Is Fragmentation A Real Problem with Android? 86% of Developers Say Yes

Whether or not Google ever freely admits that Android fragmentation might actually be a problem with their mobile operating system, those developing for the platform aren’t shying away from the issue. According to a recent survey by Baird analyst William Powers, a whopping 86 percent of Android developers see the spread of Android OS versions on available devices as a hurdle to developing for the platform. In fact, 24 percent believe fragmentation is a “huge problem.”

Google may or may not have taken notice of the problem in deciding to limit access to the Android 3.0 Honeycomb to only a handful of manufacturing partners, but they walk a precarious line between open source and complete control of their finished product. The debate will surely rage on among users, developers, and the company heading up Android.

[via BGR]

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  • A noob

    I’m not entirely sure I understand the fragmentation trend. What exactly does it mean?

    • https://plus.google.com/102290060063255149992 Alek Tritt

      It’s a non-problem Steve Jobs made a up a few months ago to give Ifans something to dis Android with other than it’s “ugly.”
      What people don’t realize is that IOS is fragmented, too. They just hide it better.
      This is all part of being an open source project and Google is working on a fix, but of course, that is drawing criticism that it will no longer be open sourced.

      Solution: If you want the latest and greatest, root.

      • Brian

        You are right. apple tries to put all the devices with the same iOS version but leaves out features for older models so infact they are more difficult to understand. IMO

        • https://plus.google.com/102290060063255149992 Alek Tritt

          Yeah, upgrading my girlfriend’s 2nd generation iTouch is such a hassle because it never has any of the features promised, just for the sake of it running smoothly. Buying her an android was the best decision ever.

          • Top Gear

            Seriously? The second generation iPod touch, which came out in ’08 doesn’t run the same features as the 4th gen iPod touch, which was released 7 or so months ago, so iOS is fragmented?Seriously? That’s the logic you’re going to use?Also, an Android what? Phone? PMP? Tablet? Ebook reader?Not to mention your solution for fixing this supposed fragmentation problem was buying hardware and an OS with an even faster rate of updates and improvements that won’t be able to run on all the hardware, not to mention being reliant on the hardware company to some degree in whether or not you’ll receive any upgrades.Yeah, that makes sound logic……of the fanboy kind.

          • John

            Don’t you have an iPhone forum to be in? Trolling over here will get you nowhere.

            Also trying to deny the same ‘issues’ aren’t occurring with IOS makes YOU sound like a fanboy.

            The Android fragmentation issue from the casual user’s point of view is mostly a non-issue as most of the important apps work across all versions of Android. And most don’t update or even care to as long as their apps work.

            It’s the power users who gets their panties all in a bunch. Especially that ones that cheap out and buy a lower spec’d phone expecting to get the latest updates yesterday.

            As for the devs, the ones that actually develop anything worthwhile get their apps to work.

            And BTW I want and expect Android to update fast and to be available on many different devices and form factors – that’s beauty of it. When I want to be sold a boring-ass, behind the curve product who’s use is mainly dictated by one company, I’d buy an Apple product. Different strokes for different folks.

          • Top Gear

            I’m sorry, but they’re not the same issues. And no, a phone being released 2 or so years ago not running the latest features doesn’t count.

            And once again, go tell those Android devs there’s no fragmentation issue.

            The Android fragmentation issue from the casual user’s point of view is mostly a non-issue as most of the important apps work across all versions of Android. And most don’t update or even care to as long as their apps work.

            I’m glad to see you agree with me. :)

          • John

            I’m sorry but simply stating ‘it’s not the same issues’ doesn’t make your case any less pointless.

            Here’s a snippet from the Holy iPhone fanboy bible, Appleinsider:

            http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/10/06/22/inside_ios_4_missing_features_for_iphone_3g_users.html

            They even went as far as to compare what’s going on with IOS 4 on the 3g and Touch to Android.

            The fact is, most Android handsets with lower spec’d hardware gets updates late or never because it is thought (which I don’t necessarily agree with) that they are not powerful enough to take advantage of the newer features. Looks like the SAME thing is happening in the IOS world.

            As for different screen sizes, well several devs have posted on the forums that’s it very easy to modify their apps for different size screens. I guess those devs are lying. Or maybe some are just plain LAZY – sounds more like it to me.

          • Top Gear

            And no, a phone being released 2 or so years ago not running the latest features doesn’t count.

            You might want to reread my original post. You may notice a few things.

            1. I compared the idiocy of fleeing supposed iOS fragmentation by going to an hardware and OS system with a faster turnover rate.

            2. Maybe one day I’ll think that an ecosystem is fragmented even though it is at minimum a year between hardware refreshes, but not today.

            3. They’re not the same issue. You only have three latest iOS devices at any given time. And that won’t change unless Apple wants it to change. Google has no control over what Android version is put onto any device out there.

            4. Once again, go look at that poll and complain to those Devs.

            5. In addition to complaining to those Devs, go complain to Google, who are now holding back Honeycomb from OEMs because they want to bring each user experience in line.

            6. But no, you must know better than people actually involved with Android and the apps that run on it.

            Have a good night, troll.

          • John

            1. “I compared the idiocy of fleeing supposed iOS fragmentation by going to an hardware and OS system with a faster turnover rate.”

            It’s not idiocy if he’s purchasing a high end Android phone as they are almost guaranteed to get updates. Also he doesn’ t have to wait a year for an OS update and ‘hope’ that Apple (in order to force one to upgrade)doesn’t choose to disable a feature or two. Besides IOS is still behind the curve in terms of notifications, customization, true multitasking and has no equivalent to widgets or Flash support, so he’s getting a more advanced OS as well.

            2. “ Maybe one day I’ll think that an ecosystem is fragmented even though it is at minimum a year between hardware refreshes, but not today.”

            I posted proof that similar issues exist right now in the IOS world. However you choose to spin it or whatever your beliefs are moot.

            3. “They’re not the same issue. You only have three latest iOS devices at any given time. And that won’t change unless Apple wants it to change. Google has no control over what Android version is put onto any device out there.”

            Again moot. The fact that there are millions of users of older devices left in the cold is what matters. How many devices Apple releases a year don’t really matter if a decent portion of their user base still use the older devices.

            4. “ Once again, go look at that poll and complain to those Devs.

            In addition to complaining to those Devs, go complain to Google, who are now holding back Honeycomb from OEMs because they want to bring each user experience in line.

            . But no, you must know better than people actually involved with Android and the apps that run on it.

            Have a good night, troll.”

            This topic has been discussed many times before on the forums with many devs chiming in. I’ve seen the excuses and while some might have valid complaints, many others seem to adapt just fine. Of course it’ll be easier if we all had the same phone with the same screen size and the same basic architecture but that would kill part of the beauty of Android .I see Google having some control over the software aspects (as in Carrier add ons) which will be a godsend to many including myself. But I don’t see them being able to have the same control over the hardware. Besides this Is not what most Android fans would want and this diversity is one of the main reasons Android’s marketshare is growing. The casual Joe who wants a basic Android phone without all the bells and whistles should be able to have just that.
            As for your troll comment. Are u serious? You are here on an Android fan website defending crApple to end calling me a troll? Look in the mirror buddy and you’ll find your troll.

          • Top Gear

            1. It is when you’re comparing an ’08 pmp to a new phone. Even the logic of that makes no sense. Your pmp isn’t good enough, so you get a phone??? Two totally different devices, and cost commitments. But anyway go to point 2.2. Give me an iOS device released in the last year that doesn’t run the latest iOS apps and features, and I’ll shut up. Until then, don’t try to convince me that Windows 2000 apps not running on Win 7 is a sign of serious fragmentation. If you get my drift. :)3. Same as above.4. Once again, I’ll take Google and Android devs’ opinions over yours.Also, where have I been trolling about my comments on Android? Where did I say the equivalent of “Android suks, iOS rulez?”. If you think giving my opinion and stating what’s obvious to Google and Android devs makes me a troll, then obviously you need to mature a bit.Until that far off day, good bye. :)

          • John

            “ It is when you’re comparing an ’08 pmp to a new phone. Even the logic of that makes no sense. Your pmp isn’t good enough, so you get a phone??? Two totally different devices, and cost commitments.”

            Um, an iPhone is a Touch that can make calls. They are certainly very similar and run the same OS/ apps. Not sure what your point was here. Maybe his girlfriend decided against having a separate pmp and cellphone and would just rather have everything in one.

            “Give me an iOS device released in the last year that doesn’t run the latest iOS apps and features, and I’ll shut up. Until then, don’t try to convince me that Windows 2000 apps not running on Win 7 is a sign of serious fragmentation. If you get my drift. :)”

            So you’re saying that Apple users should upgrade for the latest features? Well this is exactly the same idea the Android phone makers and Carriers have. They want you to upgrade to the latest and greatest to have the latest features with one minor difference:They also want to provide basic phones for the casual user. So all in all, from a business point of the view, it looks like you basically agree with me after all.

            “ Once again, I’ll take Google and Android devs’ opinions over yours”

            I don’t base my opinions on questionable polls with arbitrary info. For example, I’d like to know who these devs were, what questions they were asked and what were their answers before I can formulate an educated opinion. Besides, if fragmentation was so bad, the explosion of apps we are seeing would not have happened so quickly . If you can pick up the lowest spec’d Android phone on the market right now and show me where this so called fragmentation have prevented you from chatting, emailing , browsing, checking emails, playing games, and downloading a sh#itload of apps then you’ll have a valid argument. Until then………

            As for Google, they are in a tough spot. They need to say or do something to try to combat this overblown issue and the negative press that’s riding along with it. But I believe their main focus now is on the tablet market and want to compete with IOS on the UI ‘experience’ front. They’ve already beaten them on the features but that doesn’t matter to the Apple nut swingers who review them. So they have to conform somewhat to the new ‘standard’. For me, as long as they are able to keep the Carriers from going crazy with their UI customizations, I’m fine. However, If they’re trying to pull an Apple move and dictate hardware specs, I’ll have a problem with that. And I won’t be alone as that will more than likely stifle competition and slow down Android’s overall progress.

            I called you a troll first and I’m willing to take that back since you seem to argue your points in a manner that warrants a serious response.

        • wakkoman

          They support the phone for 2+ years. Not really sure what more you expect than that. Multi tasking wasnt enabled in iPhone 3g because it couldn’t handle it effectively, but it had received every other feature they added for the last two years. Android has much worse fragmentation with the range of different hardware and software. And it obviously is noticeable by the people who develop for it, as evident by this survey

          • dbcad7

            My phone is the second model Android phone available in the US, and I have 4 months to reach the 2 year mark.. I feel I have been supported with 2 OS updates.. The whiners who cried and balled because they were not getting an update “soon enough for them” should probably just go and buy an Apple i-whatever .. but they will still be unhappy people because there is always something new coming out.. that’s life… As there are developers who can seem to make apps that will work on multiple versions of Android, I am more inclined to believe that there are more problems with developers perceptions of “the problem” than there is an actual problem.

        • Top Gear

          The problem with that line of thinking is Which version is the new one? You can complain about the iPhone 3G and 3GS not being able to run the same features as the iPhone 4G, but it’s clear to every developer and user that 4G is the latest hardware and OS.

          What’s the latest Android OS? Honeycomb? Froyo? That version of Gingerbread that HTC is using on their Flyer? That phone released last week or the more higher powered one next week?

          You can say there’s no fragmentation problem as much as you want to, but I rather take the majority of developers word for it.

          And whether or not users will see that fragmentation problem, for now I doubt it (most apps that run on froyo/gingerbread run on Honeycomb). But I do find it weird how dismissive you are of various Android app developers own views of the OS. It sounds too much like any denial of criticism. Either you’re with us or against us.

          • PowSniffer0110

            First of all, Its called an iPhone 4, not iPhone 4G. Hahah. Second, its goes Eclair, Froyo, Honeycomb. Not hard. And any updates companies put out, are not updates to Android at all. They are cosmetics and bug fixes for the shitty overlays the put on them selves. Like @Whap said, 93% of Android phones are running 2.1, 2.2. Not very fragmented what so ever in my opinion.

          • Top Gear

            1. Thanks for correcting me on that. Brain lapse. :)2. It actually goes, Eclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, whatever HTC is using, Honeycomb. But since we’re not talking about remembering the names of each version, but instead the possible troubles developers may have with it, I don’t see why you bring that up.3. I was talking about Android upgrades. Sorry if I wasn’t clear.4. Once again, I’ll take most of those dev’s opinions over yours. :)

  • toomuchgame441

    Why was the same question answered 4 different times/ways? It should have been yes or no.

    • CaptBebops

      Ah, so the question was also fragmented.

      Simplicity is always better. Better to spend time on making your app better than trying to accommodate too many variations of resolution, etc.

  • fred12345

    I’m not sure the author understands either. 24% of developers agreeing on something is not a very high number.

    I think it has to do with the fact Android is designed to run on a range of hardware platforms. That is it’s greatest strength so I don’t know why the people who run this site have their panties in a knot over it.

  • jasn

    Windows run on any hardware compatible with existing standarts (like x86, SATA, PCI) and applicatios don’t suffer from fragmentation. It would be perfect if all phones could work like PCs – just buy harware, maybe with preinstalled os and install any OS you want on it.

    • Neil

      Back in the DOS days (and to some extent even the pre-XP days) PCs suffered from the same problem. There were custom versions of DOS (be it MS or PC) put out for different manufacturers with subtle but significant differences. Combine this with hardware and driver inconsistencies and you had quite a mess on your hands (although it did work). By the time Windows rolled around this mostly went away. The manufacturers still load up their machines with useless crapware, but at least they’re all running the same OS underneath it all.

      From a platform perspective I see Android shaking out the same way. Like Microsoft did with Windows, Google will let phone manufacturers customize large parts of the OS experience (so aesthetic stuff, preloaded apps, etc) but keep them out of the core OS. That way the carriers get what they want (a way to differentiate their products from their competitors), Google gets what they want (a more cohesive platform to foster future growth and development), and users get what they want. Win-win-win.

      Which is great, but what it really comes down to is time: are users and developers willing to wait for Google and its manufacturer partners to get it right?

    • http://techdomino.com/ Lucian Armasu

      That’s why Google is working on bringing more standardization to both hardware and software in the Android ecosystem. These sort of articles and surveys show that Google is right in making Android a little more closed, not Apple-like closed, but more Microsoft-like closed. Openess is a scale, not a 0 or 1 thing, although it tends to be simplified like that in debates.

      • Honeycomb_FTW

        Exactly. Google is working with hardware and software vendors to ensure that Android provides a uniform platform across devices so developers won’t have a problem and software will work properly for the end users.

  • Whap

    It is a bit difficult to have an unbiased poll when this poll was obviously set up to prove android was fragmented. I would guess apple was behind this poll. 93% of android phones are running 2.1 or 2.2. I would say that is really not fragmented much at all.

  • alephxero

    Given the range of possible responses to the survey, a more entertaining headline might have been “Is Fragmentation A Real Problem with Android? Developers Are Divided.”

  • Christianecon

    Wannh, I invested my resources on non-Apple junk, waaannnhh. Now I blame it on Apple and their fans, Waaannnnnnnh…..

  • iDroid

    Very true…….. iOS4 left the first two iphones in the dust. I know this first hand.

    • Erik

      The question is, how old were those phones when Apple left them in the dust? My HTC Hero only got a single major update (1.6 to 2.x) before it was stranded, didn’t even make it out of the 2 year contract. Apple has supported iPhones for 3 years before dropping updates.

  • mikeyd

    @16 loads of different versions of Android, which all work in slightly different ways, makes programming harder.

    Either way, ice cream will fix this.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1422573270 Michael Interbartolo III

      and yet there are thousands more permutations for windows games and yet the game companies seem to figure out a way to do it. start making min specs (Android version, RAM, CPU) for your phone/tablet game and move on.

      • Mikeyd85

        I don’t think you even need that. Just have the Market auto filter out apps your phone can’t run.

  • Junkdruggler

    I dont know what kind of developers they are questioning but all the app decs I know have little to no problem getting their apps to run on anything higher than 1.6… Maybe with 3.0 there is a problem in not having a device to test on..

  • Jason

    Phandroid… extreme fans…extreme slams… No attention to the reason inbetween. Way to sensationalize the headline, idiots. I’m trying really hard not to yank the site out of my RSS feed again.

  • Carmen Diva

    Android’s fragmentation is a big issue. Im not a developer but i have owned plenty and this is a big issue

  • B5g5g5hg

    For a “non-issue” this sure seems to be an issue

  • MtnDew

    If developers have a problem with “fragmentation”, perhaps they should learn to code. Quality apps run on all versions of Android.

  • monlosez

    Fragmentation is big in 3D games. You have to code them for Qualcomm Snapdragon, TI OMAP, Samsung Hummingbird, Nvidia Tegra 2 and soon many more.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=203100724 Scott Petersen

    What they need to do is make it more API based like how windows/OSX works. If you want to develop for Android, make a HAL for your handset. That way, when you’re making function calls to hardware, you’re making a soft call (to say, audio.h) and the HAL is actually accessing the hardware directly. Takes the hassle out of the programming, and its the handset developer’s problem, not the OS developer.

    • http://twitter.com/propermoose Proper Moose

      You don’t even need that, though it’s the preferable solution. When hardware specific APIs aren’t available, a good engineer will create their own. It’s called “reuse”. Apps that call directly to the lower layers or hardware are simply poorly done. Good code is always layered. It’s easier to write, it’s easier to debug, and a fix in one app carries over to all apps if they share the API libraries.

  • Ken

    Okay, get specific. What “fragmentation” problem are you encountering? For those who claim it’s a “huge problem,” let’s hear specific, concrete examples of the “fragmentation problem” that we can discuss, rather than just dithering about what a huge problem it must be because Person X in Authority says it’s a supposed problem.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1590346210 Jevon Versys

      Go to the app market and start reading random app reviews. Whenever u run into “this app isn’t working on my phone that just came out” boom thats fragmentation

  • Truthy1

    Google needs to set a baseline standard for ice cream so that all developers can really start getting quality apps and games on android. Make all devices that are going to use ice cream be spec’ed like a Nexus S or greater. It’s time for fragmentation to die.

  • mikedg

    In other news 24% of developers are pussies.

    I love how none of these fragmentation articles ever give a solid reason why fragmentation is some overwhelming hurdle.

    • http://profiles.google.com/pskeptic Paranormal Skeptic

      It’s most likely lazy developers who never actually had any schooling on how to write good apps.

      Case in point are developers who fail to take screen size/resolution into account, and assume all screens are 2.3″, and 640×480. That’s just lazy programming, not a problem with the “fragmentation” in regards to screen size.

      It’s a huge problem in the software industry: Save a minute here, but then fix “problems” caused by your shortcut later; rather than build a complete solution from the get-go.

      • http://twitter.com/propermoose Proper Moose

        So long as the API is backward compatible with updates, it’s just a matter of properly handing conditional branches for h/w setup and s/w version. If an API is deprecated, then the app is limited to a specific android version or higher. It’s nothing real programmers don’t have to deal with all the time.

        Many of the complaints are from dilettantes who call themselves developers because they can hack together an app, and whine when they actually have to use programming skills they don’t possess. Pros just shrug their shoulders at fragmentation and consider it the cost of doing business.

        Not that too much isn’t annoying, but it’s not brain surgery either.

  • PaulBaarn

    Is the glass half empty or half full? Think about it. HTC, Samsung, Motorola could have all chosen to develop their own OS. Now that would be fragmentation. As a developer you now have a chance to develop for many different handsets and users, but nobody is forcing you to develop for everyone and every version. Even if you just develop for 2.2 and up, the numbers are there.

    What should be changed in the market however is the ability to filter on handset. From a developers viewpoint it should be able to exclude a handset that your app just doesn’t work on. From a user’s viewpoint, I’d like to see the rating and reviews from people with the same handset as the one I’m using.

  • iKing

    Hmmm…..let’s see. Whose thoughts on this matter carry more weight??? People who actually DEVELOP applications for the platform, or a bunch of fandroid retards like John who are buried deep in denial???? Developers FTW!!!! lol!

    Take your heads out of your asses, fandroids. Your platform is a fragmented mess….

    • http://profiles.google.com/pskeptic Paranormal Skeptic

      Actually, the group that really matters is the consumers. Developers go to where consumers are; and latest market data is showing Android (Whatever the flavor) is leading the way.

      So, it’s a “sink of swim” thing with developers: Either the create apps for those devices, and swim; or they don’t and they sink.

      It would be like a developer ONLY writing apps fro Mac OS, or Linux. Sure, you can kind of make money there, but you are ignoring the largest market out there: Windows.

  • afwafawfw

    If someone would meassure the versions of iOS being used.. then wow.. the picture would be so different. It really is the worst fragmented platform ever because there are literally millions of people never updating their iOS devices.