What are your thoughts on Android Fragmentation?

Posted Dec 19, 2012 at 5:36 pm in Threads > Opinions

With every new update to Android we get bombarded with reports of how fragmented Android is. We have all seen the pie graphs with Gingerbread with a huge piece of the pie, and we hopelessly wait for our phones to get the latest and greatest operating system. My thoughts on it all is that truly fragmentation is not a huge issue that reporters make it out to be, if you buy an Android phone for the latest and greatest OS you are more then likely going to root and flash a ROM with that new OS before the OEM and Carrier push that update out. On the flip side, there are a good majority of people who have an Android phone and don’t really care about their OS and wont be heart broken if they are stuck on Gingerbread because they aren’t researching Android like we do. I think we can all agree that OEM’s and Carriers should work quicker to push out updates but the beauty of Android is that when they don’t we have the power to it ourselves. So what are your thoughts? Issue or not?

  • dino13

    The fragmantation is not that much of a true problem, as most of the apps can run on every system today it’s rather a marketing problem. The only way google can handle this is by hanging on for a longer period of time to a version and try to incremently upgrade it. The other thing is that google has finally found a nice design that they can hang on for a long period of time. HOLO is grate.

  • redraider133

    I do not think it is a huge issue either. If you go out and ask random consumers with android devices what version they are on, I would say most have no clue nor do they care. When apps no longer work on devices that is when people are going to become worried about “fragmentation” but that does not seem to be the case as most apps work with pretty much every version of android. I honestly just think the others such as apple say it because it is all about marketing( even though only the like newest devices get the full update, but dont get me started on that) It really doesn’t seem to be effecting the sales or adoption of android that much and hopefully with future versions they will have something to make updates come a little quicker.

  • thymeless

    Apple has as many mobile releases in the wild and no on talks about their fragmentation problem.

    They just let the users deal with it. Android fragmentation is anti-Android myth. The same treatment applies. Let users deal with it.

    Look at the second image in this link.


    Notice all the versions of iOS running in the consumer space still, some 20 odd versions of iOS.

    Yes, there’s been more versions of Android but not enough to support the fragmentation argument that’s often made in comparison to iOS.

    On my home computer, I just expect to upgrade my OS myself if I want a new version, not just patches. It’s not Microsoft’s, or Ubunut’s job to do it. Sure, not all hardware can run the latest OS. At some point, you just get left behind if you don’t upgrade the hardware too. Apple does it too, but no one notices.

    Same for Android, but there are plenty of customizations to make your phone or tablet better than the way it came from the OEM. If you want a more recent version of Android and your phone will run it, slap on a ROM.

    • thymeless

      That should be the THIRD graphic as it shows all the iOS versions reporting in that time period.

  • Monsunami

    I believe that the fragmentation problem is not really as bad as it sounds now. As mentioned previously, you could get away with by using ROMS or other customization software.

    Maybe further down the line, it may become a bigger issue if innovations leads to vastly differences in updated versions to the point where apps makers aren’t willing to provide support or time to make apps compatible with earlier versions of Android OS.

    As long as they can get people to get a new Android phone every couple of years, it will be fine.

  • Trean

    I think the concern was greater early in Android development with the OS changing rapidly and pushing out versions much more rapidly. To me there is Gingerbread and 4.x (ICS / JB). The two are quite different.

    I think the debate on fragmentation stems more from vanilla android versus manufacturer modified. They want to distinguish there are phones from others and some make UIs that are simply crap. Since ICS I see no reason for manufacturing mods. The interface is slick and elegant. These modifications are also what stop some phones being easily updated by manufacturer/ carrier to newer Android versions.

  • WlfHart

    Not sure how to refrain from being redundant, but I agree with those above. Fragmentation would really only be a huge issue if people expected more than two years out of their device and in that expected lifetime they were no longer able to utilize a functioning version of the apps they have had since their OS version was the current one. As thymeless stated, with PCs we don’t cry over fragmentation (though I certainly was sad when XP stopped being supported) because we accept that newer software often requires newer hardware when it comes down to it. If it doesn’t then the user it responsible for upgrading. (though where the analogy weakens is the fact that as long as the hardware is up to snuff the OS provider does make a newer OS available at the same time for all PCs with beefy enough hardware) But that’s where the ROM community comes in. Not quite as seemless as the PC OS swap, but it’s an option (I did say the analogy weakens).
    Sure it’s frustrating because phone OS update occur far more frequently than PC OS versions, and carriers are slow to keep up. But it really isn’t the end of the world, and being on the cutting edge in any field always requires either extra costs or extra risks.
    I think the fragmentation thing may be blown out of proportion in the smartphone world because the people who care hear about a new OS months before it ever even is officially released on a phone… so when they have to wait another half a year (or more) for the OS to roll out on old hardware (if ever) it seems like that much longer.

  • gp126904

    Thanks for your input everyone, it bore seems as though everyone outta in agreement and I had no idea that was the case. There are tons and tons of stories of how horrible Android is withwith fragmentation but it never seemed to be an issue to me but none of my friends that use Android really care about the os like we do so I had to come to the experts.

  • Ezy03

    I think buy a nexus !

  • gmaninvan

    I think it is relevant for devices not updated within a two year span but beyond that it is the software evolving beyond the hardware. I think the reason we are where we are at is because of how android developed so quickly and had major changes in the code. You will see devices update more frequently from now due to the fact that the OS is mature and future releases won’t be massive changes, making it easier for OEM’s to update their custom UI’s.

  • decker

    I don’t see it being a problem. As old phones get old or damaged, they will likely get replaced with new devices that have the newest operating system. Most apps run on 2.2 and up. I’ve actually seen a few apps that were not yet compatible with ICS and JB.

  • lou2cool88

    I think it’s both great and terrible. Look at all the great additions to Android that Samsung has made with Touchwiz. At the same time, look how long it’s taken OEMs to update their phones. Also, I bet it sucks for developers too.

  • Nicko01

    I would say that it IS a bit of a problem, but it can be fixed.
    There are two major problems that cause fragmentation issues – wide variations in hardware and manufacturer skins. The first problem makes it difficult to maintain compatibility with applications and OS updates. A way to solve this is to create driver standards that maintain backwards compatibility in Android updates. Notice that Windows runs on such a wide range of hardware but can be installed without waiting for a manufacturer to make a specific update for each system. This is due to a combination of standards in hardware and drivers for hardware that is not standard. Most hardware just works, others need a driver to be installed. Also, most of the time old drivers will still work on the new system, but it’s relatively simple for manufacturers to update a few drivers if necessary. This kind of setup could work on Android.
    As for dealing with manufacturer skins – if Android supported skins by having a way to switch between them and disable them, this really wouldn’t be a problem. If they’re not embedded into the OS, the OS can be updated and then the skin reapplied later.

  • ibap

    Android fragmentation is a non-issue – except for the Apple fans that want to point to it as a problem. I’m running a 1st generation iPad that isn’t going to get updated to the latest iOS. If you look at what Apple versions are running, you can call that fragmentation too.

    @lou2cool88 talks about Touchwiz customization, but that is not really fragmentation.

    The real problem is carrier interference and the way updates are handled.