Android Fragmentation

Fragmentation is the term used to describe all the variations available on the Android platform. Android has many manufacturers and models, unlike iOS where there is only one manufacturer, and they only have 3 (or 4) different models: iPhone, iPod, iPad (and iPad Mini).

The Android Dashboard is a great resource for tracking the adoption of different versions of the Android OS. It is updated monthly and also covers screen sizes and densities and Open GL versions.

Android version pie chart

Another great resource is OpenSignal fragmentation report. It shows market share by model and manufacturer, as well as some different ways of looking at the information in the Android Dashboard, as well as screen size. It appears to be updated annually.

Android Brand Fragmentation

I didn’t realize Samsung had almost 50% of the Android market, and I expected HTC to have a larger share. No wonder Apple feels threatened by Samsung. Noticeably missing from their list is any Amazon Kindles or Barns and Noble Nooks. That could be because they do not access the Google Play Store by default. I didn’t see the method of data collection.

Fragmentation is a bit of a headache for the app developer because there are so many different variations to take into consideration. The flip side though, is the flexibility of Android has really lead to its mass adoption. It works in both the ultra high-end luxury devices as well as the low-end economy devices. So while it is difficult to get an app that works on all devices, you still have a lot of possibilities to choose from.

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9 Responses to Android Fragmentation

  1. JoeD says:

    I’ve never liked the use of the loaded term ‘fragmentation’ here regarding this subject. Fragmentation implies something bad. It implies there is supposed to be a single ‘master’ device for android, which obviously was never the case. A better, more accurate term might be Android “Expansion”, as Android has expanded far past its initial set of devices.

  2. Jolyon Smith says:

    Some other alternatives to “fragmentation”: “variety”, “choice”, “diversity”, “options”

    🙂

  3. Jim McKeeth says:

    I agree. Fragmentation does have a negative connotation. I like “diversity” better.

  4. Lots of diversity or is that a tautology

  5. Joseph says:

    Windows certainly runs on a large variety of hardware, but that wasn’t a showstopper!

  6. Bunny says:

    Windows run on different a different processor only once. It never paid on a long term. Everything that was done in software maybe a decade ago can be done in hardware today but on the other hand parts of the hardware can be done in software. Remember buffers on sound cards. DirectX does offer sound buffers and soundcards do no longer have to provide those.

    Thank you, Jim. Interesting analysis. Samsung is huge, Samsung is fast and Samsung is underestimated and the Samsung cloud does offer a file system like access to their cloud, iirc. I just heard that or read about it. The Samsung Empire is one of the biggest/most powerful in technology.

  7. Jim McKeeth says:

    It was the same Windows on all the different hardware. With Android each build is different for the hardware it runs on.

  8. This blog misses the whole issue of fragmentation entirely.

    a. Fragmentation on an API level. Its possibly to create an app that will only work on a single manufacturers device, a good example is HTC which has an entirely unique API for certain aspects of its devices or Amazon’s fork of Android. This has never been possibly on closed ecosystems such as Windows and iOS;
    b. Fragmentation on a hardware level. In the world of Delphi this comes in the form of Delphi Android apps can only run on an estimated 10% of device variants out their due to the dependence on ARM NEON which leaves out other ARM without NEON, x86 and MIPS;

    And with rumours rife that Samsung and Intel have dumped Tizen in favour of a fork of Android, FireFOX OS and Ununtu OS for phone, the world of open source linux based OSs are rapidly fragmenting further to become an obsolute nightmare for developing high quality apps.

    To me it feels a bit like a repeat of the 80s where Linux / UNIX based GUIs dominated the desktop and became victoms of their own success.

  9. Jim McKeeth says:

    @Vaughan: I didn’t dive into the issues of fragmentation, but you are correct that all “Androids” are not created equal. On the other hand, the majority are very similar.

    If manufacturers move to other OSs then they isn’t Android fragmentation any more than Apple introducing iOS 7 is. Currently Android and iOS are the clear market leaders. If and when another OS gains a considerable share then it will be worth discussing.

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