Android Fragmentation is Disturbing

A recent blog post over on the TweetDeck blog shows just how fragmented the Android phone market is already, and we have just begun.

As we bring our initial Android TweetDeck beta period to a close, we wanted to quickly reflect on the Android ecosystem and what might be considered extreme fragmentation. To date we’ve had 36,427 active beta testers and below you can see the massive variety of phones and Android OS versions everyone is running. We were really shocked to see the number of custom roms, crazy phones and general level of customization/hackalicious nature of Android. From our perspective it’s pretty cool to have our app work on such a wide variety of devices and Android OS variations.

Taken from their post, you can see how many different devices they saw in their beta.  This is different devices with many potentially versions of Android.  By my precise calculations, that’s 244 different phones and 108 different versions of the operation system and ROMs.  This is pretty staggering and quite a task to try to support.

Google says this is not an issue, but I wonder.  As a software developer and have heard Android developers explaining their issues with supporting different versions of the Android operating system, I think there is more than meets the eye and more issues to come.  An article from ZDNet this summer supports my thoughts:

But is this a problem? Well, I think that six major releases in the space of 19 months has been a problem. That pace of change speaks of Android’s geeky origins. For Joe Average, this created an ultra-confusing marketplace where operating system versions changed every few months. It also meant that compatibility issues were inevitable.

I will personally not pursue developing for Android because of fragmentation alone.  Stepping into a market which has so many different devices and operating system versions wreaks of support nightmares for developers.  The sad part is, I don’t have a solution to the problem.  Apple get chastised for its closeness, but controller the hardware and the operating system seems to work well.

There is even a web site dedicated to the problem,

  • Drew@putters

    Yes the Android is crippled because it can’t manage your battery. It can’t also protect you from Flash crashes and it doesn’t have an approval process to weed out the applications that steal your information. It also forces you to run your apps from the sd card which is much slower than regular memory.

  • Dan@Nanaimo Real Estate

    Android crippled? LOL! Compared to what? The iPhone that can’t multi-task, can’t run flash, can’t run apps unless Steve approves them? Apple intentionally cripples the iPhone. BTW, SD card(changeable SD card that is) app storage is available in 2.2 Froyo. Multi-touch works great.