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Summary:

California company HipLogic has produced an interface for Android that makes it easy for OEMs and carriers to produce custom interfaces for the platform. This sounds good on the surface, but runs the risk of fragmenting the Android user experience for consumers.

HipLogic

HipLogic today launched  an Android platform that makes it easy for handset OEMs and carriers to produce custom interfaces for their phones. Fremont, Calif.-based HipLogic’s interface is always connected to the cloud, meaning operators can change the Android home screen interface whenever desired. Updates are delivered to the customer’s phone over the air, courtesy of the “always connected” nature of the HipLogic interface.

Companies are always happy to differentiate their products when using an open platform such as Android, but there is a risk such a move can further fragment the Android user experience. We already see this happening on HTC phones with its Sense interface, and the MOTOBLUR interface by Motorola dilutes the Android experience in a way, too. It’s not necessarily a bad thing that many Android phones have different interface features, but it makes it harder for consumers to determine which interface components are standard and which are special to a given handset.

Related research from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

Google’s Mobile Strategy: Understanding the Nexus One

  1. as best i can tell, this is simply a “home screen” sized website that some third party can alter, but beyond that its the same old android. So i cant see where the fragmentation is happening because of this.

    I would say that fragmentation is more a issue of google refusing market and such on various non-phone systems, then these tweaked home screens and such.

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  2. Some people call it fragmentation, but it’s just a response to competition and giving the customer choices- rather than closed, locked down, dictatorship of some non-multitasking, lightweight, pseudo-smartphone overhyped trinket. Come to think of it, one of the reasons why Windows is in 90% of machines out there is that the consumer has choices- from overclocked gaming monsters to tiny form factor UMPC’s.

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  3. @Timjones17:
    If the Windows UI operated differently on an Asus, than it did on a HP or Lenovo, then we would get that fragmentation as well. Imagine developing a game or application that only worked on a Dell version of Windows, but was buggy on an HP version. Consumer has choice of HARDWARE, but it’s essentially the same OS. This article refers to the OS fragmentation. Imagine having 25 versions of Windows, it would be a different experience on every device.

    That’s what Android is running into. If you have an Android phone, go into the Market and read comments on various apps. The number one thing you’ll see is various comments “Works on my Droid”, “Force closes on Hero”, “Doesn’t work on Nexus One”.

    It’s no surprise why the iPhone is so popular with app developers, there’s one consistent platform to develop for.

    -PC & Android owner

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  4. @Jason Barone

    First of all, the number one thing you see on Market comments is hardly that “It doesn’t work on my XXX device”. While there was only the G1, you would still see a bunch of Force Close messages. Secondly, when you see messages like it doesn’t work on my device, it could mean

    1. It’s not working on any device in a specific situation. It just happens that the person has device X

    2. It’s not working on that version of the OS. No different than an app not working on a specific version of Windows or iPhone. Although most OS vendors will try their best to provide backwards compatibility, it’s not completely possible. When the app is updated for the version it will most likely work on all devices that run that version.

    3. The app may really not work on a specific device. I doubt that there are too many apps in the market that will fall in this category. There will of course be apps that will take advantage of a particular hardware/software feature that comes with a specific device. eg. the Nexus One adds a 3D capabilities so naturally apps taking advantage of that will only run on that device and any other device with the same capability. How is that different from an iPhone app taking advantage of the compass added in 3GS? That app will not work on the earlier two revs.

    Changing the user interface is hardly going to prevent apps from running. It may not provide the most consistent UI between apps, but I’ll take that any day over some one dictating which app I’m allowed to run.

    Also a PC and Android user

    As far as my personal experience has been,

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    1. Well, I guess we’ll see what happens this year and how developers handle it all. As Android grows and expands, it’s going to be hard to find quality apps in the market that work across multiple devices. Developers will be doing 3, 4, 5 times as much work making apps that are compatible with multiple firmware versions, different ROMs, and an army of devices with different hardware. You’re going to have to be a bigger company with more resources to handle the added work. Can you really expect many single developers to maintain a quality app across multiple platforms? I commend any developer who will be able to make that happen, because that’ll take some serious work. How could you possibly expect them to keep the app up to date and working properly on so many different versions?

      Soon, there will be added step in the app development process, which versions do we support and develop for? The experience of the Android Market will likely suffer as well.

      “Changing the user interface is hardly going to prevents apps from running”. Device manufacturers AND carriers can modify much more than user interfaces. Some devices can access features in a completely different way than another.

      It would be very negligent for a developer to build their app and not test it out on all of the different variations. That’s more time & money. And the developers will have to decide if that makes sense to the bottom line.

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  5. I just hate how when I pick an android phone I have to choose between

    1)Software/OS: It has the latest Google maps version, App quality is better because it can use all Pre 2.0 apps as well as 2.0 apps and beyond and it’s faster and blah blah blah but the Hardware sucks i.e the moto droid(and this is just my opinion)

    Crappy Keyboard, Crappy Camera, A BRICK

    1. Hardware: The phone itself has a nice looks, feels very comfortable in my hand and it actually just looks and feels to be borderline perfect however it’s slower and doesn’t have as many qualitiy apps and when using it, it feels “out dated”
      you don’t feel current…You feel like your using last summer’s model…I.e the Droid Eris

    Now I don’t pretend to be a tech geek or whatever because I am only 17 but as a consumer

    I have to choose between Better Hardware with inferior software or Better software with inferior Hardware
    and it confuses me as a consumer.

    Even with motoblur on cliq and such and sense on heroes, I still wish there was a way to mesh it together.

    As far as the iphone goes, 2007…Cool…Everybody wanted it or had it and it was something new…

    To me the iphone is antiquated with only a few minor changes here and there…

    I got an ipod touch to pretty much kill the desire of having an iphone….and it does just that

    I don’t like apple(not because i’m a androidfangirl) because with every iteration of the iphone it remains the same…

    the only thing is the 3gs camera is 3.0/3.2 but the 1st gen is 2.0 i think

    one phone is faster and some of the software is enhanced but overall, in my opinion 80% of the iphone remains the same with every new model.

    Similar thing with Android. 1.5 & 1.6 are virtually the same and 2.0 & 2.01/2.1 are the same so I don’t get the hype when everytime a new iphone comes because especially the 3g & 3gs, it seemed to be the same except faster…Not much difference

    and the same thing. There is so much begging and desiring of having 2.1 when you have 2.0.1…Why?

    I’m running 1.5 and I am not asking for 1.6…I’m asking for at least 2.0…this i can understand

    Idk…but would any of you kind people care to explain it to me and correct me if im wrong

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  6. after reading the incoming comments, i would say that there are maybe 2-3 different kinds of fragmentation being discussed.

    1. the article kind, where various phones have various home screens and decor and brand specific widgets. This results in some fragmentation, especially such like the motoblur service, but nothing more major then seen earlier when moving between brands of phone (i recall people starting out on nokia, trying a different brand and going back as they had built up muscle memory about the keypad and menus).

    2. the firmware kind, where a phone do not get updated to the latest version of android. This can be a pain in the ass for people reading about a new software feature that they cant make use of unless they get a new phone. But lets remember that the companies are in the business of selling phones, not software. So for them, anything they do that do not result in a sale is a loss. Keeping firmwares updated beyond say the warranty date is probably costing them money, so its better for them to release a new phone and get a new sale.

    3. binary incompatiblity. This is the big one, where brand x claims to be running version y, but is incompatible with brand z claiming to also run version y. So far, i have seen this happen in the android world.

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    1. err, typo on 3 :(

      so far i have not seen binary incompatibility in the android world.

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