Smartphones

Why fragmentation is great for Android developers and users

It would be bad form to delve into the world of Android fragmentation wearing a pair of rose-colored glasses, but also don't overlook the upsides to the OS's segmentation.

On some levels, the segmented nature of the Android OS is a pain for developers and smartphone users. But there are truly great aspects of segmentation that affect users in a positive way, and there are some upsides for Android developers too.

Advantages of fragmentation for Android developers

  • Android is open: Android is a mostly open platform. This means you have complete control over your development cycle.
  • The market is massive: Billions of people use mobile phones all over the globe, which means you have access to a massive marketplace. Although some of these mobile users aren't smartphone savvy, sooner rather than later, the majority of the world's mobile phone owners will have smartphone access. As the Android global market share grows, there's expected to be a huge increase in demand for Android apps.
  • Diversity and flexibility: You can cater to a wide range of users. With Google Play, you have the ability to position yourself and your firm as the be-all-end-all of Android app development. This is especially true if you're able to build multiple versions of your apps that scale across multiple Android OS versions.

Advantages of fragmentation for Android users

  • Try before you buy: Google Play lets users try an application for 15 minutes before they buy it; this means users don't have to waste time or money on apps they'll download once and never use again. This fosters an environment where users start to trust certain mobile developers to deliver quality Android applications, regardless of OS version.
  • Device freedom: Multiple hardware configurations put the freedom in the hands of the consumer. In other words, users can choose the exact phone that will meet their application and functionality needs.

Summary

These points don't mean that fragmentation isn't frustrating; they simply highlight that Google, Android developers, and handset manufacturers should embrace Android's diversity. You're not locked in to stringent development rules like with iOS, and you can build the apps you want to reach your desired users.

Also read on TechRepublic

About

Grady Winston is an avid Internet entrepreneur and blogger from Indianapolis. He has worked in the fields of mobile and Internet development, business, marketing, and advertising, implementing multiple creative projects and solutions for a range of c...

9 comments
CharlesG1970
CharlesG1970

As pointed out by other but reiterated by me: Your article has nothing to do with Fragmentation beign good. You do point out some nice features of Android and Google, but these are not because of fragmentation. In truth the whole "Fragmentation" is a red herring based on people having upgrade fever. The real fragments or braches are: Core Android, and Amazon Fire. You have different version because Android has gone through incredible growth and Development over the past 3 years. This is not Fragmenting, this is just evolving. All phones have the same upgrade path. Unfortunately some phones cannot handle the higher requirements, and some manufactures and service providers decide not to release updates; again these are not fragments, just equipment left behind. The only other thing that is fragmenting is the screen size/processor /camera etc. choices in phones and the requirement for devs to account for many variation in their designs. Is it fragmenting to have different screen resolutions? Well maybe, but not really these are just called OPTIONS. And having to write a buch of extra code or version to account for this is NOT a benefit to Devs.

jonathan_alvarez
jonathan_alvarez

The article is more about how to survive the fragmentation issue. But fragmentation is NOT GOOD, no matter what. Having different versions is a natural process. I lived through DOS XX.XX, windows 3.1, 3.11, NT, 95, 98, 2000, XP, 7 and still alive (yes, just because by pass ME and Vista) But the point is, fragmentation is not good. You have to live with it.

morganjayp
morganjayp

No matter how you slice it, it is annoying for everyone involved. But, as the article attempts to point out, the fragmentation is a side-effect of the very loose control that Google exerts. If they said "in order to use our OS, you have to abide by A, B, and C, including our updates" then we could have less fragmentation, but there would also be fewer android phones on the market. Devs should make sure their app supports Gingerbread and above. 80% of Android devices (the increasingly dominant platform) is still a huge share of the overall smartphone market, and not to be sneezed at. And for users, yes, that fragmentation means more choice. Take the good with the bad. If you have a Froyo device, you should be eligible for an upgrade. Consider a Nexus. Unless you CHOOSE something else. I think that is the gist of what the author was saying, and it does hold true.

Ajax4Hire
Ajax4Hire

Centrally planned systems work well in the beginning (like Apple's iPad, iPod) but In a large environment, a Self-Directed development works better. Like your children, when they are born, you control everything. Eventually they leave the nest and soar to new heights. The success is based on all three, the nurture you give during the Centrally Planned phase, nature or environment your child flies into and finally, the Self-Direction of the new adult. whoa. deep, I'm going to write that down.

to_be_announced
to_be_announced

Frangmentation had nothing to do with any of the reasons given. Android is open - And fragmented. Your telling me that if it wasn't fragmented, it wouldn't be open? The market is massive - Because of fragmentation? I don't think so. Diversity and flexibility - This is because of the wide range of phones and manufacturers, not because the platform is fragmented. And both "Try before you buy" and "Device Freedom" can be had without fragmentation. To me, fragmentation is the worst part of Android.

KBabcock75
KBabcock75

Can't tell you how great I thought it was when my Android was left behind at release 2.2 and a boat load of related headaches. Ya that fragmentation is great.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I'm not an Android user, but I didn't see how many of these 'advantages' were related to fragmentation. If it wasn't open, it wouldn't be fragmented; not the other way around. The closed proprietary monolithic Windows market is huge and diverse too. I'm not qualified to say if fragmentation is good or bad for Android stakeholders, but these 'reasons' don't demonstrate that.

sparent
sparent

I'm with you on this one. I don't see how the advantages listed are due to fragmentation.

radleym
radleym

So I guess you bought Vista, and Windows 8, instead of being "left behind" at XP or. 7, right? Sometimes the latest thing isn't so great for everybody. Besides, when you buy a phone, buy one that does what you want now, not because of what it might do after a "future" update. I used 2.2 for years - works great. New versions of the OS didn't break 2.2 - it still works great. If you really have latest version fever, get a new ROM (try xda). This whole fragmentation thing is a red herring pushed by Apple-ites until they started fragmenting with hi-res. displays and mini-ipads and leaving older versions out of new features in iOS.