Android is very well known for the problem of fragmentation. Developing an app for Android means making it work on lots of different device – all different sizes and shapes. A new report out this week examines the state of Android fragmentation in August 2015. And it turns out there are more devices than ever…
Android fragmentation makes it harder for developers
When you consider the numbers, remember that Google has however introduced Material Design and various other guidelines that should make it easier to adapt to all the different screen sizes. However, it’s still a huge challenge due to the many older versions of Android where certain features and functionality are not available, and many devices don’t have the latest hardware such as NFC.
If we take a look at hardware fragmentation, the image at the top of this posts accounts for every one of the more than 600,000 devices that have installed the OpenSignal app, with the size based on how many of those devices have downloaded it. There are in fact 24,093 distinct devices (i.e. different types of phone), up from 18.796 a year ago. That double from 11,866 distinct devices in 2013. What’s more, OpenSignal measured 1,294 companies that have built and sold Android tablets and smartphones.
But more than just the OS fragmentation, the open source nature of Android allows third parties to make their devices different by modifying the operating system and user interface, changing the look of elements like the phone icon or app drawer.
Here’s a diagram that shows the different brands of Android devices:
Samsung has many Android devices in the wild, though the firm is trailing other companies in new markets like China. Samsung had an Android market share of 47.5% in 2012, and today it’s fallen to 37.8%. Notice in the picture above all the new firms on the right who have come out of nowhere, such as ZTE, Oppo, and many more.
When it comes to OS fragmentation, that situation is not quite as bad for developers. Active devices are now spread across several versions of Android, but the biggest, Android 4.4 (Kit Kat), saw its share rise over the past 12 months:
Another issue with Android for developers is screen size. On the left side of the diagram below are all the different screen sizes of Android devices that installed the OpenSignal app, whereas on the right are all the possible iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) screen sizes…