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The three faces of Fragmentation

A Picture of Nikolas Manuelides
September 12, 2013 | Topic: Mobile  
The three faces of Fragmentation

Fragmentation, especially in Android, it’s a topic that often generates a lot of discussion in the mobile community. In order to have a better understanding of the concept, and be able to decide by yourselves if it’s something good or bad, separating the three different meanings of the word is necessary:

Brand Fragmentation (only in Android and, in some minor level, Windows Phone)

This refers to many different manufacturers producing Android Smartphones and tablets, and by many I mean over 100 companies creating Android phones. On the other hand we have just a couple of brands that produce Windows Phone Smartphones (mainly Nokia and HTC), making it’s fragmentation almost inexistent, and, as we all know, only Apple creates iOS phones and tablets.

brand fragmentation

Device Fragmentation

This meaning is used to make reference to the enormous amount of different devices out in the market. The number is really huge and its growing pace it’s even more amazing: just last year 3,997 Android Devices were manufactured and this year that number grew to an incredible 11,868!

device fragmentation

OS Fragmentation

Finally we got to the topic that generates all of the problems; the many and different versions of Android Operating System. This meaning is mostly used to attack Android, since iOS has very little iterations in comparison, 7 for iOS against more than 15 for Android.

OS fragmentation

Fragmentation is often used to attack Android or praise it, but now that we have a better picture of the situation and we understand what others mean when they speak about fragmentation, we can decide by ourselves. Personally, I think even though Android Fragmentation it’s a problem, it’s one that in the day by day of every user it’s prompt to end soon, mainly because since ICS (Ice Cream Sandwich Android 4.0), Android has become a more robust and cohesive OS and as we can see in the last graph, 55.6% of Android devices are running ICS or a higher version, and this trend is only growing. iOS, meanwhile, can claim that almost all of its devices are updated to the latest version of its OS, which is the ideal, but we also have to consider that a new version of the Apple Operative System only comes once a year. Marketing takes a lot of the blame in all of this, wrongly teaching the users that only the latest and newest is good and the rest is not worth it. All the buzz around fragmentation should be resumed to a matter of cost/benefit, being able to choose different sizes, different colors, designs, hardware, etc., has its price and the question that should be done is not whether fragmentation is good or bad, but if it’s worth it or not, in my case, I think it is.

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