Android fragmentation was supposed to be put to bed two years ago by Google’s insistence that manufacturers roll out the newest version of its OS to phones up to 18 months old.
Instead, the problem is back and bigger than ever.
After HTC revealed, to many users’ displeasure, that 2012’s One S would not be receiving the latest edition of Android, much was written and said about why the Taiwanese firm had scored an own goal.
But the co–creator of Android, Rich Miner, doesn’t see a problem.
At a tech conference last week, he said: “I think this is a bit of an overblown issue, frankly.”
Miner added: “Us techies read the blogs and know what features we may be missing.
“I think if you asked a consumer, ‘Do you feel like your phone OS needs to be updated today?’ they’re pretty happy with the results and the performance they’re seeing. So I’m not sure it’s a major issue.”
Now, on one hand, Miner has a point. His assertion that the 1.5 million daily Android activations makes clamping down on fragmentation tough has a certain amount of sense.
That there are 900 million Android phones in the wild also makes exerting control over software pretty hard. Average consumers, also, are unlikely to mind.
That is until a new app they want, whether its some nifty new Maps update from Google or a word–of–mouth newbie from an independent dev, doesn’t play nice on their year–old smartphone.
This is the major problem with fragmentation. Apps are what keep smartphone ecosystems alive and successful.
They’re why iOS and Android flourish while Windows Phone and BlackBerry struggle.
The more fragmented an OS is, the harder it is for devs to serve up their very best work.
iOS’s uniformity means that more and more apps have to be tweaked and developed for its annual update, especially with iOS 7, lest they be seen to be lagging behind, leading to falling sales.
Android doesn’t have that luxury.
Of course, not everyone is an app fanatic.
But it only takes one app failing to download because of an old software version to cause a consumer to think twice about buying a phone from a particular mobile maker.
Samsung knows this, it’s why the phone-maker is rolling out the latest version of Android to the two–year–old Galaxy S2.
HTC, however, is trying to earn quickly by selling as many phones as possible at launch, and hang the consequences if an update doesn’t work in a year’s time.
Ultimately, fragmentation may be ‘overblown’ by the tech media. That much is true sometimes.
But the likes of HTC failing to release updates can be seen as major cause of its descent from Android success story to tech takeover fodder.
Underestimating consumers, whether they’re power users or not, is never smart. And that, ultimately, is what fragmentation boils down to.