feature fragmentation

It seems like every time a new version of iOS or Android is announced, we hear the same mantra of “Android fragmentation” coming from various media outlets and fan-boys. I’ll be the first to admit, there are several versions of Android running on literally hundreds of models of Android-powered phones and tablets compared to only a very small percentage of iOS users running anything other than the latest version. But iOS suffers from something potentially worse: feature fragmentation.

Feature Fragmentation

From this year’s WWDC we learned quite a bit about iOS 7. It looks interesting, but whether you like the new skin or not, it’s what’s under the surface that’s more worrisome.

If you’ve got an iPhone 4 or iPad 2, you’re not getting updates to Siri. You’re not getting AirDrop, Panorama, or Camera filters. Your iPad 2 isn’t getting Square photos or Photo filters, either. How about your iPad 3? No AirDrop, Panorama, or Camera filters for you!

Those are just the “new” features that won’t be coming to every device (and I didn’t even cover them all). If you start looking back at previous versions of the OS, you’ll see that the list of “feature fragmentation” gets even longer.

Operating System Fragmentation

I’m sure dozens of you just headed down to the comments to leave all kinds of feedback, so before you scroll down too far, Android isn’t immune.

Instead of releasing a new version of Android with a limited feature set for older devices, generally speaking if your phone or tablet doesn’t support the new features because of its hardware limitations, it’s not going to get the latest and greatest version of the operating system. This way users know exactly what their limitations are, because they’re lumped in with everyone else running the same version of the OS.

Android, however, has something up its proverbial sleeve.

Unified Services

Recently we saw an update from Google to its core Play Services. These updated services are available for the vast majority of Androids on the market, regardless of carrier, regardless of manufacturer, and regardless of whether or not they’re running stock Android or an OEM’s version. The update didn’t have to be bundled up in a new version of the OS or pushed via a traditional OTA update. They were updated just like you’d update any other app on your device.

While iOS seems to be fragmenting features, Android appears to be unifying features without requiring OS updates.

It’s time for the “fragmentation” argument to be done and over with. iOS has feature fragmentation and Android has OS fragmentation. Can we all agree on that? With Android, I know that I’m always getting the same core feature-set on devices that run the same version of the OS. On Apple, I know that I’m going to have the same look-and-feel across all devices running the same version of that OS.

Your Turn

There’s the background. You’ve heard my opinion. Now its your turn. This is a divisive topic, to be sure, so let’s keep our thoughts constructive and respectful.

Which do you prefer? A unified OS, with a consistent look and feel like iOS has? Or a unified services architecture with different versions of the OS targeted at different devices like Android does? Head down to the comments and make your case!

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