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Not every problem with Android should be called "fragmentation"

0. phoneArena posted on 22 Mar 2012, 16:40

Every single time we post an article about the next Android OS update, there is the inevitable calls about fragmentation, and how Google should fix its "fragmentation" problem, which people claim is exacerbated...

This is a discussion for a news. To read the whole news, click here

posted on 22 Mar 2012, 22:28 3

73. Sniggly (Posts: 7305; Member since: 05 Dec 2009)

Another wonderful article, Michael. Loved the arguments presented here, and it's true: blame for slow updates should be placed on carriers and manufacturers, not Google so much. If anything, Google's only responsibility should be to tighten down the window for updates to a year or less instead of 18 freaking months.

However, those who cry for Google's blood over not enforcing fast updates enough miss a huge problem: how, exactly, can Google enforce an update schedule if the manufacturer doesn't comply? There is no real way to punish the manufacturer without also inadvertently punishing the customers.

Also, the manufacturers and carriers seem to be getting a little better at software updates as well: for instance, the first Gingerbread updates didn't hit AT&T until late July. I remember because the Atrix was the first, and i didn't buy it until after Gingerbread was out for it which was literally the end of July. The first Gingerbread phone on Verizon was the Droid X, and that didn't receive its update until April I think. It might have even been May. I don't remember what the timetables were for Sprint and T-mobile but i don't think they were much better.

Now we already have an update for the Vivid, with Samsung's entire premier lineup almost ready for the update too. HTC is also pushing to get the update out for their phones out very soon, and Motorola, as far behind as they are, are still on a timetable to get updates out in the next two to three months. On a standard update cycle that still gives current customers of the newest phones a solid year or so to enjoy their new software before they can get the next phone.

posted on 23 Mar 2012, 16:30 1

105. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2720; Member since: 26 May 2011)

That is a good point. Everyone wants Google to take control of the ecosystem by forcing updates or banning manufacturer UIs, but there's really no way to do that. The best Google can do is to build the tools to make it easier on developers and manufacturers.

posted on 22 Mar 2012, 22:43 3

74. cttan456 (Posts: 62; Member since: 22 Mar 2012)

Well written, kudos to Michael H. I particularly like the part where you mentioned how the term fragmentation was coined by Apple to bring down Android. Before Apple coined this term to attack Android, we've never heard of OS fragmentation. In fact, the only people who keep harping on it are Apple people. Truth is, consumers don't know or and don't care about what OS fragmentation is. To consumers the only type of fragmentation they are concerned about is whether their phone would fragment when they drop it, and those made with aluminium and sandwiched with glass fronts and backs are most prone to fragment upon impact as many of my friends have found out.

posted on 23 Mar 2012, 10:01 1

93. trollCall (Posts: 3; Member since: 23 Mar 2012)

Sorry, survey says "X"! WINDOWS MOBILE is where fragmentation originated on a large scale and where it continues Android is Windows Mobile reincarnated. You can blame on developers if you want, but the fact of the matter is Google did and is continuing to do a sloppy job of setting the table rules in the Android house, ESPECIALLY when it comes to developers. Even with Android 4.0.2, contacts sync broke for all things not Google+ because Google AGAIN changed the freaking API, and is set to do so YET AGAIN with Android 4.0.3. How is that the developers fault that Google keeps changing the API. Android's brain trust needs to get its head straight. With every update comes a change at the developer level that is so drastic that it renders apps or functions of apps useless because of a poorly coordinated change. THIS is what causes fragmentation.

posted on 22 Mar 2012, 23:28 3

76. roscuthiii (Posts: 2241; Member since: 18 Jul 2010)

Another interesting read Michael. You know you're pushing the right buttons when you consistently get page after page of discussion ( i.e., debate, insight, instruction, relation of personal experience, & fanboy trolling) on the commentary.

My way of thinking regarding OS fragmentation is this: Does the device still not do what it did that lead to its purchase in the first place? Anything people receive after purchase is gravy to be thankful for and the only thing owed by the vendors is bug fixes.

posted on 23 Mar 2012, 16:43

106. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2720; Member since: 26 May 2011)

Yeah, people also seem to greatly overestimate the value of software updates. Early in a platform's life, sure there will be some big updates with each new iteration, but by version 4 or 5, changes aren't that major any more.

I mean, if you were just updating software, and no buying an iPhone 4S, what do you really get with iOS 5? The only major improvements are the notifications and iCloud. Everything else is either just a way to get you to spend more money (Newsstand), or relatively minor changes to existing features.

Same with ICS, the major jump there is with the UI which you won't get if you have a skinned phone anyway, so what are you really missing out on? Face Unlock, a better camera and a better browser? No one uses Face Unlock, and you can get better cameras and browsers in the Play Store.

posted on 23 Mar 2012, 00:08 2

77. ThreeFourSeven (Posts: 34; Member since: 23 Nov 2011)

I find this funny. People are blaming Google for Samsung releasing the 7.7 Tab with Honeycomb. Are you kidding me?! I

posted on 23 Mar 2012, 00:30

78. piyath (Posts: 1038; Member since: 23 Mar 2012)

Android easily wins!
This articl confirms that ios & android are same in the case of OS broblems.
But if we look in to functionality & usability with high standards and openness, android is the clear winner. To build up such an open but working flawlessly on various apps on various phones is amazing. There is alot of effort than ios in aking such a flexible and Interesting operating system.

Making a software which is very much. compatible with every aspect along with giving the maximum performances in particular device is marvalous!

Thanks for the clear idea you gave ppl to see the truth.
one day android will become the only OS in the world. it wilk catch up soooon....

posted on 23 Mar 2012, 00:49 2

79. hepresearch (unregistered)

I have said before that I fear the idea of iOS becoming the only smartphone OS left in the world... although I tend to have more of a soft-spot in my heart for Android, I actually hope you are wrong. I would dislike a world with just Android JUST AS MUCH as I would dislike a world with just iOS. In fact, I would be highly dissatisfied if Android and iOS remained, but kicked out all other competitors. I am leary enough of a three-ecosystem market (with Windows Phone being the likely third candidate if BlackBerry drops out, along with all of the others like bada and webOS disappearing)... I would prefer MORE choice than what we have now.

posted on 23 Mar 2012, 07:46 2

85. ilia1986 (unregistered)

What's wrong with a word consisting only from Android? Android is open source - so anyone could turn it to anything. Put ANY user interface up, introduce ANY concept to it, implement ANY innovative idea that it would support.

Heck, you could even turn Android into iOS minus the closed ecosystem given enough time and effort!

posted on 23 Mar 2012, 08:41

90. hepresearch (unregistered)


posted on 23 Mar 2012, 09:04

91. hepresearch (unregistered)

I'm having browser issues intermittently, so I apologize for the comment that says "Loading...", as I have now apparently produced several such posts by accident.

In reply, I would hope that other ecosystems may continue to survive for the sake of just having a choice. Not everyone wants to take the time to modify Android to their liking... iOS is very successful in part because it is convenient, and everything about the OS, behavior-wise, is essentially set up already out-of-the-box. There are people who do not like Android because they do not want to have to take the time to make it their own, and although some of us cannot understand why anyone would want this at face value, it is still the truth. In short, iOS has an important place to fill in the market, even for those of us who think that Android could replace them all anyway.

I want to be able to make my choice of OS based on my need for convenience at the time of purchase, and not have that choice made for me just because Android could be made to look like anything I wanted it to, and thus Android is what I get and I have to put in the time to make it into what I want it to be whether I have the time or not.

posted on 23 Mar 2012, 10:24 1

95. roscuthiii (Posts: 2241; Member since: 18 Jul 2010)

To sum it up, iOS works, and sells, because it's plug & play.
Plug and play is a pretty compelling characteristic in an age of instant gratuitous gratification.

posted on 23 Mar 2012, 11:54

98. hepresearch (unregistered)


... and that is why I am more worried for the survival of Android than I am for the survival of iOS. I don't want to see either one leave the market any time soon, but Apple absolutely has it made on how they positioned iOS for a long-term stay in the market... and although I like a lot of what Google has done with Android, I worry more for them.

Unfortunately, I fear that more closed-systems is where the consuming public is headed at full-throttle... instant gratuitous gratification is only growing in demand all the time as technology makes it more possible, and more convenient. So, in a way, the demise of open-source is already built into the current market trends.

+1 to you for effectively saying, in two sentences, what took me two entire paragraphs to explain!

posted on 23 Mar 2012, 14:24 2

100. remixfa (Posts: 14605; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)

wait.. your worried about the long term survival of the worlds most popular OS, that is only gaining in popularity, that is also FREE for ANYONE to use in anything they can see fit??? over the closed OS that loses market share pretty much every year to android???

You do realize that NEITHER are going away right? Not as long as apple retains its high margins or android is free to play with. They are both huge money makers. They just go about things differently.

posted on 23 Mar 2012, 14:53 1

103. hepresearch (unregistered)

I would agree with you, in that I don't think Android is going away, either; however, if they keep laying into each other with all this patent litigation garbage that cuts everybody up, and ultimately makes the biggest loser's products cost more than the biggest winner's products over time, then they will start bringing each other down until only one can survive... and I am worried that Apple already has the upper hand in that. Android may be exploding into new record sales territory every week, but the iPhone is more secure in its market than Android is in its own market, even if the iPhone's market isn't growing nearly as fast. If certain conditions come to pass, then Android sales shares could start crashing back down from the ceiling. Also, while it is only 30% more likely that an iPhone owner will upgrade within the iOS platform, as opposed to the likelihood of an Android owner upgrading to a newer Android model (honestly not a huge difference), it is in fact 7 times more likely that an Android user will upgrade to an iPhone, as opposed to an iPhone user upgrading to an Android device. So, while Android sales are huge and through-the-roof right now and for the next couple of years, the exceedingly-higher customer loyalty of Apple customers will begin to have a balancing, and eventually devastating, effect as the smartphone market becomes more saturated.

posted on 25 Mar 2012, 15:08

116. cellphonejunky (Posts: 14; Member since: 21 Mar 2012)

You know, as a society we are still transitioning out of the industrial age despite what most people think. Don't believe me? The manufacturing of like objects for interchangable parts to be easier to implement while also being more accesssible. But then the concept of Brand Names really started taking momentum and different manufacturers have different parts and we're back at square one, nowadays we are still at the same place we were 200 years ago (On that topic, obviously, I can already hear the smart@sses)
Buy a foreign car and try to Ford parts in it, some might fit, but not all of them. Apple is far taking over on a global scale or the states for that matter, but the reason android (or an android-esque replacement in case it collapses) will always be available is because the majority of the world will not comply to Apple's restrictive policy. Around the world, online piracy is a lot more popular and a lot harder to enforce (That kind of goes hand in hand) and pirated content is a B!tc# to put on iPhone, I have a lot of friends abroad who are not tech saavy but stream piracy 24\7 which is a luxury I don't see anyone parting with in the near future, let alone for an iPhone

posted on 27 Mar 2012, 19:27

134. CRICKETownz (Posts: 980; Member since: 24 Oct 2009)

what people miss about iOS is that Apple has dedicated their App store to the concept of "making it their own". there is something out there to download for any interest level & believe it or not, most of them don't cost. a lot of the apps i use deal cross-platform w/Android users. that's why apps are so popular b/c you can find something that you are in to. People make it seem as if you take an iPhone out of the box, you get a few options, & there you have it...that's it. i think Apple has focused on the level of customization that matters to the majority of buyers. i'm not into custom ROMS, ring tones, launchers, or any of that...yet i have built computers from scratch so i am techy. Apple doesn't only appeal to the simpleton. BUT i do agree w/the idea of not limiting OS options. I like WP7, Android, iOS, webOS, & blackberry (even tho i'm not impressed w/their hardware choices).

posted on 23 Mar 2012, 16:45 1

107. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2720; Member since: 26 May 2011)

As long as you don't buy an iOS device, it won't be the only choice. Simple as that, nothing to fear. Just because there's no other major choice other than Android right now doesn't mean nothing will ever show up. If something strikes a chord with users, it will gain popularity.

posted on 23 Mar 2012, 01:38 3

81. procoder (Posts: 10; Member since: 23 Mar 2012)

Its a very well written article.

Simple Solution is ...

1. Device manufacturer should separate their launcher or UI update separate compared to google OS update.( so google update OS, it shouldn't affect manufacture laucher or UI )..depends can be decided by google .

2. Developer should build apps with google fragmentation jar file which will help app run across all platform Android Version.

3. Developer should build UI on 2 uniqueness like you do for IOS ( one for iphone screen and one for ipad ). one for resolution for standard androd till galaxy s2 resolution and other for tablet resolution, which will make less of mess..

This 3 points will make Android experience more better for user.

why Apple Sucks sometimes.

1) After OS updates older phone and older ipod touch become much slower, i faced it..i m not sure you faced it which will tend user to move to new device..
2) After OS update some functionalities in app is not supported cause of compatibility reasons.

please add on some other points if you have..


posted on 23 Mar 2012, 06:22 2

83. ilia1986 (unregistered)

Michael, awesome article, as always.

However 2 things bother me:

1. If you say that developers are to blame for the "fragmentation" - aka not every app can run on every device despite having the same OS version - then that means that Android is already dead! Without developers, android would be like WebOS! I don't know if Apple is to blame here by allowing developers to rip us off via 2 versions of each app (one for iPod\phone and one for iPad), or the developers themselves have become way too spoiled, but this is insanely disturbing, to say the least.

2. You say that there are variations in hardware among manufacturers and devices. That's true, but in the PC world, A Toshiba Laptop can run the same software as an Alienware Desktop. Provided both run Windows 7, etc. Traditional PCs also have hardware variations, AMD, Intel, nVidia, dozens of soundcard manufacturers, lan card manufacturers, MB manufacturers, differen chipsets, RAMs from different companies, etc, yet there is absolutely ZERO hardware incompatability. Only System requirements based on performance. I could understand a developer of an uber graphical game on the Android market, requiring say, at least a Mali400 chip, or a 1Ghz Dual core processor, or something like that, but why limit apps to only specific devices??

posted on 23 Mar 2012, 16:48 1

108. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2720; Member since: 26 May 2011)

1) Never said that developers are to blame for "fragmentation", I said that devs are to blame for incompatibility.

2) Zero hardware compatibility? Are you mad? You've never wrestled with drivers have you...

posted on 26 Mar 2012, 02:59

117. ilia1986 (unregistered)

1. That very incompatibility is what causes fragmentation. On iOS, you buy even the 3 year old iPHone 3GS, and you get iOS 5.1. You can be certain that every app which requires iOS 5.1 and above (which is all of them, really) can run on the 3GS. Sure, games like Infinity Blade 2 or such won't look that good - but they will work. The only exception is truly heavy games like GTA3, which require an iPhone 4 and above. When a new device comes out - the developer simply updates this one device into the sys. requirements.

On Android - and this is something I noticed myself, I've seen apps being restricted only to specific devices, for no good reason. This may not sound that bad, but think about it - if there is an app designed to work only on the SGS2 due to it's sheer power - and is designed for the Mali400 chipset, when the SGS3 comes out - and has a chipset from a different firm - say a PowerVR - unless the developer updates the sys.requirements check in the app for ALL devices which have higher processing power than the SGS2 - and those new devices come at break-neck pace - any new phone which comes out which doesn't have a Mali400 chipset cannot run that app.

2. Well, almost zero hardware incompatibility. Even when I needed to struggle with drivers - usually on XP machines with hardware made in some basement in India or something, there were drivers for it. And this is on Windows - an operating system much much more closed than Android. On Windows if you install say Skyrim - which is a very resource-hungry game - you can run it on millions of machines with different hardware variations. There is no restriction by the developer to run it only on nVidia cards, for example. Or only on Dell PCs. Or only on machines with an Intel chipset, etc etc.

The smartphone app industry is very young, unlike the PC one. What developers need to do is program apps which are compatible with EVERYTHING which is there, be that qualcom, exynos, tegra, or even the Apple A4\5\5x (so they will have easier time rewriting the app for iOS later). PC developers can do that. All of them. They only ask you have a powerful-enough machine in order to run the app properly. No reason why Mobile app developers can't either. especially when sales of mobile apps easily enclipse sales from all the software PC industry to consumers.

posted on 26 Mar 2012, 09:15

118. cellphonator (Posts: 298; Member since: 29 Oct 2011)

Games, games, games, it's all about games, do you have a job?

posted on 26 Mar 2012, 15:40

130. ilia1986 (unregistered)

You think that hardware incompatibility is restricted to games only? lol..

posted on 23 Mar 2012, 10:20 2

94. trollCall (Posts: 3; Member since: 23 Mar 2012)

Congrats Michael. You just wrote the most compelling argument towards me getting rid of my Galaxy Nexus. No matter the developer, Google has done a poor job with Android overall, whether it be its policies with OEMs and carriers or the poorly coordinated changes in API with developers. Google is not to blame for carriers and OEMs not providing updates. Googe IS to blame for not mandating that they not code on top of Android and preventing Google from doing the updates themselves like Apple does. I have had a Windows Phone and iPhone in the past year as well. Only Apple seems to get it, as carriers can and are blocking updates to Windows Phone. End users, the ONLY people who count here, don't want to be frustrated with pseudo-fragmentation and cloudy understanding of the all too many moving parts of an Android update. You can't start a car, put a broom stick on the gas pedal, put the car in drive, and let it loose on a crowded street, then blame the car manufacturer for making a car that doesn't brake itself and the city for not detecting the runaway car and somehow clearing the street of other cars (existing Android installations) to make room for this new car. That's exactly what Google does with Android, INCLUDING the Nexus line. It's insulting that you'd even scratch the surface of debating whether to call it fragmentation or not and then blame it on developers? Really? Really dude? That's what you do? Oh, Google doesn't need to fix anything because it already put the platform out, huh? Nevermind the sloppy-ness in how the updates get delivered and nevermind the sloppy development environment it fosters. Google is the main agent of change here. That's what counts at the end of the day. Google develops Android. It'd behoove them to develop a better way of delivering it and enabling a more efficient development environment for it.

posted on 23 Mar 2012, 10:40 2

96. Whateverman (Posts: 3284; Member since: 17 May 2009)

Android and iOS user for years and i've suffered no ill affects from "fragmentation". I see more force closes from my iPad then I've experienced with all of my Android phones combined, so all this talk about how horrible a job Google is doing just makes me laugh. If you dislike your Nexus that much, I'll be more than happy to take it off your hands at a fair price. Just so you can experience all the FREEDOM that comes with Apple. You said how end users are the only thing that counts here and I would agree. It would be nice to get the updates 5 days after its released, but most end users don't know ICS from Eclair. It's only about 10-20% of Android users, the more technically inclined users like those of us here, who are all up in arms about fragmentation, and let's be honest...don't we tend to blow thing way out of proportion here sometimes?

posted on 23 Mar 2012, 14:25 2

101. remixfa (Posts: 14605; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)

what??? NEVER!!


posted on 25 Mar 2012, 10:18 1

115. bayusuputra (Posts: 963; Member since: 12 Feb 2012)

" most end users don't know ICS from Eclair. It's only about 10-20% of Android users"

hahaha! this is really true! my gf wanted to get rid of her iPhone after playing around with the Xperia S and i told her to wait for the One X as i have experienced first hand the capability of it.. i told her that the One X is a quad-core device and already running ICS out of box, and guess what she said?
"hhmm, but i like this one because it has that Tag (the smart tag) and the shape is comfortable.. bigger than my iPhone.."

so yeah, most users don't give a crab about it.. the only real problem with the over-bombastically hyped "fragmentation" that i have ever faced is when i wanted to help a friend of mine installing whatsapp on her X10, which was still running Cupcake or Donut (can't remember, but definitely 1.X) and again, that's not really Google or SE's fault, but rather incompatibility problem of the app itself..

so it's more like incompatible than fragmented..

posted on 23 Mar 2012, 16:53 1

109. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2720; Member since: 26 May 2011)

Plenty of people like manufacturer UIs. You know, all of those normal users who don't know or care what version of software they're using or read websites like this one.

Since you obviously aren't one of those people, you have a Galaxy Nexus, so you don't have to worry about any of that.

If you want a company that mandates every aspect of an ecosystem, Google is not the place for you. Easy as that.

I'm not saying Google has nothing to fix. I'm saying that the problems most people point to are not necessarily problems to most users.

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