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.

Why Is My Android Phone So Much Different Than Yours?

“I didn’t know that I had an older operating system until I compared it with my friends,” Roark says. “They said my Android Market looks very different from theirs.”…

Like Roark, many Android customers are discovering that their new smartphones do not have the latest version of Google’s mobile operating system. Despite state-of-the art hardware and design, many new Android phones are shipped with older versions of the firmware, cutting off consumers’ access to newer features and apps that require the most recent versions.

Ah, the perils of fragmentation. This is a problem that’s only going to get worse and, despite the dreams of some pundits, there’s very little Google can do about it. This is what so-called “open” begets.

In this case, why would Verizon dole out an upgrade that provides free GPS navigation when they can sell it to him for $10 a month? And that’s even assuming the guy’s phone can run the latest Android. It’s a mess, and getting messier.

I wonder what Google’s new mouthpiece Tim Bray thinks of this? I’m sure he’ll have a good little corporate response after he figures out the difference between the mobile internet and an app store.