Android’s ever-increasing fragmentation visualized



We can argue to the moon and back as to whether or not Android fragmentation will one day result in the implosion of the ecosystem, but it’s hard to deny what the above graphic illustrates. One image makes a compelling case that fragmentation is a very real issue and it’s only getting worse. How much worse? The number of different devices in use has increased threefold since last year.

OpenSignal, who compiled the data, counted about 4,000 distinct Android devices in 2012. So far 2013 has seen close to 12,000. That’s a pretty staggering figure, but alone doesn’t prove the evils of fragmentation. Since the days when only a handful of devices ran Android industry folks have been warning that disparate versions of Android, varying screen sizes, and custom OEM skins would create a wall to platform adoption. Years later, fragmentation is still an issue. It’s just not the Android killer everyone made it out to be.

[via Gizmodo]

Kevin Krause
Pretty soon you'll know a lot about Kevin because his biography will actually be filled in!

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  1. why? just why?

  2. The more choice the better, fragmentation is a non-issue after Android 4.0 for user. I rather have tons of choice and less updates, then one predictable model for a phone (sorry Apple is not for me.)

    1. What you said x infinity. I’m so tired of this silly topic. 4.0 has addressed it. Next topic please

  3. If people’s device are still working the way they’re supposed and they are happy with them I see no problem for the vast majority of consumers. I buy an Android device, the thing works, sweet. I’m happy.

    1. Best common sense right here. I still on 4.1 and it work great.

      1. yeah nothing past 4.1 is anything to write home about

      2. I still on 2.3 and it works great too.

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          This seems to be an uneducated i
          users point of view. Windows is still kicking macs ass and xp 7 and
          Vista are all out at the same time. Most apps work on all. No one is
          complaining about windows fragmentation. Just like android very few apps
          have issues and they are usually the unimportant ones.

        2. When you’re still on 2.3 you gotta ask the question though… Why?

  4. The original article from Gizmodo is missing. Is this article reliable?

    1. He should just reference a Wikipedia article that references this article :)

    2. Better question is whether this article is relevant. Yeah, can’t argue what the graphic illustrates, but what’s the measurable impact? Several years ago I could have compiled the same graphic for Windows Mobile. And what about Symbian phones? What has been the impact of fragmentation on these platforms, and how is Android fragmentation any different or similar to their fragmentation? Apart from data like that, this article is merely trivia.

    3. I actually posted a great and sensible reply on the Gizmodo article when it first went live. And they pulled it :(

    4. Simple answer: No.
      Reason: That chart shows the vast numbers of unique Android devices. Just because there’s a ton of different devices does not mean “fragmentation”.

  5. Even with fragmentation, it’s still leagues above iOS.

    1. I mean, that part is true but read the comments of any post where a device is receiving Android 4._._ and you’ll find people complaining that their device hasn’t been updated.

      Now that 4.3 is rolling out to Nexus devices, just wait and see how many people with Google Play edition devices start grumbling. Fragmentation in Android is real, but it’s only the enthusiast that truly cares about it (for the most part).

      1. But to me it seems that Google is trying to absolve the issue by making updates to the system apps as much as possible. That way people across many firmware versions will receive the bulk of the update. Meanwhile they will have to wait for UI changes and overall updates. All I personally care about are features. If UI is a big issue, it is android… change it with an app.

  6. You call it “fragmentation.” I call it choice.

    1. Yeah. Choice between between cheap Gingerbread, or high-end Jelly Bean devices.

      Even then, there are extremely few devices running Android 4.2.2, and even less running 4.3.

      It’s a real thing, even if it’s not as big a deal as most make it out to be.

      1. Either way I like to choose screen size, price point, color, OS capabilities, etc. Rather than being forced into a stereotype in a world where “One size fits all. Take it or leave it.”

        1. I completely agree with you, this was never an argument for iOS.

          Fragmentation doesn’t bother me cuz right now, I’m fine with 4.2.2. If I wasn’t, I’d either buy the next new device, or a Nexus.

      2. Fragmentation may be a real thing, but this graphic doesn’t actually appear to have *ANYTHING* to do with fragmentation.

      3. I think the latter part of your statement is the key. It’s not that big of a deal.

        That visualization does nothing but make Google / Android happy. As long as Android has the most market share, app devs will continue to want to work to get their apps working on the platform, whether 2nd to iOS or not, and fragmentation will only continue to be a “problem” for the talking heads of the world. The average user won’t care.

    2. Does he mean fragmentation like how brittle and easily iphones fall to itty bitty fragments lol ?

  7. Saw title, looked at author, automatically dismissed.
    I don’t see Apple fanboys screaming about “fragmentation” when there’s over a billion Windows machines from a dozen different manufacturers with literally thousands of varying internal components. I don’t see anyone talking about how “fragmented” Linux is (which Android basically is).
    Just because there’s about 12,000 “distinct Android devices” /= “fragmentation”. It just means a sh*tload of different devices.

    1. Right? It’s a graphic of the number of android devices based on the devices number of users….it has *nothing* to do with NDK fragmentation or API fragmentation.

      ARM, Exynos and Tegra; at API level 14. These are all anyone needs to focus on to reach the majority of Android users. Once JB becomes dominant, up the API focus to 16. Done.

      The graphic shows how popular each device is currently in comparison to the other devices. That is all.

    2. I upgraded and I miss snow leopard :(

      1. If you still have the SL install CD, just backup/move your data, pop in that CD and do a clean install (which involves wiping your hard drive). Some of the comments here might help:

        1. Yeah I just haven’t had the motivation to move, wipe, and install. It’s such a pain because i have dual boot.

    3. I wish I could up vote this more than once. You hit the nail on the head on all points.

    4. The color of said boxes represents the Android version. It’s not how man boxes there are … it’s how many versions are scattered across them.

      How many of those “billion” windows machines have to wait on their ISP or HW manufacturer to get the latest MS patch again?

      It’s a cute argument … but it completely misses the mark.

      1. Well then, that’s pertinent info that the incompetent Kevin Krause failed to include in his “article” instead of focusing on the many different boxes/devices. And seeing how Gizmodo seemingly took down their article (hmmm, I wonder why) as the source link doesn’t work, we have no way of knowing how much more in depth their article went into the matter.

      2. > The color of said boxes represents the Android version. It’s not how man boxes there are … it’s how many versions are scattered across them.

        Windows 2000 (Service Pack 0, 1, 2, 3, 4), Windows XP (SP 0, 1, 2, 3), Windows Vista (SP 0, 1, 2), Windows 7 (SP 0, 1), Windows 8…

        Plus varying matched versions of OpenGL or DirectX support on the video card, Video Card driver versions…

        Just like with Windows, it’s not like writing a program for Gingerbread or ICS means it won’t work in JB. It just means you may have to make some minor tweaks and test in newer versions, or have version-specific bugs.

        1. Difference between Android and Windows is that when a new version of Windows comes out, I can install it on any PC I want the day it is released, without voiding my warranty (assuming the PC has the minimum specs required.) I don’t have to wait 6-8 months for the PC OEM to provide me with an install disc for my specific machine.

          1. But that doesn’t affect the developers, which is what this is talking about relative to “platform adoption”. Developers still have to deal with companies who don’t have the upgrade in the budget, people who don’t care enough upgrading, etc.

            There may be more of a choice on the client side, but it doesn’t result in a more homogenous ecosystem. Sometimes quite the opposite.

            At least with Android, once an OEM updates a device you know most, if not all, of the users of that device will have the update or have access to apply it at no charge.

      3. Except the nexus 4 and nexus 7 are different colors. Nexus 7 is the same color as HTC one and one x. Nice try though.

    5. that shouldn’t be limited to the troll title of articles. any remotely technical issue is going to be missed by phandroid entirely.

    6. its good to see perspectives from the other side, even if you do take it with a grain of salt… ignoring all outside noise is what blackberry did and why they are in their current position

    7. “I don’t see Apple fanboys screaming about “fragmentation” when there’s over a billion Windows machines”

      Yeah they do. That’s why they have Macs.

  8. If the manufacturer and app developer are both doing it right, the OS and hardware are both abstracted so fragmentation is no issue whatsoever (within the bounds of the API capabilities). However, if you root and apply stock Android, you’ve likely removed the HAL and now you’re at the mercy of hardware differences unless the app goes out of its way to manage that for you (generally a bad thing because it needlessly adds complexity and bloat to the app). Of course, it’s your own doing so…

  9. Who let Krause out of his walled garden?

  10. im sorry,but what else would you expect from an OPEN SOURCE OS ?

  11. Another Krause post. *sigh*

    1. Lol! It’s not like he HATES Android now, he’s just posting something interesting from around the net. I thought it was interesting enough to click, read, and move on. If Kevin didn’t, I would have posted this myself (albeit, added my own opinion that for the most part, this “issue” doesn’t affect many people).

      1. I won’t look your avatar in the face and lie to it. If you would of posted it.. It would of been fine. I’m jaded with him and all of his come on down to isource posts lol. Ever since he skipped over there you know what to expect when he posts.

      2. Don’t you find it a bit suspect that most of his articles have to do with the negative side of android? I think he’s still trying to justify his move to iOS. I popped over to isource to read one of his articles and the one that I read was him proclaiming his love for the device’s curves and beauty. It almost read like it should have been called “50 shades of apple,” this man sounded ready to make love to his iPhone lol.

        1. It’s a desert over at iSource and that’s why he continues to post here. He made the choice to move to the iPhone and iSource so he should just stick with it and stop posting here.

          1. I know… I guess he just likes to do this for some reason so that us the readers get intrigued with this kind of articles bashing on android.. on an android site….

      3. And yet, if I remember correctly, the very first article he wrote after making the move to iSource basically talked trash of Android. Just about every other article he’s written here since then has been the same way. Seriously, take a look at all the articles he’s written since the switch and tell me you don’t get the feeling at least of a general dislike of Android since a majority of his posts are about “OMG MALWARE! EVERYONE RUN AND HIDE!” or “FRAGMENTATION, OH NOES!”:

      4. He may not hate but the guy CLEARLY loves fruit now

      5. I can’t believe I just had to down vote Chavez its a sad day indeed.

  12. Automotive industry fragments all the time, a way to keep people buying new things, add a new feature to the same product. TVs, Home Theater, Computers, Game Consoles, etc… on and on they all fragment if you think about it.
    Sounds like a Apple ploy to me, 3, 3s,4,4s,5, are just fragments of each other, even if it has the same OS number there are features that do not work on all the Apple clan, fragmentation right?

  13. This is what we call choice!

    1. ‘Merica!

  14. It’s the same with computers. Yet no one ever calls them fragmented. The reason being that it’s really not an issue at all.
    Older computers will have dated technology and that will be reflected in its power. There are also multiple os with many different versions. People who dont use the newest might not be able to run certain software. Those who do will surely have the latest and greatest.

    Same with android phones.

  15. That just looks like a listing of every phone out there. So each phone is considered a fragment? So all we have to do to appease the fragmentation chick-littles out there is stop making phones…and tablets…

    Fragmentation should be something where there is a specific breaking of the API or implementation that causes failures in apps. We still see this to some extent but its relatively rare in my day to day experience between myself and my friends and family.

  16. Sure, there’s bound to be fragmentation when you can go to pretty much any store and pick up a cheap $100 tablet. Of course Coby aren’t worried about making the latest and greatest, they’re not going to update the devices. But their customers just care that they get a cheap tablet that starts and can play Angry Birds.

  17. Not to metion how many ROM’s there are for Android devices. How do the ROM’s fit into the fragmention chart. I can update my OG Droid to a JB Cyanogen Mod ROM in a flash. That’s not in the charts.

  18. I blame Samsung.

  19. It’s worthless page-view bait. When the term “fragmentation” is applied to Android, it’s referring to different OS release versions which have meaningfully different API versions which can cause application compatibility issues. If all of the devices noted here ran, say, 4.x, then the effective “fragmentation” would be around zero*. This article would more accurately be titled “Consumer choices for Android devices have tripled in the past year”, which would typically be considered a good thing.

    * Yes, I recognize that there’s still some difference in 4.x versions (though small), and that not all of the noted devices run 4.x, but presumably all of the new ones added in the past year do (along with a reasonable chunk of the “old” ones).

  20. Another trolling article from Kevin about “fragmentation”. This is the 2nd one today:

    I am really tired of seeing this guy’s articles.

  21. They almost need to look at android as what version you are on, say jelly bean, and lump that all together. Realistically as much as android changes you will always have charts like this. Unless everyone has a nexus device “fragmentation” will always exist!

  22. can we really stop with fragmentation trolling? it’s getting much, much better and not much, much worse. I know phandroid gets complicated concepts mixed up if they’re even remotely technical but sheesh. First you quote Florian Mueller articles and then you quote fragmentation? the argument came from Microsoft, who has fragmentation issues far, far worse than android. Whereas everyone on android *wants* the latest version (and is pissed when they can’t get it), very few people want or actually need the latest version of windows OS.

    get a grip on actually understanding technology, please.

  23. Windows PC is out of control!! From XP to Windows 7 and even Windows 8. OH NO!!! But PC’s are still everywhere and windows are still in 90% of homes and businesses. This fragmentation is blown out of proportion.

  24. Yea, having choice in hardware sucks! Said no one ever.

  25. This seems to be an uneducated i users point of view. Windows is still kicking macs ass and xp 7 and Vista are all out at the same time. Most apps work on all. No one is complaining about windows fragmentation. Just like android very few apps have issues and they are usually the unimportant ones.

    1. Plus you don’t see windows users complaining about not getting free updates to the latest OS.

  26. Beat it Kevin go back to that boring isource site.

  27. I see fragmentation as a good thing. Fragmentation=choice.

  28. Why is kevin still writing articles for Phandroid? I mean, I have no issue with him writing for iSource, but why write for both?

  29. Man! that apple is so deep in Kevin’s ass that every article he post is something negative about android.

  30. The only people that see fragmentation as an issue are tech writers.

    1. And developers… e.g. missing apps in Android and lack of profits. Enterprise users also favor iOS for it’s safety, easy of administration, backups, low re-training, best in class support structure, and cost effectiveness. The simple fact that if a company buys 1,000 S4’s one year then HTC’s the next they’d have to start all over again using different security, backup, & deployment strategies – that costs a lot of money & money.

  31. posted via K. Krause’s iPhone

  32. Hahaha… Oh Kevin. You rascal.

  33. This just in: 4 billion PC configuration, will Windows implode? Will developers cease support?

  34. I’ll tell you where the fragmentation exists. App stores. With Amazon forking Android and having their own app store… they’re now paying for exclusives, such as with Disney. Fragmentation there is troublesome. Fragmentation elsewhere, doesn’t seem to matter.

  35. Do the same for windows machines and tell me the ecosystem imploded in 1992.

  36. Seems to me that fragmentation is actually what keeps android alive. Having various devices with various sizes, specs, and prices is what keeps android fresh.

  37. what just a minute…. are you telling me that my android doesn’t have IOS? oh noooo

    1. and im sure some of your best friends are black…

  38. Amazing how I can see the title of the article and know it was written by Kevin “applefanboy” Krause.

    Actually, its not amazing, its pretty sad.

  39. Great on openess, but really should create a third party skin layer

  40. Gizmodo. yeah of all tech sites, it would be them to complain about android

  41. Look at all those different types of cars on the road. How can any consumer possibly drive multiple vehicles, or figure out how to put gas in their car, or turn on the wipers??



    1. The waist in the automobile industry is legend. There have been study’s that show company’s like Ford and Honda purposely making parts slightly different just so they can charge a premium on replacements. It’s a huge waist of money and causes millions of tons of garbage to pile up needlessly.

  42. More devices today run Android 4.1/4.2 Jelly Bean today than ever before; this is the most stable and efficient iteration yet. And just recently, market share statistics show that it overshadowed a very old and outdated 2.X Gingerbread for the first time. This is a great achievement if you ask me. Just one year ago, Android 4.X was a minuscule minority compared to 2.3.

  43. It’s not fragmentation, it’s choice

    1. And for developers, opportunity.

  44. Is that chart supposed to be representative of anything besides a bunch of colored shapes ? I wish there was a key or something.

  45. Go back to iSource Kevin Krause, we don’t like your trolling.

  46. Every one of those rectangles is a choice that apple consumers don’t have.

  47. This graphic is closer to a visualization of the share size each unique Android device has of the entire ecosystem than one showing ‘fragmentation’ as a problem for developers/users.. A more useful graphic would be showing devices broken down by device type (e.g. tablet, smartphone, other) that can/cannot use a ‘standard’ selection of common/representative Apps. THAT would be useful for an argument on Fragmentation. This graphic is really only good for showing the huge (and every increasing) variety of Android devices available to the consumer and compare the numbers of such devices sold to each other.

  48. Fragmentation FUD again… This picture only shows that Android is popular!

  49. who cares, I only use one phone. Developers dont seem to really care either.

  50. Everyone talks about fragmentation with such a negative connotation. Are the alternatives not worse? Would we rather have fifteen different, incompatible, proprietary operating systems? Is it not amazing that we have one underlying operating system spanning across so many devices? Doesn’t that give developers a better, cheaper shot at reaching more screens?

    I’m no developer, but I’d venture to say that’s it’s much more difficult developing for separate operating systems than it is developing for different screen sizes for one operating system. Developers have been spoiled with iOS. Android gives them an incredible opportunity to reach more customers and it frustrates me how it’s always talked about like it’s a bad thing. Android allows choice while still keeping it relatively simple by giving developers one operating system to code to to reach such a vast array of devices. The fact that you have such a range of devices covered by one flexible operating system is nothing short of amazing.

  51. what the fuk is kevin doing on android website

  52. I’m about done with this site. Android Police has better coverage and less bias.

  53. A real journalist busts out a 5-year old T-Mobile G1 to see if it is fragmented out of usable existence – the answer is no.

  54. Why is Kevin even being allowed to write on this site anymore? You made your choice… run along.

  55. Fragmentation is what it is. All it means is that I have a choice in what my device looks like, how it functions, what it’s features are, and what it’s price point is. There isn’t anything wrong with that. Old computers with old components get left behind, and that means I can’t play something like Bioshock Infinite on it. That’s why I buy a new computer. No different here with our phones.

  56. I’m a constant visitor of and have at least read the title of every story posted in the past two years or so. Sure, I may not read every single one because some just do not interest me, but it’s getting a bit annoying reading articles by writers like this. I typically don’t look at the author of an article but I have definitely started noticing a very consistent tone throughout most of the stories which is a positive outlook on Android with minimal criticism…except a few odd stories every couple days (which is obviously Kevin). It definitely turns me away from visiting as often or even opening certain articles because of what I’m expecting to be within.

  57. kevin apple asswipe

  58. Its actually weird… This comparison seems based on money. Maybe even how much money android users spend on devices. The “fragmentation” is almost a social status issue. Not fragmentation

  59. The link to the original article is still broken, Kevin Krause.

  60. That’s how bad this guy’s articles (“quote on quote”) have gotten non of the phandroid posey comes to the rescue, no chris, no quentine nobody… Ur all alone here krause, just stay out of here, go back to isource and humor all the imonkeys with ur sour shenanigans about fragmentation and how you wish android was more like apple. Jebus christ!

  61. Now that’s just stupid. Each new device is “fragmentation?”

    I am a heavy android user (had one since the original Droid) and I for one DO find myself frustrated at Android’s inability to be like Windows… where I pick the hardware and Windows loves all of it. If Windows upgrades, and my hardware supports the new features, I get to upgrade with it.

    With Android, I either have to choose between the manufacturer’s updates, which are always few and far between, not to mention the possibility they’ll break something I love (FoxFi) or I have to hope my device will be popular enough for the dev community to support it.

    The issue isn’t apps for the most part. It is getting drive and low level updates to existing hardware — updates that will hopefully improve the experience on the hardware (faster, smoother, more efficient, etc) and fix bugs.

    For instance, I have a Bluetooth 4 compatible phone. However, I have to hope Android 4.3 will come to my phone in order to properly support the low energy spec. There is no good reason why my late 2012 hardware can’t run the OS.

    I think that’s the great problem to solve… when Google manages drivers like Microsoft does and can just ship out the OS and the majority of devices can upgrade. There will still be many left behind but at least those who care (a small % of android users) would have the choice.

  62. I don’t think OP knows what “fragmentation” means. Different devices are okay. Nobody complains that MS Windows suffers from fragmentation. If an app (or program) works on the device (or PC), no problem.

    1. There is only one Windows, one standard, one update avenue, one company providing the standards. Windows is owned and operated by Microsoft and they don’t share.

      1. Sorry MaxxuM, but your post is essentially 100% wrong.

        “There is only one Windows”
        False. I don’t know what you could possibly mean by this. Windows 3.1, 95, 98, ME, XP, 2000, Vista, 7, 8, etc

        “one standard”
        What do you mean by this?

        “one update avenue”
        False. You can update programs via the internet from your browser or custom intallers; from peer to peer; and historically from CD or floppy disks. Again, I don’t know what you could possibly mean by this.

        “one company providing the standards”
        How is this different from Google with Android? Google provides the sole SDK for Android similar to how Microsoft does for Windows

        “Windows is owned and operated by Microsoft”
        Android is owned and operated by Google.

        “they don’t share”

        What do you mean by this?

        1. Yes, there is only one Windows and it is owned by Microsoft. There is no Sony XP Windows, Toshiba Windows 8, etc. There are different versions of Windows and Microsoft owns everyone. Try to sell Windows 8 without a license and you will be fined and go to jail if caught.

          Microsoft sets all Windows standards. It is not open software.

          Windows may only be updated by Microsoft, period. Updating any part of Windows requires certificates published ONLY by Microsoft.

          Android uses Open Standards – meaning, anyone can do what they please. Microsoft controls it’s intellectual property. Two different models.

          Android and Windows use completely different licencing methods. MS has complete control of Windows where Google has opened Android. Again, two different models.

          MS does not share their technology or intellectual property with third parties without licensing. MS does not share, they charge.

          Please inform yourself on the facts, sir.

  63. Only Apple fan boys talk about Android fragmentation being a problem.

    1. So, Google developers are fanboys?

  64. It seems that some people don’t get that fragmentation has nothing to do with the amount of different devices, but with the operating system versions and the way apps are developed.

  65. android is the synonym of Phragmentation.



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