Does it bl**dy matter what word one uses? It's not 'ideal'. There. Big developers that in the past developed standard-setting products like, e.g., SPB softwarehouse struggle with Android's, ahem, 'differentiation'. SPB Time works not even on half of current Android devices. Mobile Shell 3D is buggy as...bugs. Both work flawlessly on pretty much all old and new Symbian devices. Heck, both work on the Palm Treo 750v without hogging every last bit of RAM.

Talk talk talk... As if anything Schmidt says made sense. C'mon, gimme a break.
Nokia Developers Forum promised "numerous high-end GB+ Symbian devices" over a year ago... The 700 and 701 are nice little devices, but they are NOT high-end by any standard.
Even the 41MP (lol) PureView 808 is, camera aside, not exactly 'high-end'...
It's called PR. WHICH stands for Pretty Random. Schmidt would probably burn-out from
charred ethical subroutines if he had to tell an interviewer the correct time of day.

And another point: it's 2012, yownvista. A lot of people are quite clear as to whether they prefer iOS or Android or dream of a Brew revival. Talking about one OS's problems should be possible without bringing another one into the debate as a goat you can load up with blame and send in the desert. HTC are competing as much (if not MORE) with Samsung as with iOS.
And next time tell us what you developed for Android, or don't mention you're a dev at all.
Now coffee.

jaybear88  May. 21, 2012 at 15:57

Around 95% are at 2.2 froyo give or take one release, is it really that fragmented when you look at it like that? Especially, when you look at windows?

JanSt / MOD  May. 21, 2012 at 16:30

Good point, actually.
Though, with Android you have Versions, hardware differences, and operator branding to consider.

alexgraham  May. 21, 2012 at 16:31

So to paraphrase: ~5% of users keep their devices on the most up to date Android version (or have a brand new device), the remainder leave it on the devices shipped version and don't upgrade. Without an iTunes like desktop app poking them to upgrade, and many handset manufacturers using custom versions of Android, this isn't surprising

matt101101 / MOD  May. 21, 2012 at 22:01

I don't doubt that Android is fragmented, that's an undeniable fact. What I question, is whether that fragmentation is actually an issue? Most Android apps work on Froyo and above, that covers ~95% of all Android devices, not too bad if you ask me.

Also, do people care about having the latest OS version, really? I know I do, and many of Mobot's readers will, but do "normal" people actually care that much (or even know what versions of Android are, hell, even know what Android is)?


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