Google’s Plan On Attacking Android Fragmentation Issue


All things considered, there aren’t a whole of things you can complain about when discussing Android. Sure… every phone, carrier, and mobile operating system have their strengths and weaknesses, but its impossible to deny that Android is at least NEAR the top of the heap. One thing detractors CAN criticize is a fragmentation problem that seems to grow every month.


We’ve got Android 1.5, 1.6, 2.0, 2.1 and although the hottest handsets are now launching 2.1 there are others – like the Motorola i1 – that are still launching with Android 1.5. The feature set varies greatly and even developing for the different versions take leaps and bounds in different directions. If this problem were to grow it could spell TROUBLE… but it looks like it might not.

According to Engadget, two main factors/approaches will severely bridge the gap of fragmentation:

  1. BIG UPDATES. Google has been developing features into Android at a ridiculously furious pace, providing huge updates within months. Apparently this “breakneck” speed is over and Google will maintain a more modest pace of releases, although continuing to innovate over time. Think of the iPhone – 1 huge update announced every year.
  2. LITTLE UPDATES. Want a better version of Google Maps? How about an improved dialer/contacts system that swipes and responds more quickly? Google is looking to push more basic OS elements into the Android Market, meaning they would be able to update core components of the operating system and make them available through Android Market without having to wait for the blessing/testing/approval of various carriers.

Great idea if you ask me, although Google may have fostered this more-more-more/now-now-now attitude to the point of no return. Do you think this two-pronged approach will be helpful or hurtful to Android, its partners and consumers?

Rob Jackson
I'm an Android and Tech lover, but first and foremost I consider myself a creative thinker and entrepreneurial spirit with a passion for ideas of all sizes. I'm a sports lover who cheers for the Orange (College), Ravens (NFL), (Orioles), and Yankees (long story). I live in Baltimore and wear it on my sleeve, with an Under Armour logo. I also love traveling... where do you want to go?

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  1. I’d say it’s the best for everyone, but I still want ALL the candy and I want it NOW. :)

  2. I wonder how much the manufactures have pushed them to this path of sensibility. Going at a breakneck release schedule is fine when you’re only working on one platform, but when you start spreading across multiple independent hardware platforms, you need to have a plan. Sounds like Google is growing up, finally.

  3. Improvements is always good news (except for app updates that take away usability). I say good, but we android users have definitely become pretty impatient and needy when it comes to updates.

  4. Improvements is always good news (except for app updates that take away usability). I say good, but we android users have definitely become pretty impatient and needy when it comes to updates.
    1. Because the manufactures keep telling us about them too early lol
    2. Because so many new android phones keep coming out within weeks of each other with new features we want on ours that we purchased a month before.
    and 3. Because android like linux, spoils the end user =)

  5. I think this will do good things for Android’s maturity, very good things.

  6. Ordinary consumers want one complete solution and time to time one-click-upgrade … every other solution make consumers feel uncomfortable.

  7. I suppose this is better for the phone manufacturers & carriers since they can start developing a new phone and know that they’ll get it out the door before Google makes a huge Android upgrade.

    But– I rather like the fast & furious innovation of the OS that Google has been doing. That was a big plus over WinMo and the iphone, IMO. It means we as consumers have the option of getting the best Android has to offer, sooner. It has also had the secondary effect of driving the phone manufacturers to produce better, more powerful hardware at a quicker pace, bringing more competition & causing prices to drop quickly on hardware that isn’t very old – which is good for we the consumers. If the OS updates slow down, the innovation w/ new phone hardware will likely slow down as well (not good for us end users).

  8. I don’t think it’s too little too late, I think it was just at the tipping point though. Yes users want the latest and they want it straight away, a much slow release schedule means companies like HTC can update their versions of Android with a bit more speed as hopefully Google will give a nice period of notice as the latest version of Android nears completion.

    I think their current attitude was get something out there quick, show what there is to offer, then get feedback, comments, improve, do that fast enough and you can catch up with any competitors.

    This slower approach means hopefully new and old phones can both be updated to stabilise the small nightmare that was brewing for developers in having to maintain multiple versions of apps for each version of Android.

  9. I beat phandroid to the punch on this one, lol…I posted about this at noon.

  10. That is exactly what I expected to happen. While the platform was not mature, major updates came fast.
    Now that it is either mature, or very close to mature, the updates will slow down.
    If existing phones can be OTA upgraded, then they will be. Those that cannot be upgraded will attrition out of use in two years.
    In short: the fragmentation is nothing more exciting than a short term problem.

  11. Awesome, both the solution points look just awesome.

  12. Most users of phones don’t buy/download a lot of apps. If google market only lets you see apps for your version of android then you won’t get the wrong one. So unless an app is not released for a given version of Android, and a user therefore can’t get that app, then there’s not a problem – ie, it’s a developer problem, not an end user problem. And to be blunt, that’s too bad. If you want to develop for a range of phones released over 2,3,4 years you might have to target the lowest common denominator then polish/augment the newer ones. This is the way it’s always been and should be no surprise really. What’s the alternative?

  13. I like the updates & I think its a good thing to have them all.

  14. This is basically what ROM developers do, look at the amount of Eclair bits backported into CyanogenMod or Super D. Google is just pushing it to market and probably providing a more stable end result.

  15. what a welcomed development. it’s about time. google is not stupid; they are paying attention to this issue because they know that it has become a serious problem that has the potential to cripple the platform. i guess people can now feel comfortable getting a 2.1 phone without the thought that their OS would be obsolete 2 months after purchase.

  16. I wonder what this will mean for Nexus One sales? Most of us bought the Nexus One because we knew that the OS would be updated faster than any other Android phone. That takes away 1 very serious reason to plop down $500 bucks and deal with T-Mobile wack coverage.

  17. Well it’s not a hidden fact to Google that the fragmentation issue is a mess; and although they have these steps towards minimizing these OS version gaps, it’s still going to be hard work if manufacturers aren’t going to be helping out and keep releasing handsets built for older versions of Android.

  18. Dunno if anyone else feels this way too but I can’t help feeling that only N1 owners should get the latest and greatest updates since we’re the ones carrying the flagship device torch…

    It’s like buying a Toyota Prius for $23,000 and then Toyota coming out with a hybrid kit for any car for free which seems to cheapen the N1 experience…

    N1 owners are way more important than any random Hero, G1, or Droid customers.

    We are the ones that carry Google’s flagship device and should be treated accordingly… compared to the other random devices that just have android on it and aren’t really Google devices.

  19. Google should have made their apps downloadable through the Market a long time ago, if not says from the beginning. Now in the light of some providers dumping Google customizations entirely, it’ll become essential to their survival. I wouldn’t even mind if they made their Apps paid – heck, who wouldn’t pay a couple bucks to get the freshest Google maps and stuff. The only problem here is the Market itself…

  20. As an Android user and developer, I ask: What fragmentation problem?

    Users: What market apps are you unable to install on your version of Android?

    Developers: I target the 1.5 API as it is the lowest common denominator. What newer API features am I missing out on?

  21. I am definitely pleased at this. I was unimpressed that I bought a new phone about 2 weeks ago that already feels outdated (I’m currently limited to 1.5). I like the idea of being able to update the Google Apps and other minor OS updates via Market, and do larger OS updates on a basis that manufactures can keep up with.

    I mainly want to be able to run multiple accounts in Gmail which to me sounds like it could’ve easily been remedied with an app update, rather than me *patiently* waiting for an update to 2.0, of which a 1.6 update isn’t even out yet and won’t be out for my phone for another few months.

  22. @D-man:
    User: Having Android 1.5 I miss updates to Google Maps. There are many more examples (Goggles, …)
    Developer: An example is Bluetooth RFCOMM, it comes with 2.0 and later.

  23. Yeah sounds dandy as long as they keep new stuff coming in- Are just add new stuff to the apps we already have and such-as they say they will do…y0

  24. Where did you get that awesome picture of the smashing statue? Any idea who the original photographer is?

  25. Google can try all it wants to adress this issue, but as long as it maintains its lax attitude towards its OS this will continue to be a problem. Windows Mobile got only a few updates a year and it still took the manufacturers and carriers ages to push the updates to users, if they ever did at all. At the very least they could make manufacturers use the most current version of the OS, but that might fly in the face of their vaunted openness. Any attempt to wrangle in their OS would result in a backlash I bet they don’t want to deal with.

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