Why Android Fragmentation Is Bad For Consumers – Part 2

With the release of Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) Google’s latest Android platform it seems that fragmentation of mobile devices may now be more widely spread.  As mobile devices and new smartphones start to appear especially by the large manufacturers such as HTC, Samsung, Motorola, LG, Dell and others which  all have several versions of smartphones all with different OS releases.


If one manufacturer has several different versions of an OS out as per Samsung or HTC depending on carrier and model of the phone, if you are a developer of Android applications which version do you target your development for ?  Since most carriers are reluctant to upgrade the OS that originally came with phone are customers stuck with the current version of OS on their phone ?  Case in point, my LG Optimus 2X was released as one of the first phones with a dual core processor and several impressive hardware features, however there are rumours that it may not be upgradeable to version 4.0 of Android unless hacked and rooted.  Then, if LG does issue a newer version of OS (Such as the TMobile version) which may more than likely be compatible with the carrier I am currently with I may have a chance but it is not guaranteed to work.  The issue of the carrier now becomes another obstacle for the consumer to overcome if they want to upgrade the OS on their phone.


The problem with this from a development standpoint if you have a mobile app is which version do you focus on ?  If it is the latest version are older versions of the application susceptible to not being upgrade or ported to the latest release and what is the upgrade path for older applications on Android ?  Newer technology in the enterprise space has allowed some older version of ERP systems to be upgraded without having to step through an upgrade path will the same be true for tablets and smartphones ?


Another clear problem is support, if a carrier is to have several hardware offerings each with its own version of OS, will supporting those devices not become too difficult, time consuming and costly due to increased support time to keep each device running ?  A recent study identifies over 2 billion dollars over major mobile carriers in Android support.  As there may be Android, Blackberry, iOS and Windows 7 OS from one carrier and possibly several versions of each one.  If that is the case, there is really no way to standardize support per se other than by unit and then it becomes a question of will the carrier offer fewer models for customers to choose from ?  Will the carrier then offer the ability to upgrade each piece of hardware to the latest OS version and how can they coordinate with the smartphone and tablet suppliers that there hardware is capable of accepting the new OS, will the hardware supplier dictate which models are capable for an OS upgrade, will each upgrade of the OS for each hardware device be capable of the carrier technology such as NFC and LTE communications ?  Several articles and now research studies indicate that market fragmentation of Android will cost marketshare dominance  and lack of a standardized version may prove this to be the case. See a post we did on Why Android Fragmentation Will Affect The Tablet Marketsize.  Link to article



It all comes down to money.  If you release several mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) over a period of one year with several different OS versions it is in the best interest of the manufacturer not to offer the previous hardware to be upgradeable, because it forces the consumer to buy new hardware and consequently the latest and greatest OS version that goes on the new hardware.


Although Android is a good OS and the ecosystem is strong will the lack of carrier and hardware manufacturers dictate which device you can purchase as now they may not support older versions and offer fewer choices to the consumer ? As can be seen this article raises more questions than answers for a unification strategy on the Android OS from both hardware manufacturers and carriers, what will be their next steps ?  It is in the customer’s best interest to start the movement to unify disparate Android OS’ so that all Android devices don’t become obsolete in 6 months.



Smartphone company HTC has already seen the implications of this and have publicly declared that there will be fewer handsets to be released this year.  HTC has eyed the enterprise with newer offerings and are looking to take Android to the next level.  

The success of Kindle Fire has put pressure on the iPad as Android tablets continue to gain marketshare. while it is not one particular hardware vendor the many different tablets that run android has started to make its enterprise move.  

Android 2.3 and Honeycomb and now ICS will continue to pose a few minor problem for organizations to manage several different Android platforms but should not prove too major disruption.  ICS will continue to permeate through the many tablet manufacturers  causing confusion to consumers as to which tablet to buy. 


Eval‐Source is a consulting firm that provides enterprise software selection and strategic technology consulting services for organizations. Our consulting practices encompass cloud and on-premise software evaluation services, ERP, Supply Chain strategy, social media and technology consulting. Eval‐Source is an industry leader in the analysis of software technology and our thought leadership has placed us in the elite of consulting/analyst firms. What sets us apart is our unbiased best in class consulting services that provide our clients with value, direction and success in selection, planning and infrastructure planning of their technology systems.

www.eval-source.com and Twitter @eval_source

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