Fragmenation in Smartphones – an iOS or an Android Problem?


Fragmentation is linked to Android these days, but is it really that bad?


Whenever someone wants to say that Android is bad, they start by speaking about fragmentation – how developers are having a hard time supporting so many handset types. Here’s what Simon Judge has to say about this phenomena:

My personal view is that the BBC made a mistake. On projects over the last year, for apps shipped in the UK only (iPlayer’s audience) I have been seeing approximately 75% of smartphone devices are Android. Approximately 80% of these devices are Samsung. A large proportion of the remainder are HTC. The large Android share should be enough for the BBC (and others) to look for better compromises.

To Simon, this is a matter of where you put your focus on Android, and let’s face it – focus on Android today is mainly thinking Galaxy and Samsung.

It was funny starting off my RSS reads with two adjacent posts with totally opposite opinion:

Richard Windsor on Radio Free Mobile, who usually thinks Android is crap when it comes to the user experience, had this to say about the comparison of Android to iOS:

Fragmentation. Android is very fragmented. So fragmented in fact that I estimate that only 32% of Android devices are really capable of delivering a decent Google experience.

I can’t say he is wrong, but I think that most target a specific set of audience – one that isn’t that fragmented.

And then TechCrunch, working up their Apple-bashing in the days before WWDC, had Kevin Marks come at an interesting tangent, of how iOS is fragmented:

As someone who uses both Android and iOS regularly, I’m getting increasingly frustrated by fragmentation. However it’s not on my Android devices I see this, but rather on the iOS ones.

He then goes off to list the areas where fragmentation is actually hurting iOS a lot more than it is hurting Android (specifically form factors, screen sizes, intra-app communication and web support). It is a fresh look at things.

Now, I am not sure where fragmentation is worse, but I do know this: Android is actively trying to treat fragmentation and assist developers in the process. Is Apple doing anything about it?

Our future is going to span over multiple devices, with the expectation of the user to get a coherent experience for the same service across devices. This makes users align on a specific ecosystem – be it an iOS one or an Android one. In which one will developers offer the better experience moving forward? In the one that requires rethinking the whole app across form factors, or the one where any development task is one where form factor fragmentation is taken into account from the beginning?


Mike says:
June 23, 2013

This point is hardly worth debating, the so-called fragmentation is the only weapon that Apple-fans have to aim at Android fans. Ask any of the latter and you will find two main viewpoints.
1) they have no idea what you are talking about, it has that little effect for the majority of users.
2) yes they are aware but are very happy to live with any perceived disadvantages because of the huge benefits brought by a more open system. One where the users have a huge influence on the development of the o/s through many channels such as “XDA developers”, “CWM” and similar organisations. The enormous disadvantage of being locked into ios is that users simply have to take whatever Apple throws at them, from the very limited choice of devices to the whimsical approach to proprietary harware and software and the intentional avoidance of accepted industry standards. Apple used to tout “creativity” but in fact they stifle it at every turn.

    Tsahi Levent-Levi says:
    July 3, 2013

    I tend to agree with you Mike, but I think there’s a large segment of people that would be fine (and very happy) with the walled gardens of Apple.