The discussions regarding Android Fragmentation have been moving upward this month, especially because of the most recent numbers coming from Google’s own Android Developer site. The numbers for ICS adoption as of the beginning of the month show Android 4.0 with a 4.9% share of Android devices. That is less than 5% and it has been on the market for more than 5 months. That is very telling and we may not see it in double digit territory when they report at the beginning of June. That brings us to the topic about Android Fragmentation and just how bad it actually is. Open Signal Maps has created a chart which we are showing here. This chart represents the 3,997 unique devices they have found which have downloaded their OpenSignalMaps to a device.
If you look at this, it is overwhelming as to what we are seeing. The one green square represents the GT-i1900 which is Samsung’s Galaxy S2 device which is very popular. Of the 3,997 devices, they have figured that 1,363 represent those Android devices which have a custom ROM build and installed before the download of their app. Even if you discount those custom ROM’s, that still leaves 2,634 unique devices which they have to deal with in the app so that it will operate correctly. That is a staggering number of devices to have to deal with. They have to deal with 599 phone brands being sold with Samsung being the largest brand name with 40% of the market. Everything goes down from there.
So, you might ask what is the point of all of this. While the company could choose not to support some of the smaller brands, it would cause them to miss out on potential sales. Other smaller companies probably do just that which means that if you have a brand name phone which has a very small market share, you may not even have the opportunity to purchase an app from one of the app companies because they do not support your phone. And that is the point. With all these various phone models, it makes it more difficult for developers. You then have to factor in the Android Fragmentation effect with the potential for each phone model to have at least 2 Android OS versions which can operate on the phone which have been officially released by phone manufacturers. That starts multiplying things out and gives you an idea as to just how tough it is for app developers.
You then add to all the various phone brands, various versions of the phones and then all the various versions of the Android OS and it presents challenges to app companies. On top of all that is now the various screen sizes which have to factor into the mix of things which they are trying to resolve. On top of that are the various screen resolutions as well and you start to understand the challenges of developing apps for Android phones.
While the physical devices stay static once a phone is released, the OS is changing which has to be support and more of a problem it becomes for a company developing an app. If they have been in the market for years, their app has already been developed for existing Android versions, so they would only have to address the latest version. But for a new company trying to develop an app for the Android OS family, this is a daunting task.
While all the news for developers is not bad, it is all these challenges which cause some to not develop for Android. We can hope that Google can change some of this and it looks like they may be moving in that direction. Rumors of Google selling Nexus phones with Jelly Bean may force this to change in the future.
The discussion on this will be continued by many.