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Android Fragmentation Limits Release Of Netflix Mobile App

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It’s getting to be an old story at this point, but Android fragmentation reared its ugly head Thursday with the launch of Netflix’s Android app on just five of the hundreds of phones that run the mobile operating system.

Unless you’re an Android user with a Nexus S or four HTC Android phones running at least Android 2.2, you’re out of luck when it comes to taking your Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX) account on the go. Netflix felt compelled to explain the limited availability on its blog, citing the need to test basically every single individual Android implementation before signing off on the performance of its app.

“Because the platform has evolved so rapidly, there are some significant challenges associated with developing a streaming video application for this ecosystem,” wrote Roma De, a member of Netflix’s product team, on its blog Thursday. “One of these challenges is the lack of standard streaming playback features that the Netflix application can use to gain broad penetration across all available Android phones. In the absence of standardization, we have to test each individual handset and launch only on those that can support playback.”

One interesting development at this week’s Google (NSDQ: GOOG) I/O developer conference was the company’s willingness to acknowledge fragmentation as a real problem, after years of dismissing concerns about the issue. Android developers cited it as the most prevalent problem with the operating system, however: Google’s approach of letting hardware manufacturers and carriers put their own stamp on Android phones means that application performance can vary greatly across different chipsets, screen sizes, and software builds.

Google enforces some standards, and said this week that it wants to cajole partners into adopting new Android software in a more predictable way. Until something happens, however, top-tier name-brands like Netflix will likely view Android as a secondary priority to iOS, where they can be assured that one build of their application will work on almost all iOS devices.