Android fragmentation not so bad says Localytics

fragmentation

Android fragmentation is less of a challenge than it was two years ago, and developers shouldn’t be as concerned about it says Localytics. The mobile app analytics firm will release a study later on Wednesday showing data to support this idea, suggesting that OS version, screen size and display resolution are now fairly common on most Android devices.

Some supporting datapoints from the findings, which measures device attributes from apps that use the Localytics platform:

  • At 73 percent, nearly three-quarters of all Android devices are running a variant of Android 2.3, also known as Gingerbread.
  • Another 23 percent run Android 2.2, or Froyo, bringing the total percentage of Android devices running these two similar versions up to 96 percent.
  • The majority of Android devices are using either 4- or 4.3-inch screens, accounting for 61 percent of all devices.
  • The 800 x 480 resolution is still fairly standard, accounting for 62 percent of Androids. Surprising to me is that only six percent run the higher 960 x 540 resolution that gained support nearly a year ago.
  • Tablets currently experience less fragmentation, with 74 percent being 7-inch slates at 1024 x 600 resolution, while 24 percent are 10-inch tablets with 1280 x 800 screens.
  • Most of these tablets (71 percent) run on Gingerbread, Android’s phone platform. That’s likely due to sales of the Galaxy Tab, Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet/Color.

Google’s own dashboard numbers, last updated on Jan. 3, support Localytics’ findings:

I’m in general agreement with the data as well. Although there are hundreds of Android handsets out there, developers using the Gingerbread APIs and supporting 800 x 480 displays are likely targeting the vast majority of currently available Android handsets, not to mention most of the tablets, too. Google has added zoom and stretch functionality in Android 3.2  to assist with supporting different screen sizes as well.

At this point, given that Android fragmentation appeared out of control at one time, I think the current situation is the best Android developers could hope for. The problem isn’t gone, but there are tools to work around it — supporting multiple screen sizes and display densities, for example — and nearly all phones are still arriving with Gingerbread at this point.

I still believe Android 4.0 is Google’s best effort to combat the fragmentation issue. Having used that software both on a phone and now on a tablet, it’s definitely more of a unified experience, although there are still some inconsistencies. Regardless, Android 4.0 is a “fresh start” for the platform on both tablets and smartphones; getting handset makers to adopt it sooner, rather than later, should be a key Google initiative to help both consumers and developers.

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