May 4, 2010 | by Andrew Kameka
Android fragmentation is here to stay – deal with it. I had to include that statement twice just to make sure people recognize this predicament. No matter how much we complain or shake our fists at Google and the Open Handset Alliance, Android will have different software versions.
Fragmentation is alive and well, and people need to accept this as a reality of Android. Just because one phone has a particular experience doesn’t mean that all phones will enjoy a similar fate. Google may have plans to try to fight this off in Froyo and Gingerbread, but it’s unlikely that they will be able to overcome challenges of different hardware specs and continued innovation.
Google has once again updated its platform chart to reveal which Android versions access the Android Market. Guess which is the most popular version? No, not the fresh-baked goodness of Eclair; the now stale sweetness of Cupcake and Donut, which account for 37 percent and 29 percent respectively. Despite Android 2.1 debuting nearly six months ago, and 1.6 several months prior to that, less than one-third of Android users have an up-to-date version of the platform.
People often complain that their Hero can’t use certain apps, their Tattoo can’t see certain apps, or that Google releases apps for the Droid or Nexus One instead of making them compatible with the G1. This is an inconvenience that we’ll have to bear. When the time finally comes that your Hero gets Éclair 2.1, you’ll celebrate and rush to use all those features previously unavailable on Cupcake. Two hours later, Android will probably be on 2.2 and you may still run into apps or features that are incompatible.
Android is a young platform that’s poised to be fragmented for the foreseeable future. Manufacturers are likely to continue building their own flavors of Android because its one of the few ways to set their product apart from others. After all, there’s only so many ways to stuff a Snapdragon processor into a WVGA screen with a 5 megapixel camera. There’s no way to avoid long periods of fragmentation if OEM’s will continue performing major changes to Android’s code, which adds a longer period of getting those interfaces to be compatible with Google’s rapid pace of updates.
I’d love Android to have a uniform experience, but not at the cost of choice. The only reason anyone should buy an EVO or Cliq is because they are attracted to Sense and MOTOBLUR, two unique experiences not available in the “vanilla” Android. If you want the latest updates, get a Nexus One.
Loving Sense and being stuck on 1.5 may have caught most people off guard, but it is now a known issue. From this point on, you choose to love Sense or MOTOBLUR fully-knowing that it will take several months to get the latest version of Android – if you get it at all. The same goes for people who own a G1, myTouch, Galaxy, and so on. You have a valid beef with your carrier/phone maker; however, if you want all the pizazz of Google innovations, get a new phone capable of running them.
There are only two options: evolve or perish. Android is going to move forward with or without you.