Android Fragmentation: The New Way to Expand Your Ecosystem

Android Fragmentation is now being tentatively connoted as one of the best ways to expand your device ecosystem. With Android devices being available in all shapes and sizes - leading to diversity in performance levels and screen sizes; developing apps can indeed be a highly challenging and time-consuming proposition. However, fragmentation has a much wider dimension beyond the Android market, making it even more important for developers to think about the impact of contextual fragmentation.

Android Fragmentation is now being tentatively connoted as one of the best ways to expand your device ecosystem. UK’s prominent mobile Company OpenSignal, which reiterates its commitment to help you ‘find the network in your area’ (in its tagline) has published a report on Android Fragmentation clearly stating that ‘Fragmentation is both - a strength and weakness of the Android ecosystem’.

Device fragmentation is not the only challenge that developers face when building for Android; the operating system itself is enormously fragmented and is increasingly becoming more so over time. Moreover, it is also true that every time we talk about Android fragmentation we are bound to compare it with iOS. And when comparisons are made, the issue that makes the most noise is of different API levels and the vastly different devices running them.

Captivating Android Fragmentation

Captivating it might be, but the brand-level view as depicted in OpenSignal’s Device Fragmentation visual is deceptive. Android fragmentation is increasingly on the rise, with Samsung dominating the visual with 47 percent space (thanks to its elaborate platter of devices for all needs and budgets). Here you can see that while there were 3,997 different Android devices on the market in 2012, the number has almost tripled to 11,868 in 2013.

android fragment

Fig: Device Fragmentation as in July 2012 (L) and July 2013 (R) - courtesy OpenSignal.com

Understanding the Problem areas

As most of you are aware, Android devices are available in all shapes and sizes; and what makes each of them different is the diversity in performance levels and screen sizes. Moreover, there is a possibility of many different versions of Android being simultaneously active at any one time – (considered to be one of the reasons) adding to another level of fragmentation. This concludes that developing apps (that work across the whole range of Android devices) can indeed be a highly challenging and time-consuming proposition.

android fragmentation

Fig: Device Fragmentation in July 2013 (as depicted in OpenSignal.com)

How to use Android Fragmentation to your Advantage

Just like the adage ‘every cloud has a silver lining’, Android fragmentation despite its many problems has some great benefits for both users as well as developers. One of the most prominent advantage is the availability of cheap Android phones - well within the purchasing limit of a wider market.

Moreover, Android phones have a much wider global reach than its iOS counterpart – not only making it accessible to a wider customer base; but also proving to be a great encouraging factor for app developers who now have a wider audience to build apps for.

As known to you, the key to success of any app lies in getting the UI right. However, Android developers are most likely to come across two specific challenges. First and foremost, they have to deal with brands having a penchant to produce their own variants on the system UI that can change the look of many default elements. And secondly, no other smartphone platform actually can boast of such a proliferation of diverse screen sizes.

Moreover, extreme fragmentation for consumers is an assertion of the fact that they can exactly get the phone they want as per their needs and budget – big or small, cheap or expensive, or with any number of different feature combinations.

How Android Fragmentation Works Great for Visualizing a Wider Ecosystem

Device Fragmentation (as in Android), we all know is on the rise – and so with it the impact and density of the Android operating system. While it is true that fragmentation is an annoying factor for developers who have to test and optimize on an ever-increasing number of devices; the success of the Android ecosystem however cannot be separated from its fragmented and available-for-all, nature.

Also, it is relatively easy for developers to lament API level fragmentation’ even though this is intrinsic to device fragmentation. Here, while cheaper devices struggle to run the most recent versions of Android; the fragmented operating system serves as an enabler of an ecosystem that is transcending towards being more global and incorporating of a wider socio-economic strata.

Experts opine that fragmentation has a much wider dimension beyond the Android market. And this makes it even more important for developers to think about the impact of contextual fragmentation - the diversity of differing contexts in which devices are actually used.

Synopsis

An introspection into Android fragmentation on a larger aspect reiterates the fact that Android brands are almost as fragmented as device models. There are about 599 distinct brands in the Android ecosystem, even though there is a possibility of many to be items of custom ROMs.

Now, with rapidly increasing Android fragmentation; and more debates than discussion being held on the problems rather than highlighting the strength - are we missing on the BIGGER picture? Apple foraying into a cheaper version of the iPhone recently with iPhone 5c is an indication of the fact that iOS too is joining the league with fragmentation of their ecosystem.

Are you game for it?




Author Bio:

Hariot Mills is an Android Application Developer associated with a mobile application development company. Hire app developers for developing customize mobile applications for various mobile app platforms like iPhone, iPad, Android, blackberry etc.