Android – The biggest issue

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Fragmentation remains the single biggest issue facing Android.

  • Google looks set to release support for Android on another subset of devices; wearables.
  • At South by Southwest, Google announced a software development kit (SDK) that will allow developers to write apps for wearable devices that are running Android.
  • Wearables are still a solution looking for a problem, but once that problem is found, they are likely to become a big growth area.
  • The problem is likely to be that wearables are not going to be generic devices like smartphones but will be made with a specific use case in mind.
  • Hence all the devices will be different with varying screen sizes, hardware and sensors.
  • Providing a decent SDK that will allow for all of these combinations will be next to impossible and so I suspect that most OEMs will use their own code.
  • Samsung has already taken this road announcing Gear 2 running on Tizen.
  • This will make fragmentation much worse than it already is and I am far from convinced that this issue is something that Google can cope with.
  • Android is not an ecosystem. Android is an operating system upon which one can build an ecosystem
  • Google puts GMS (Google Mobile Services) on the OS to create its ecosystem while Amazon, Nokia and others have their own code to put on top to create their own experience.
  • These devices all share common code and so in theory should be able to the same applications but in practice this does not work so well.
  • A good rule of thumb to use is that standalone applications that do not connect to the network or other applications should run but everything else needs some degree of porting.
  • Fragmentation is endemic within Android as each handset maker implements it slightly differently (horizontal fragmentation) and there are many older versions of the code still being used to make new handsets (vertical fragmentation).
  • Google is used to a world of server software where everyone automatically is upgraded every time Google updates the software on the server.
  • This has meant that it has been unprepared to deal with millions of units out in the field running software that are 3 years or more out of date.
  • This is why developers always develop for iOS first before working out which version of Android they need to develop to in order to get the most exposure.
  • This ensures that all the new and cool stuff appears on iOS first which is a major factor in making the ecosystem more appealing to users.
  • If Google wants to close the gap on iOS, it must address the fragmentation within its system that is causing developers so much difficulty.
  • Adding yet another SDK is going to make the problem far worse not better.