Revisiting Android Fragmentation: What is it, and Should You Be Concerned?
One thing Apple has going for them is their tight control of their devices. Google and Microsoft have a greater challenge because they don’t make the actual hardware. Rather, they provide minimum hardware specifications to third-party hardware manufacturers.
Many in the Android community have raised concerns over the various versions of the operating system on current hardware, while others have speculated on future issues regarding screen sizes and dimensions. Let’s talk about both of those and see what are legitimate concerns, and what isn’t worth worrying about.
Android devices generally have a rectangular screen of varying heights and widths. So far this hasn’t been an problem with applications. What’s more, Android automatically handles the layout when the orientation is changed and when the on-screen keyboard is presented. Issues with applications don’t seem like they will be a problem in the future, either (though developers may want to keep an eye on the playing field when writing their apps).
As tablets and slates running Android start to come out, screen size may be more of an issue, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Currently available are devices running Android Operating systems 1.5, 1.6, and 2.1. Android 2.0.1 made a short debut on the Droid, but has since been upgraded to 2.1. Rumor has it Android 2.2 may be released at the Google I/O Conference next month.
These versions are all current and capable of running modern apps. While I’m sure we’d all like to be running the latest and greatest OS, even 1.5 is still a viable option.
Google’s current strategy is to release apps for the latest version of the OS initially, then work on adding support for previous operating system. Other application developers are following suite. Additionally, the Android Market only displays apps that are compatible with your device.
Google is working hard with hardware manufacturers to make Android 2.1 compatible with most (if not all) current hardware. What’s holding most manufacturers back is not getting the OS running on the device, but hardware drivers (which are coming along quickly) and custom user-interfaces like MotoBlur and Sense UI.
Should you be concerned with either type of fragmentation? Of course I can’t see into the future, but the framework that Google has laid out, along with their strategy of separating more and more functionality from the core OS into separate apps limits the risk of fragmentation having a negative impact not only on their platform, but on the phone in your pocket.
What do you think? Are you worried about fragmentation hurting Android? Is Google doing the right thing? Should they be doing more?