Google Cannot Manage the Android Fragmentation Issue

So what’s the pattern I see? Since Google can’t control the versioning issue, they can at least control core functions and apps among the operating system variances. So when Android 2.x learns a new trick, there’s a good chance Android 1.6 will learn it too.

The above article discusses Google and the fragmentation issue on Android devices.

It’s a good observation, but really only describes how Google can get some of its bigger features on older versions. I don’t agree that this addresses fragmentation:

  • There’s still the issue of varying screen sizes, and many other hardware differences. 
  • There’s still the issue of the different UIs and software various vendors put on the device. 
  • There’s still the marketplace issue. Even if you upgrade 1.6 with selected 2.0 software features, the OS is still 1.6, so you’re presented a different marketplace than higher versions are.

These are what lead to fragmentation, and Google can do nothing to address them. Nor do they have any particular incentive to.

They just want you looking at their ads, and whether you run 1.5 up to 2.1, they’ve got you for that. Heck, if it was about anything other than ads they wouldn’t be giving the OS away in the first place.

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8 thoughts on “Google Cannot Manage the Android Fragmentation Issue

  1. Besides Apple’s patent war, fragmentation is the biggest downside to Android that could cause more users more grief than what they were bargaining forQ

  2. Comparing a hardware issue (like knowing you do not have a camera in your iPod touch) to a software issue in the system (i.e. Flash won’t work with some Android phones) is completely different, and one that already has some Android owners angry and furious. Just google it…

  3. The question is whether or not Google really wants to push to platform forwards as quickly as possible and help minimize consumer confusion. If Google wants to accomplish these two goals, then it should be figuring out all kinds of sticks and carrots for the OEMs to that effect. Right now, however, Google doesn’t really seem to care as companies like Sony are just now introducing “flagship” phones with Android 1.6 while Google is hawking the Nexus with Android 2.1. At the very least it is silly and at the worst it could be a strategic blunder in the next decade.By having multiple hardware systems and multiple OS systems and multiple app store systems Google is dissipating the focus of the platform.

  4. Android actually causes less fragmentationIf android (Alternate os for multiplatforms ex. winmo) was not around we have multiple manufacturers (HTC, Motorolla, SonyErricson, Dell, ASUS, etc…) either not able to have a cell phone or would have a cellphone with there own OS which is more fragmented than having one os on different versions.@britmic -I agree this argument is a red haring.

  5. It’s *not* a red herring, and the argument about the App Store and “can I use a camera app on my Touch” is ridiculous, since you already know that you don’t have a camera and the apps tell you what they will run on. It’s a lot easier when you have a simplified product line. In the case of Android, there *isn’t* a simple product line as the carriers & manufacturers are all putting their own flair on the phones. Look what AT&T did with the Backflip. Look at how phones that are just a couple of months old are shipping with “old” versions of Android, with no update in site. The usual answer for everything is “Oh, you have to root your phone.” The overly techie feel to Android (and in particular the snotty responses to support queries) are going to have a negative effect. It’s just like putting Linux on the desktop. People don’t WANT to have to “root their phone” or install some third party mod/hack to get things to work. They want it to Just Work, which is something that the App Store has done a fantastic job yet.I agree with Tom. It’s silly to bring up the compass.

  6. Whether fragmentation ruins the Android platform is a different question altogether, and something I never claimed. It is true, however, that it can ruin the Android experience, since multiple Android users will not have the same options, as the link in my article attests to. But phone vendors until the iPhone never gave a darn about the user experience anyway. It’s ridiculous to call this a “red herring”, and then bring up the iPhone’s compass. Heck, you even forgot 3G and GPS. Do these represent fragmentation or not? If so, then Android has it 10,000 times worse. (Oh, and leave the iPod touch out of this, we’re talking PHONES, here.)Your comment about being a hack is especially funny since it’s clear Android is the geek’s phone. Besides, and once again, my article did not say fragmentation would ruin the Android platform. It simply acknowledges that it exists, in spades, and that Google cannot manage it.

  7. IMO, fragmentation is a big fat red herring. Successful branches thrive, whilst others that fail are pruned. Just like life and evolution, and business. Things get old and die. Some do not get obsolete before they die, others do.Life has been pretty successful with this pattern so far.Also, even with the ‘unfragmented’ iPhone App store it’s possible to buy apps for the digital compass and video camera in the 3GS on a 3G or a Touch, right?I’m not saying fragmentation is easy to manage, quite the opposite.To me (and only me) you sound like a hack from the early ’90s talking FUD about UNIX forking. OS X is a certified UNIX. Funny how things turn out, huh?As for embedded ads in Android devices – I haven’t seen any.

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