What is Android Fragmentation?
Same operating system, different versions, different set of available apps. This is what is considered by many to be “Android fragmentation", whereby a single platform is fragmented by a lack of compatibility between different handsets with different features and slightly different versions of the operating system.
Interestingly, the folk behind Android aren’t that concerned, if Google Android project leader Andy Rubin is to be believed. At the 2010 Google I/O (their annual developer conference) he said:
"Some of the press has called it fragmentation, but that's probably the wrong word for it.
"The better word for it is 'legacy.' With these phones and devices, the iteration cycle is incredibly fast. It used to be that every 18 months, a new device would reach the market. But we're seeing it happen every three or four months. The software obviously has to keep up and I don't think anyone is harmed by it."
There is a sort of circular model in place here, whereby improvements in mobile handset hardware drive improvements in the Android operating system, which then in turn drive improvements in the hardware and so on. Whether you’re affected by this “legacy" issue or not, it is encouraging to know that the Android platform is so healthy that it can adapt to the risk of fragmentation and even incorporate it into the product cycle.
Android isn’t the first mobile operating system to have been exposed to the threat of fragmentation, however.