Android News

Rumor: Google will combat fragmentation by switching to Market updates

March 29, 2010 | by Andrew Kameka

Android OS

Rumor: Google will combat fragmentation by switching to Market updates

Android’s got a fragmentation problem, and it’s not going away in the immediate future. But there’s now talk that Google may ease the burden on splintering by moving to a Market-based update track rather than waiting on carriers to push out firmware updates.

Engadget is claiming that unnamed sources have told them that Android will slowly move to a new model, through Froyo and later Gingerbread, designed to better unify Android. Author Chris Ziegler theorizes that Google will defragment by innovating core functions of its proprietary apps through the Market rather than firmware updates. This would eliminate the middleman model of new products being held up by OEM/carriers. It’s similar to what they’ve already done with Maps.

Google’s recent innovations have required Android 1.6, 2.0, or 2.1, which left out many users. Part of the problem has been that Android’s relatively quick maturation and decisions by OEM to heavily customize the OS led to splintering. Engadget’s suggestion is that by the time we reach Gingerbread, most phones will have standards that make it less likely that new Google products will be incompatible with older OS versions.

I’d like to think this would solve Android’s fragmentation problem, but I wouldn’t bet on it just yet. This method still won’t address sub-fragmentation issues like third-party apps or games that aren’t compatible with older phones or devices like MOTOBLUR and Sense that feature heavy customization. Won’t we end up back at square one if developers use the JellyRoll SDK (totally made-up name, btw) and backwards-compatibility becomes an issue?

Still, it will be nice to see a more standard way of obtaining updates. Most of the whining coming from Android users centers on their inability to use newer versions of Google products like Gesture Search, Goggles, or Maps Navigator. If people could get major innovations in Google apps without having to wait for carriers to get their act together, everyone might be a little happier.