Slashdot on Android versions

I’ve heard this argument before and also have been told by someone who really knows Android that it isn’t true.

It does make me wonder though. Are there issues with the number of handsets? Is it just an issue because of testing?

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  1. I don't think Android the OS is particularly fragmented – it's like saying iOS is fragmented because it can run on different hardware, multi-generation iPod and iPhone and iPad etc, all with different hardware capability.

    However, with Android there is also a choice how the vendor assembles the hardware components, so for example there are Snapdragon and Hummingbird CPU used in different handsets which each use a different GPU. That's where differences can arise, mostly in performance.

    So despite what others say (mostly Apple people), it is similar (but not the same) to the nineties where Apple was using very limited architectures compared to the PC industry that proliferated with low-level hardware differences such as type of sound and graphics in use.

    Fragmentation is a FUD buzzword in my opinion. But I will say one thing. An iDevice is a more consistent experience across devices today than Android because with Android OS the carriers put on their own junk (much like PC manufacturers did and still do). The difference is, popular handsets will have the open source code compiled (eg CyanogenMod) and you have the OS as Google intended without any carrier meddling. So Apple people also say Android is “closed” and yet the source code is freely available to compile by anyone who knows how to do it.

  2. It's also worth looking more closely at this smoking gun evidence of Android fragmentations. Look at the distribution of these more than 100 different Android versions (given on the original TweetDeck blog post). 98.5% of the beta testers were running one of the 5 most popular Android versions (all official builds).

    The remaining percent and a half account for the other 95+ Android versions with more than 80 versions having 3 users or less.

  3. I've been working on a multimedia application for Android and we've run into this problem, to the point that when we launch our application it will be only available for certain handsets with certain chipsets. The thing with this is that you may think that you are investing X amount of time to support X number of devices, and at the end of the day you will actually be supporting a small subset of that population. On top of that it is very difficult to calculate ROI cause is hard to come up with detailed data to do the correct math since you can not base your numbers solely on OS version, you still have to take into account hardware differences. This might not matter much for software like tweetdeck, but it definitely explains the lack of good music creation and powerful multimedia software in this platform.

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