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Android Co-Founder: Fragmentation "an Overblown Issue"

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the take-it-easy dept.

Android 289

curtwoodward writes "Sure, developers might pull their hair out trying to keep track of all the versions of the Android operating system scattered across hundreds of millions of mobile devices worldwide. But a co-founder of Android says the OS's fragmentation problem is being blown out of proportion. At an event this week in Boston, Rich Miner — now a partner at Google Ventures — said some level of fragmentation is inevitable with Android's reach and the number of partners in the ecosystem. But things are getting better, he said, and in any case most consumers don't notice the difference: `This is a bit of an overblown issue, frankly.'"

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Yeah. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44245181)

This just in: Guy with stake in product says nothing is wrong with product. Film at 11.

Re:Yeah. (4, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year ago | (#44245501)

This just in: Guy with stake in product says nothing is wrong with product. Film at 11.

Thing is, he's not wrong. Most consumers won't notice. But then, most consumers wouldn't notice if their computer ran on little gerbils inside and the internet was just a series of tubes. But that's no excuse for his handwave. Fragmentation is a problem. Maybe it's not a severe one -- maybe not yet. Maybe developers can muddle through. Maybe, even everything is fine. For now.

But complacency will always get you a kick in the ass by the next best thing in technology, and you can go from cutting edge to curdled milk in no time at all. Iconic brand names of even a few years ago are now nothing more than sign posts in the desert -- Compaq. E Machines. 3Com. They were once all major brands and now they're dust. If you want to stay on the leading edge, you have to push the boundaries. You have to innovate, improve, refine, create. You can't talk about "ecosystems" and "platforms" like they're going to just go right on existing on their own, like they're some timeless thing.

They won't. Android will die someday; Everything does. The only question is how long it'll last -- and if you want that question to be "For a long time yet," then you best listen to the people who work with it every day and say "This is a problem." And you'd better answer back with something better than "No it's not." Address the problem now, while it's small... because trust me when I say... if there's one thing computers are good at, it's multiplying trouble. Exponentially. Don't wait. Fix it. Fix it now. Before you're sitting on the ruined throne of a kingdom of dust.

Re:Yeah. (5, Informative)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about a year ago | (#44245597)

He never said it wasn't a problem. He simply stated it was overblown - ie, it's an issue, but not as big an issue as people (read: Apple and Microsoft) are making it out to be.

Re:Yeah. (5, Interesting)

mjwx (966435) | about a year ago | (#44245685)

He never said it wasn't a problem. He simply stated it was overblown - ie, it's an issue, but not as big an issue as people (read: Apple and Microsoft) are making it out to be.

This,

Fragmentation is a minor issue for developers, it only crops up when you're trying to do specific things. If you target Android 1.5 then it will work on versions 1.5 to current (4.2), however if you target 4.0, your application might not work on version 2.3.

Thats the extent of fragmentation technical issues. For the consumer, Google Play filters incompatible applications for them.

The big problem with fragmentation is that Apple and Microsoft have nothing worse to bang on about as Android eats their lunch.

Re:Yeah. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44245857)

You had me until the last line. I don't think Microsoft has a lunch to eat here and Apple is still the one making the vast majority of the money. Quantity is a quality all its own, but come on?

I saw this as someone who had an Android phone, liked it, but bought an Apple phone when it died. At full price (I was under contract with my carrier still) without a second thought. I'm not saying I'll never go back, but not at full price. And that's an important distinction, I think.

Re:Yeah. (1, Insightful)

macshit (157376) | about a year ago | (#44246111)

Apple is still the one making the vast majority of the money. Quantity is a quality all its own, but come on?

Are they making the vast majority of money? There's a great deal of hardware competition in Android phones, which means no one manufacturer does the kind of volume Apple does, but many Android phones seem to have very similar hardware specs and very similar prices to the iPhone, and the overall volume of Android phones is greater than the volume of iPhones; in places like Japan, the overall volume of high-spec (iPhone or better) phones is probably greater than the volume of iPhones. Apple can profit somewhat by taking advantage of volume pricing for components, but many of their competitors are very large companies, with significant sway of their own.

I think Apple thought they'd have iPod-like market domination in this market, i.e., no significant competiton. Despite the iPhone's obvious popularity, Android really threw a spanner in those plans.... [Thus Steve's fury...]

Re:Yeah. (1, Informative)

mjwx (966435) | about a year ago | (#44246163)

, but many Android phones seem to have very similar hardware specs and very similar prices to the iPhone

Not many.

A lot of Android phones have similar spec's to the Iphone of the same vintage, some have better specs. However few are offered at the same extortionate price point. Even Samsung and HTC flagship phones are $1-200 less, something like the Nexus 4 was half the price.

Re:Yeah. (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year ago | (#44246309)

Are you sure? Samsung has now overtaken Apple in smartphone revenue.

Re:Yeah. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44245969)

The big problem with fragmentation is that Apple and Microsoft have nothing worse to bang on about as Android eats their lunch.

No Apple also bangs on about the malware, poor quality tablet apps, etc.

Re:Yeah. (3, Insightful)

oursland (1898514) | about a year ago | (#44246297)

Thats the extent of fragmentation technical issues.

No, that's not correct; the problem goes further. On some devices things display differently, even though they have the same version of Android. On some devices you have access to audio/video codecs that aren't available on others.

In the end, this lack of cohesion meant my company stopped developing their A/V application because there was too much variability, even when versions of the Android OS were the same. When this happens we lose out on a market, but the customers never get a chance to use and enjoy our applications.

Re:Yeah. (2)

mjwx (966435) | about a year ago | (#44246335)

On some devices things display differently, even though they have the same version of Android. On some devices you have access to audio/video codecs that aren't available on others.

No,

This is when you target Android API's not vendor specific API's.

So you really have just re-iterated my point. If you target ANDROID 2.2 it will work on Android 2.2 and above, if you target a SAMSUNG API, it may not work on HTC phones.

Re:Yeah. (3, Insightful)

the_B0fh (208483) | about a year ago | (#44246493)

So close, yet so far.

Why do you think a developer would target 4.2 when he could get a bigger market if he targets 1.5?

So what are the main reasons he would *NOT* target 1.5? If all a developer has to do is target 1.5, then why are all the android fanbois getting a boner whenever a new version comes out?

Please sit and think for a while. There *IS* a fucking difference between 1.5 and 4.2. And the extra functionality is expressed by new APIs which make it simpler for the developer to write stuff, and interoperate with other stuff written to that set of APIs. What havoc would it be if everyone reimplemented their own SSL layer?

If you think really hard, you may finally understand why it's fragmentation.

Re:Yeah. (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44245619)

May not mean much to most around here but I left Android because of a fragmentation problem or at least what seemed to be a fragmentation problem. I went Apple to get away from the nonsense and since then I've become a 'switcher' and I'm happy for it.

Re:Yeah. (4, Informative)

LesFerg (452838) | about a year ago | (#44245937)

Thing is, he's not wrong. Most consumers won't notice.

I certainly noticed when Google Chrome would not install on my android 2.3 phone, which LG refuse to provide any further updates for.
In fact Google seem to be the most inclined to produce apps which will only run on the latest version of android and bugger anybody who hasn't thrown out last years tech and bought something new.

Re:Yeah. (1)

aklinux (1318095) | about a year ago | (#44246055)

I don't the fragmentation is any worse than what PC manufactures have managed to do with Windows. I can't speak to Apple products as I've never owned one. All PC products come with vendor specific apps we like to call bloat-ware. The average Joe often doesn't realize this is nothing more than bloat-ware or trial-ware and I have seen them get upset when it quits functioning after an upgrade. I saw one guy get real upset when he could no longer access his Sony Media Store app on his desktop. It turned out to be nothing more than a glorified web-link to Sony's media store, which required Internet Explorer to access. He thought it was an actual application installed on his computer. Some come with vendor specific tools required to update the hardware that vendor puts out. Some will run versions of Windows that others won't. Remember AeroGlass? We had hardware that was MS certified, some that was MS compatible, etc. It all meant something different and there were people up-in-arms because they didn't read the fine print in what they were getting.

Re: Yeah. (1)

tysonedwards (969693) | about a year ago | (#44246385)

The difference is that on a PC, if you don't like the bloat ware and uninstall it, you still have your warranty intact. If you do the same on your cell phone, you're SOL. That's the same in Google, Apple, Microsoft and RIM's camp.

Jedi Mind Trick (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44246035)

This just in: Guy with stake in product says nothing is wrong with product. Film at 11.

These are not the 'droids you're looking for.

Master Key, anybody? (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44245187)

He's correct, the fragmentation issue is quite overblown, especially when compared to Android ‘Master Key’ Security Hole Puts 99% Of Devices At Risk Of Exploitation [techcrunch.com] .

Re:Master Key, anybody? (2)

Ash-Fox (726320) | about a year ago | (#44245471)

He's correct, the fragmentation issue is quite overblown, especially when compared to Android ‘Master Key’ Security Hole Puts 99% Of Devices At Risk Of Exploitation

Since this is to do with source signature verification which only the Google App store uses (other stores use alternative signature mechanisms) and from the article you linked:

Update: According to a report in CIO, Google has already modified its Play Store’s app entry process so that apps that have been modified using this exploit are blocked and can no longer be distributed via Play.

I have to concede, I agree, it is quite overblown.

Re:Master Key, anybody? (1)

Desler (1608317) | about a year ago | (#44245513)

Since this is to do with source signature verification which only the Google App store uses

Of which is the default store on the vast majority of Android devices and for most users is the only place they get their apps from.

Re:Master Key, anybody? (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about a year ago | (#44245611)

Since this is to do with source signature verification which only the Google App store uses

Of which is the default store on the vast majority of Android devices and for most users is the only place they get their apps from.

You forgot this bit:

Update: According to a report in CIO, Google has already modified its Play Store’s app entry process so that apps that have been modified using this exploit are blocked and can no longer be distributed via Play.

So it appears its a problem that effects the Play store, that has already been mitigated.

Re:Master Key, anybody? (1)

Desler (1608317) | about a year ago | (#44245659)

No, I didn't forget it.

Re:Master Key, anybody? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44245791)

Ahh, so you're just willingly deceitful. Got it.

By your logic, I guess you'd better freak out about Apple's old PDF vulnerability that allowed jailbreaking. It was far easier to exploit than this. Sure, it's been fixed, but it existed once, therefore is an issue.

Re:Master Key, anybody? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44246077)

No, you don't get it. Android is a failed piece of shit that can barely do the job it was designed to do, which is support for making phone calls for drug dealers and russian mafia for as long as the battery lasts before throwing it away. Google was just the first to realize that drug addicts took a liking to the shiny plastic crap their pushers used. And who better to advertise to than impulse driven drug addicts?

Re:Master Key, anybody? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44246155)

Man, I lost count of the ways you made yourself look completely and utterly retarded.

Re:Master Key, anybody? (3, Informative)

Ash-Fox (726320) | about a year ago | (#44246053)

Of which is the default store on the vast majority of Android devices and for most users is the only place they get their apps from.

And resolved for 100% of them.

BS (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44245189)

The problem is NOT overblown at all. There is a serious problem when there are apps that require a specific android version or device and the numbers are increasing.

Re:BS (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44245337)

Yes it is definitely a nigger problem.

Re:BS (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44245673)

That's a SHITTY APP problem, not an Android problem.

If your app only runs on one version/generation of the OS you should probably give up coding and get a job at Macdonalds.

Re:BS (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44245757)

When you're pissing off your user it doesn't matter who's problem it is.

Re:BS (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44245919)

So, tell me, Mr great programmer, how can I verify that my app will run on every Android device before I release it?
If you tell me that I need to test it on various versions of Android on several devices, I claim that fragmentation indeed is a major problem.

Re:BS (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44246091)

And if there's one thing Android has, it's a lot of shitty apps.

IOS has the same problem (5, Insightful)

MarcoAtWork (28889) | about a year ago | (#44245839)

I have a still perfectly functioning ipod touch first gen where I can't basically reinstall any of the apps I own because the current versions of them in the app store are not compatible with my IOS version. If I decided to wipe it and resell it it would basically be a paperweight for anybody who purchased it as they would not be able to install anything on it.

In the end companies should be free to EOL old versions of their OS, obviously, but there should be an official way to get versions of apps compatible with your old OS if the app existed already in the first place. If I have app foowiz 1.3 that runs just fine on OS 1.0 and recompile it to have a minor enhancement and the toolkit now makes it mandatory that I can support only OS 2.0 and up, there should be a way for OS 1.0 users to keep downloading 1.3 while everybody else moves to 1.4 and above.

It would definitely be a lot more environmental to allow customers to keep using their old devices, or sell them (rather than tossing them) not to mention that it would make them more likely to buy more of your devices since they would trust that said devices would remain supported in the future.

Re: IOS has the same problem (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44246079)

My exact situation. I have the 1st gen iPod touch and wanted to use it purely for a pocket calorie tracker for my father. Unfortunately after wiping it clean to give to him I hit this problem. The calorie tracking app I use (version available in the app store) won't install on the latest version if the OS for this thing. It is truly worthless to me now.

Stupid.

Re:IOS has the same problem (3, Informative)

Moof123 (1292134) | about a year ago | (#44246445)

Ipod Touch 1st gen came out in 2007, replaced in 2008 with second gen. So you have a 5-6 year old widget that is no longer supported, big whoop.

The truly shameful thing about Android is that you can still buy brand new Android phones sporting 2.3.7 that were will NEVER be offered an upgrade despite being a malware magnet out of the box. Most iOS devices get several major upgrades, for years after they have been replaced, before being put out to pasture.

I have a mix of iPods, iPads, and an Android phone, and frankly I have to say Apple does a darn good job avoiding fragmentation and avoiding the love'em and leave them feeling you get buying an Android widget. Apple is in real danger of being badly undercut thanks to their gouging for RAM and flash memory that has not budged over the time that prices have plummeted, and expectations of soared. I would like an iPhone, but frankly the level of gouging just goes too far for me to stomach.

Most don't notice the difference (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44245191)

Because they have no clue what they are buying. They just wanted a cheap phone than runs apps.

Re:Most don't notice the difference (3, Interesting)

MrEricSir (398214) | about a year ago | (#44245231)

Is that really true, though? There's an unfortunate tendency in the tech industry to talk down to the "average user" as though they had never even seen a computer before.

Maybe that was useful at one point, but these days assuming your users are unfamiliar and uncomfortable with technology seems laughable.

Re:Most don't notice the difference (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44245309)

Is that really true, though? There's an unfortunate tendency in the tech industry to talk down to the "average user" as though they had never even seen a computer before.

How to make sure you NEVER say that again: get a job working tech support.

What you will say instead: "My God ... I ... I ... I had no idea..."

Re:Most don't notice the difference (2)

Microlith (54737) | about a year ago | (#44245325)

these days assuming your users are unfamiliar and uncomfortable with technology seems laughable.

They know their uses are familiar and comfortable with it, but only on the most superficial of levels. They'll happily integrate a device into their lives but don't actually understand it past the outward facing veneer. What they do is discourage further understanding via walled gardens, DRM, and other lockouts.

Re:Most don't notice the difference (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44245381)

Tech support rant time:

I did tech support initially. You will mourn for the human race (especially the race of your home country or country calling in) as a gestalt after a while after dealing with all the calls you get, day after day. To boot, a good chunk of these people have an attitude problem, as if they are proud of the fact they broke something and are getting a lackey to "fix" [1] it for them.

Here in the US, being a loud-mouthed Luddite is encouraged. STEM and computer literacy is for outcasts, people who will never make the football [2] team.

Of course, with the floodgates open for businesses to get cheap H-1Bs, there is never need for most Americans to even give a rat's ass about how something works or learning basic IT skills such as how not to get one's computer constantly compromised.

Of course, this means long term the country is fucked [3] when it comes to mattering in the global scheme of things, but most Americans care more about a Jersey Shore rerun than actually trying to learn relevant skills in science and technologies.

[1]: When I say "fix", I mean get in a state of acceptable use. This sometimes can never happen with some people.

[2]: US football.

[3]: I normally write fscked... but this case, the full vulgarity is the thing that works. I'd LOVE it if the us were fscked... that means we would have a consistent filesystem and working metadata.

Re:Most don't notice the difference (5, Funny)

AdamThor (995520) | about a year ago | (#44245831)

[3]: I normally write fscked... but this case, the full vulgarity is the thing that works. I'd LOVE it if the us were fscked... that means we would have a consistent filesystem and working metadata.

I understand that the government is working on the metadata thing...

Re:Most don't notice the difference (2)

exomondo (1725132) | about a year ago | (#44245405)

Is that really true, though? There's an unfortunate tendency in the tech industry to talk down to the "average user" as though they had never even seen a computer before.

He didn't say that at all, but I do think the idea that the vast majority of Android users don't know what version they are using is true and no different to iOS users, the only reason iOS users are up to date is that they get an update notification and a button to press. If Android had a mechanism to deliver updates to all devices you'd see the same thing but the many individual carrier and OEM forks prevent that.

Re:Most don't notice the difference (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44245697)

Is that really true, though? There's an unfortunate tendency in the tech industry to talk down to the "average user" as though they had never even seen a computer before.

Perhaps that's because the "average user" acts like they've never seen a computer before.

Re: Most don't notice the difference (1)

tysonedwards (969693) | about a year ago | (#44246421)

I don't know about you, but on multiple occasions I purchased phones that were declared flagship devices that were left behind on updates within a matter of months. Need I mention the Samsung Galaxy S, LG Optimus 2x, or Nokia Lumia 800?

Re:Most don't notice the difference (2)

Nerdfest (867930) | about a year ago | (#44245267)

Most people I know buy high-end Android phones that are either clearly the best phones on the market, or the best for the price (like the nexus 4). Perhaps that's just me though ...

Re:Most don't notice the difference (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44245415)

The plural of anecdote is not evidence.

Re:Most don't notice the difference (1)

exomondo (1725132) | about a year ago | (#44245467)

Most people I know buy high-end Android phones that are either clearly the best phones on the market, or the best for the price (like the nexus 4).

Same with me, but i don't know most people.

Re:Most don't notice the difference (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44245475)

most people I know buy low end android phones because they are cheap and look okay.

Re:Most don't notice the difference (4, Insightful)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about a year ago | (#44245627)

My wife recently bought a new phone. She didn't just want a phone that runs apps.
She wanted a white one.
It also had to play that god forsaken game The Croods (which works flawlessly on my 2.3 android, her 3.something tablet and her new 4.2 phone. What's this fragmentation problem again?).

It's not a user problem, its a developer one.

Re:Most don't notice the difference (3, Informative)

mjwx (966435) | about a year ago | (#44245675)

Because they have no clue what they are buying. They just wanted a cheap phone than runs apps.

Which is why high end Galaxy S# and HTC One phones sell so well huh?

Remember that a $350 Nexus 4 is in the same category as a $900 Iphone. So in that context, what you say is half true (I'd wager good money that Iphone buyers know less about phones than Android buyers), but a cheaper phone is not a crappier phone (in fact, between the Nexus 4 and the Iphone, you're getting more phone for less money).

I disagree (4, Interesting)

twistofsin (718250) | about a year ago | (#44245209)

And I'm just an end user who owns both Android and iOS devices. When I see the disparity in app quality on both platforms, especially in games, and hear developers explain why Android is so much more difficult to work with I'm going to take it at face value.

Re:I disagree (2)

Tr3vin (1220548) | about a year ago | (#44245347)

The big issue with games on Android vs iOS is that Apple typically have very powerful hardware while Android devices for the most part don't. Then you have different GPU architectures, so what runs well on lets say a Adreno chip won't necessarily work on a Tegra one and vice versa. It really isn't all that different from what PC development is like if you are actually supporting Laptops & Desktops with varying chips and capabilities. I think you hear a lot of complaints from game developers because they are using prebuilt engines and those aren't always easily patched. They are great to put content together quickly but you are pretty helpless if you run into some technical issue. For example, I've seen issues with Unity and z-buffer fighting on some of my Android devices while my own custom built scene-graph renders content without issue. Inheriting other people's bugs sucks but I don't think it has anything to do specifically with the Android platform.

Re:I disagree (3, Interesting)

Ark42 (522144) | about a year ago | (#44245569)

As a developer, I can say hands down that iOS is WAY more difficult to work with than Android, for completely unrelated reasons. The whole fragmentation thing is more or less something I ignore. You have basically two choices: Program to a older API, and ignore all new features, or, Program to a newer API, and ignore all older phones. I've chosen to always target Android 1.6 and my apps always have no trouble running on new phones. I've seen a feature that only exists in newer APIs that I really can't live without, so I always code around anything that requires 2.2 or 4.0, etc. It's not a big deal at all, and all the documentation is very good about stating which API a function requires, plus the Eclipse IDE will automatically show warnings for anything you try to use if you declared a target API older than something requires.

Re:I disagree (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44245577)

My "never" got eaten... I've *never* seen a feature that only exists in newer APIs that I really can't live without...

Re:I disagree (1)

MarcoAtWork (28889) | about a year ago | (#44245853)

can you confirm what I heard about newer versions of xcode making it impossible to write software that would still work on iOS 3.x and/or Apple making it impossible for 3.x apps to be listed in the app store? from what you are saying it seems android is more lenient about allowing you to target old devices.

Apple has people move forward. (2, Interesting)

SuperKendall (25149) | about a year ago | (#44245951)

from what you are saying it seems android is more lenient about allowing you to target old devices.

They are, which is why software quality on Android lags iOS.

Apple at the moment does not let you submit to the app store anything targeting anything under iOS5 (a somewhat recent change after 6.0 had been out for a while).

This may mean some older devices drop out - but at this point the only devices out are some 1st gen iPod touches and the very first iPhone (not even the iPhone 3G which can run iOS5). That is not unreasonable and means that applications generally make use of new and advanced system features sooner rather than never.

In a world where Android developers pretty much have to target 2.0 devices as a base, you lose some ability to use advanced features to make a better app. That is dragging down quality all over and is only going to become more of an issue as iOS framework features advance...

Re:I disagree (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44245997)

Once your on the apple threadmill you better keep running.

Captcha was "greedily"

Re:I disagree (1)

alen (225700) | about a year ago | (#44246029)

why are you targeting iOS 3 when the iphone 3GS runs ios 6?

Ok, bro. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44245225)

How stupid. Telling frustrated developers that there are no issues does not make them less frustrated or solve the issues they are having. That simply makes you look like an idiot. This sounds similar to the Jobs "You're holding it wrong" excuse.

Consumers may not notice ... (5, Interesting)

0x000000 (841725) | about a year ago | (#44245229)

but I as a developer sure do notice. The biggest issue I keep running into (developing backend software for my companies frontend software) is that testing on a mix of devices means learning the quirks for every single manufacturers user interface that they have bolted on top of Android. We've also had some weird issues based upon the Android version installed, across two devices with the same Android version number (4.0 for example) with the carrier/device manufacturers changes we have a bug on one but not the other.

This is highly annoying.

One issue that Android users hail as the greatest thing since sliced bread (alternate keyboards) actually meant having to write work-arounds because some keyboard implementations were simply broken, or actually caused issues with entering text in certain situations. An alternate keyboard shouldn't be able to have that sort of an effect!

Fragmentation is real, and it is an issue. Consumers don't notice because they only use a single device, developers and power users that may switch more often than the average user will notice and it is an issue.

Re:Consumers may not notice ... (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44245241)

Don't listen to this man. He is a paid, M$ shill. Our Google masters have stated there is no issues so anyone stating otherwise is clearly lying.

Re:Consumers may not notice ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44245453)

There are services that have device emulators, but in reality, developers should not have to care what their devices run on. It can be Android 2.x, 4.x, a phone, phablet, or a full sized tablet... you shouldn't have to worry about your app's reviews getting chains of one-star "force-closes on my Blarf".

One example of this is one brand's keyboard. It defaults to the number pad sometimes... and how the hell are you going to be able to use a ssh session with just the numeric keys available? I'm sure there is a way with enough time and gymnastics. Of course, with iOS, using a device as a ssh client to scp files for playing with the music player is impossible without a JB so both the top two device operating systems have their nasty warts.

I normally don't aim the fragmentation brickbat at Android, but developers tend to have to either take a lot of painstaking time to write around 2.x and 4.x issues, or lock out a good chunk of the market, because 4.x devices require a lot more CPU, RAM, and storage to present to the user something that looks similar to what a 2.x device can run.

What is needed is for Google to try to merge the two lines. The next version of Android after KLP should be able to run decently on archaic devices, which are popular in a lot of the world (the Motorola Cliq or Droid come to mind.) The bells and whistles with moving backgrounds and such wouldn't be there, but the device should be operable at a decent usable speed. Of course, for the latest quad-core phones with gigs of RAM, it is easy to have the latest glitzy stuff ready to go.

Android needs a "windows 7" that can run on older hardware as well as the latest gizmos.

Re:Consumers may not notice ... (3, Insightful)

Ark42 (522144) | about a year ago | (#44245603)

As if those older 2.x devices would ever get a 5.x upgrade anyway, so it doesn't really matter. Just target 1.6 or 2.1 and don't worry about it. If you're running into weird issues on certain phones, you're probably programming something too specific, and not doing things right because your code is sloppy or trying to be cute. Program in a more general manner and your app works just fine on all devices.

Re:Consumers may not notice ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44245583)

One issue that Android users hail as the greatest thing since sliced bread (alternate keyboards) actually meant having to write work-arounds because some keyboard implementations were simply broken, or actually caused issues with entering text in certain situations.

And what does that have to do with multiple versions of the OS being in active use?

An alternate keyboard shouldn't be able to have that sort of an effect!

An alternative implementation of the component used for entering text shouldn't be able to cause issues with entering text?

Re:Consumers may not notice ... (3, Insightful)

hsmith (818216) | about a year ago | (#44245687)

Exactly. Anyone who says fragmentation isn't an issue clearly isn't doing Android development.

I find the platform a breeze to actually develop for. But, the issue is in testing and QA. The dearth of devices out there with hundreds of variations has created an unsustainable environment to deploy against.

Google really should be pushing any manufactures that want to license the Android name to properly implement the APIs. Failing to do so is creating quite the issue.

Re:Consumers may not notice ... (1)

Musc (10581) | about a year ago | (#44246215)

I don't understand your post...

"The dearth of devices out there with hundreds of variations..."

A dearth means "lack of", but the problem here is more the opposite!

Re:Consumers may not notice ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44245725)

I agree. The obvious solution is to scrap all Android devices and have everyone using iPhones*, or if they cant afford it, back to feature phones.

* has to be the iPhone 4 and above, some apps wont run properly on older iPhones.

Re:Consumers may not notice ... (1)

urbanriot (924981) | about a year ago | (#44245795)

If you hadn't written about this issue, I would have. There's nothing more frustrating than writing procedures for Android phones and users complain that the same exact version of the OS as another person has a different menu system, customized by the manufacturer. Even Samsung phones of the same exact OS version have a different menu structure.

Fragmentation is entirely why we encourage our users to purchase iPhones as the documentation is easier to write and the phones are easier to support. The Blackberry 10 series has also proven easy to document and support.

Re:Consumers may not notice ... (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#44245915)

In general I've found iPhone to have about as many quirks per device/OS as Android, but the problem is Android has so many more versions, there are proportionally more things that can go wrong. I don't think anyone is trying to fragment the ecosystem, it happens on accident. And it happens more often on Android (because there are more models).

My favorite example, which I've mentioned before, is the Kyocera Milano, which had a clock that actually went backwards from time to time.

Straightjacketing of core Android (1)

presidenteloco (659168) | about a year ago | (#44245253)

Fragmentation also makes it more difficult, my guess is, for Google developers to upgrade core vanilla "Nexus" Android. They would have fewer options to change things as more and more phone vendor variants depend on particular feature sets in the core. Or conversely, variants will be inherently fragile and break / need re-engineering everytime Google ignores them and freely upgrades the core.

What improvements? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44245273)

Google marketing: you botched this one. First you claim the improvements are amazing, then you claim most users don't even notice? Either the amazing features arn't getting used, or they are not better. Either way, I don't see how thats a good thing.

Fragmentation helps the NSA (1)

jdogalt (961241) | about a year ago | (#44245307)

Google isn't responsible for the security of android OS phones. This results in many companies sacrificing the security of their users by not investing in real security maintenance for the devices. Hell, the NSA may even subsidize them financially for the 'work' of *not* fixing security issues.

Re:Fragmentation helps the NSA (1)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#44245499)

I largely agree, but Google could implement finer grained permissions. Permitting an app to place calls in case you might ask it to do so in the future makes little sense. If I'm wanting it to make a call, I can approve the call. I shouldn't have to install LBE to give me those choices.

Re:Fragmentation helps the NSA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44245573)

I think you should be able to select which permissions a phone app has, it shouldn't be all or nothing.

RYOU FAIL IT (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44245311)

Haplees *BSD [goat.cx]

Catch 22 (0)

White Flame (1074973) | about a year ago | (#44245353)

The only real options boil down to fragmentation or forced obsolescence. Android chose the former, Apple chose the latter. Both suck in their own ways.

Re:Catch 22 (4, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | about a year ago | (#44245431)

How does Apple have forced obsolecense? They actually release upgrades for their phones. Even the 3GS can run IOS 6. For the new IOS 7 they're dropping support for the iphone 3GS, but that phone's getting pretty old now. Sure there will be problems with running programs that require faster processors on the old phones, but Android has the same problem. Android has the additional problem of developers having to support 3 or 4 different OS versions in order to support all the devices. Also, with Android, there's the problem that if your phone wasn't one of the popular ones, there's a lot of stuff that doesn't work with it, and finding accessories for them can be almost impossible. Even getting unofficial upgrades for unpopular phones using things like Cyanogenmod is impossible since they only support popular phones models.

Re:Catch 22 (5, Insightful)

Desler (1608317) | about a year ago | (#44245463)

Yeah, Apple continued to give it OS updates even after it was discontinued. That's pretty much the opposite of "forced obsolecense". I had the T-Mobile Galaxy S that shipped with 2.1 that was supposedly going to get the Android 2.2 update from Samsung "just around the corner" and yet that didn't materialize for over a year after I bought it. And then it never officially got Android 2.3 since Samsung had long since moved on to the SII.

Re:Catch 22 (2)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about a year ago | (#44245657)

But your phone doesn't get slower and slower and the OS gets upgraded.

Re:Catch 22 (2)

Desler (1608317) | about a year ago | (#44245435)

How exactly did Apple choose the latter? The four-year-old iPhone 3GS has gotten all updates from iOS 3 up through iOS 6.1.3. It is only until 7 that it will no longer receive them. Many Android phones haven't seen updates beyond what shipped with the device.

Re:Catch 22 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44245783)

4 years old? Did they even have electricity back then?

Re:Catch 22 (1)

Desler (1608317) | about a year ago | (#44245985)

Hurr hurr. Do you have an actual argument to dispute my statement? Can you name an Android phone that has had 4 years of updates, including updates even after it was discontinued, from it's manufacturer to match what the 3GS has gotten? Just so you know that would mean it's gotten updates from Android 1.6 (released 3 months after the 3GS) all the way 4.2.2 (released 1 month prior to the 6.1.3). I won't hold my breath, though.

Re:Catch 22 (1)

Desler (1608317) | about a year ago | (#44245999)

*Its* manufacturer, obviously.

Bugs! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44245365)

The fragmentation isn’t the issue. It’s all the API bugs, currently 18205 open issues. Most will never get fixed and is therefore the developers problem to work around. The poor design of the Android API:s doesn’t help.

Good (1)

horza (87255) | about a year ago | (#44245477)

I was happy with Android, I was even happier with the custom ROMs which got rid of the annoying quirks... then I found I was banned from downloading any adblock software from the Play store. I will shift myself and anybody I know off the Play store to an Android store that is not fatally crippled. Suggestions anybody? Amazon and the Samsung app store have nothing. I am really hoping this fragmentation with lead to some uncensored store that allows me to run software I choose to run.

Phillip.

Re:Good (2)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | about a year ago | (#44245521)

why not just sideload?

Re:Good (2)

DMUTPeregrine (612791) | about a year ago | (#44245629)

F-Droid for open-source apps, including ad blockers. BotBrew for a debian-like package management system.

Re:Good (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about a year ago | (#44245665)

What's the problem? What's stopping you installing any .apk file your want?

More accurate (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44245561)

More accurate version: "Android co-founder says that users don't notice fragmentation, because OEM customizations make the phones shitty no matter what version they are."

Serious problem (4, Insightful)

kbg (241421) | about a year ago | (#44245655)

The problem is that most phone vendors (basically all except Google) never update the Android system after the phone is released. This means that there are millions of phones stuck on some ancient versions of Android but many apps for Android are targeted at specific version which are constantly getting higher and higher because Google keeps pumping out new versions of Android.

Re:Serious problem (1)

mypalmike (454265) | about a year ago | (#44245889)

> The problem is that most phone vendors (basically all except Google) never update the Android system after the phone is released.

Even Google doesn't keep Android up to date on older devices. The once-flagship Nexus One, introduced in 2010, only got official updates for about a year, taking it from version 2.1 to 2.3.6.

What does that mean (1)

tuppe666 (904118) | about a year ago | (#44246047)

> The problem is that most phone vendors (basically all except Google) never update the Android system after the phone is released.

Even Google doesn't keep Android up to date on older devices. The once-flagship Nexus One, introduced in 2010, only got official updates for about a year, taking it from version 2.1 to 2.3.6.

That is a strange way of measuring time. It was launched January 10 and only had its operating system replaced 13th Novemer 2012...so Almost 3 Years, more than say an iPad.

To everyone who thinks it is overblown... (4, Informative)

Fosterocalypse (2650263) | about a year ago | (#44245739)

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/195310/Video_iOS_Android_myths_dispelled.php [gamasutra.com] Here is a post mortem from a game developer who released two mobile games on iOS and Android. He briefly explains that both of the games ran perfectly fine on all but 3 devices. They weren't targeting a specific version of Android. They're supported devices were over 1900 devices for each game. So the fragmentation isn't as big of an issue as Apple likes to talk it up to being. And after the T-Mobile announcement today the fragmentation should only get better from here.

Here is one thing that I do notice (4, Interesting)

dudeman2 (88399) | about a year ago | (#44245745)

As the owner of a non-upgradeable Android 2.3 phone (Motorola Defy XT [republicwireless.com] ) I find that most apps I care about work fine on the phone... with the exception of all the new Google apps and updates to said apps.

Google Maps
GMail
Google Now
Chrome
all of these apps are either not available, or are only provided in downlevel versions. You have to be running 4.x to get the latest and greatest apps.

Meanwhile, Google produces versions of their apps to run on iOS 6, which is available on every iPhone back to the 3GS from 2009.

Much better than iOS. (1, Insightful)

csumpi (2258986) | about a year ago | (#44245763)

From the start Android was designed to support a variety of hardware, including screen resolution, screen aspect ratio, keyboards etc. On the other hand every time a new iDevice came out, Apple just made hacks to get them to work (eg. image for retina screen loaded by hard coded @2x at the end of the file name). There are 5 screens to support for iDevices, and it's a major pain in the arse. On android, hundreds of different screen configurations done very easily.

He's right (1)

RubberDogBone (851604) | about a year ago | (#44246017)

He's right. I've got five different Android devices, no two of which run the same version of the OS. But it doesn't matter to me for two reasons:

When I browse the Play Store on each device, it filters the list for me and only shows me the apps I can run on that device. Problem Solved.

Alternately, when using the Play Store web interface, it will tell me which of my devices can run a given app and let me fling the app to the device. Problem Solved.

Maybe this is an issue for developers or people who are anal and like having only one way to do something. Never understood the appeal of that thinking.

Android has much worse problems such as... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44246063)

...crashes, reboots, horrible bugs that render your device unusable.
So, yeah, he's right, that one problem is not significant when compared to these.

He is disconnected from the real world (1, Insightful)

Stan92057 (737634) | about a year ago | (#44246101)

He is disconnected from the real world as most rich people are. They dont experience the world as people who make say under 50,000.00 bucks a year. Something doesn't work get a new on done deal.

It is noticed. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44246211)

in any case most consumers don't notice the difference

That is bull, they do notice.

When it comes to "why can't I load this application" we notice.

We notice when a phone can't be upgraded.

OS fragmentation vs many different OS (4, Insightful)

codemachine (245871) | about a year ago | (#44246325)

Sure, Android fragmentation is a real issue. However, before Android, just about every phone manufacturer had its own operating system, and it was difficult to do development for.

It isn't like if Android didn't exist, everything would just run iOS. If Android didn't exist, we'd likely have a situation where every vendor has their own entirely different platform. That'd be real fragmentation in the phone industry.

Right now, Android is much like Windows. You don't know exactly what version a user will have, and what hardware and configuration they'll have, but at least there is a set of common APIs you can rely on. Thanks to majority market share, you can develop an Android app and get a massive chunk of the market, even if that app needs some code to deal with specific versions of Android.

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