Android angst revisited. The saga continues.

Android angst revisited. The saga continues.

Summary: The Android platform is fragmented. It's difficult to create Apps that run efficiently across the many devices in the Android mobile phone market.


After my now infamous personal search for an Android-based tablet and phone hit the ZDNet site, I've received every form of ridicule from some of my readers. And, now, I must add a bit more fuel to the fire that is this crazy Android vs. Apple religious war fuming between the two factions with me now inexplicably caught in between. Although, normally I don't really care about such petty squabbles, this one seems particularly intriguing to me. So, yes, I'll bite.

Some of you accused me of making a personal technology decision and purchase without any hard evidence to back it up. Here is some hard evidence unrelated to my original post, presented for your approval.

During the height of the turmoil, I received an email from Kodak Gallery Public Relations informing me, innocently, of their Kodak Gallery App ranking in the top 10 of all Android Apps.

Somehow, though, amid the din of rancid commentary about my personal journey toward the inevitable embrace of my Apple-scented mobile phone and my tasty Pome-styled tablet computer, I managed to allow a few brain cycles to digest the message about an App on the 'enemy' platform without first hitting the DEL key.

As my bleary-eyed, virtual head-kicked stupor cleared, I focused on the first sentence of that email that gripped me in its talons like a hungry vulture impaling freshly captured prey on the way back to its nest: "Many companies are not developing Android Apps, because of difficulty in creating an app that will run efficiently across the many devices in the Android mobile phone market."


I thought to myself, "Wow, maybe I've been undouched in my assessment of the Android platform after all. I must find out more about this Android angst afflicting those who develop for that 'plate-forme infaillible'." How could I have been so wrong, yet so right?

So, my quest ahead was clear: I had to investigate the <absurd?> assertion that the Android platform is somehow less than, shall we say, optimal. And, not for end users, mind you, who make bogus and uninformed generalizations about said devices but for those who create the Apps that operate on those devices.

It made me go, "Hmmmm."

My head now still and ready, I read the balance of the message, which also laid claim to the following bullet points of interest:

  • Kodak Gallery is the only leading online photo service to provide an app for ANDROID devices, KODAK Gallery now has the broadest platform for friends to easily share and access photo memories across ANDROID phones and TABLETS, KINDLE FIRES and iOS devices.
  • Since our Kodak Gallery app for iPhone devices released last fall, more than 5 million photos have been uploaded through a mobile app.  In addition, the number of photos from a mobile device increased 44 times in the last year.
  • The KODAK Gallery App for ANDROID has been ranked in the top 25 free photo apps in the ANDROID Marketplace.
  • Top 10 in the AMAZON Appstore.
  • The KODAK Gallery App for the iPhone is also ranked among the top 25 free photo apps in the App Store.
  • Unlike our competitors, the ANDROID, KINDLE FIRE and iPhone apps are all developed internally at KODAK Gallery.

Almost without hesitation, I clicked, "Reply" to find out more, with the hope that I'd be able to "call out" Kodak Gallery on its opinion that the Android platform is fragmented.


Yes, fragmented. And, it isn't Kodak's opinion. It, my dear friends, is fact and based on independent research and observation. The fragmentation problem can be summed up as this response from an Android App developer: "They [Android-based devices] don't all have the same code bases and  there are multiple Android versions that are much different than the iOS versions. That makes a much larger matrix than there is in iOS."

Here is an article about how fragmented the Android platform is:

That's a major problem for you, as end users, and for developers. If you don't think so, read the post.

It's no surprise to someone, like myself, who's watched the Linux community for years fragment and fork every which way. It's not Google's problem per se. It's the nature of the openness of the platform.

Apple's iOS is more consistent because you don't have developers from all over the planet creating their own versions and subversions of the operating system. Windows has the same story. There's only one Windows. There's only one Mac OS. There are dozens and dozens of Linux distributions.

The same thing that makes Linux so cool and open is also the thing that makes it a house divided.

If you believe, somehow, that I'm not a Linux fan, you're wrong. If you think that I didn't really want an Android-based tablet and phone, you're wrong. If you think that I didn't give Android a fair chance, you're super wrong. I did. I touched, tapped and tested for months. I bugged the heck out of Jason Perlow asking about his experiences with Android gadgets. I asked dozens of people, read hundreds of reviews, pored over articles and gadget sites until I was convinced that I needed to cut my losses and find another technology solution. Remember that my wife bought me an iPad for Father's Day and I wouldn't go pick it up at the local Apple Store because I thought I could find an Android tablet for less money that was just as good.

I had never owned anything Apple before. I could never afford it. I had to ponder long and hard to admit defeat and purchase that iPhone 4. I had to reach deep within my soul and wallet to allow my wife to give me an iPad for Christmas (2010). But, somehow my readers believe I did this with levity and flippantly. Wrong.

You can take this religious war and end up like all religious wars--in a draw--and realize that there's no single right answer. For me, it's Apple. For you, it could be Android. In the end, as long as you can call, text, surf, play Angry Birds and run a few business Apps, who cares what you use. I don't care that you use Android so why should you care that I use Apple.

I am now and will always be a Linux guy. In April, I'll replace my 11.10 with 12.04. And, in October, I'll replace that with 12.10 and so on. It won't cost you anything for me to do that. You'll install OS X Mountain Lion. Someone else will install Windows 8. So what? Is it really worth your time to worry about it? No.

Will there ever be peace in the Middle East? Will there ever be one church? Is Ford better than Chevy? Will Coke ever buy Pepsi? Will Linux ever boot Microsoft off the desktop?

No. To all the above. Get over it. Pray for peace.

Topics: Laptops, Hardware, Mobility, Tablets, Telcos


Kenneth 'Ken' Hess is a full-time Windows and Linux system administrator with 20 years of experience with Mac, Linux, UNIX, and Windows systems in large multi-data center environments.

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  • Better start praying...

    Just joking. A fine article. Experienced the same for over a decade, it won't change. Keep fighting he good fight with honest opinion backed by experience and investigation. Only a few talkbackers could claim the same.
    Richard Flude
    • My experience backs this up 100%

      I'm an Android phone user. I once was an Android tablet user but switched sides. Android tablet market is one fragmented mess! I'm not basing this on people that comment in forums or even people who write tech articles. I'm basing this on 1000s of hours of personal experience.... and an honest, non-prejudiced perspective.

      When I read comments that go against my own experience, I believe the commentators are either being: prejudiced to a OS/brand; not totally honest; lucky that they got their hands on a unit that basically works the way it's supposed to; have far lower expectations than I do; or... just live in a different universe.

      ((Over the past two years my family has owned three Android tablets and four Android phones... all three tablets have been burdensome, but only one of the phones has.))
      • If there is one Android area that is not fragmented, it is tablets.

        The first Android tablet ever produced was the Motorola Xoom. And the first OS for tablets was 3.0 Honeycomb. And all Honeycomb tablets have already announced the availability of ICS 4.0. The Xoom has it. The Asus tablets have it. And the rest will have it by April/May.

        So you are wrong when you say that Android tablets are fragmented. You probably never had one in your life. In fact Android tablets have better and smoother compatibility with Android apps than the iPad has with iPhone apps. But since you never owned one, you would not know what I'm talking about.
  • What a surprise...

    Here's another anti-android article from Ken. You don't like android, we get it. It's not apple vs. android, it's Ken vs. android. In every article. How dull.
    • Nope

      Not anti-Android. If that's what you got from this and the other article, you got it wrong.
      • You are wrong...

        If fragmentation is such a problem for developers, then explain why android apps are growing at three times the rate of iOS apps. 150K in MWC 2011 and a year later are up three-fold to 450K in MWC 2012 and about to surpass iOS. Fragmentation is not the issue that the Apple friendly media makes it to be. In fact frome the point of the user, there is NO fragmentation as he will always see the apps the run on his OS and his device. And there are thousands of apps for each category. And the developer tools are getting better and better that even now it is a child's play to write an app that supports multiple resolution screens and OS versions.

        Fragmentation is only in your Apple friendly mind.... BTW, how is Siri working on your iPhone3GS and iPhone4??? How is iCloud working on your iPhone and iPhone3G??? Why Apple does not release a chart like Google does every month showing what percentage of its users are running what version of iOS??? What are they afraid of??? That it will show that iOS is fragmented???
      • App count

        @larryvand I don't use anything Android (not because I have anything against it) so won't make any claims but have some thoughts on your app count theory. Is the Android app count growing so fast because developers have to publish multiple versions of the same app to work across a larger number of devices unlike on iOS? We read about it all the time but not sure how much it really happens, how many are "devs" copying other devs work and reposting it under a different name? Again, have nothing against Android but am not going to blindly follow the app count theory with some question.
    • @danhodgeceng

      Did you bother to read the article or did you just - like every other frothing at the mouth zealot - glance at the headline and jumped right into the talkbacks to call out someone. I [i]did[/i] read the article as well as the links within the article and Ken has some valid points. Go back and read the article with an open mind, click on the links and read those articles with an open mind - and be willing to admit your precious does indeed have faults like every single OS out there.
      • ?

        I don't think you get it. Read between the lines. The writer uses Android's fragmentation "problem" as good enough reason to switch over to Apple's ios. Nevermind that by doing that, you will lose the MANY advantages that Android empowers its users to have! Just based on that illogical stance on the topic shows that YES this article IS anti-android! Ask yourself "if i were to switch over, what in terms of capabilities would i be gaining or losing?" Consider that even the older versions of Android gives its users MUCH more functionality than the latest version of ios! So what significance does its fragmentation really have when compared to ios?! Why don't you surf the web, do research on BOTH operating systems then make out a list of capabilities that both offer which the other doesn't. Then ask yourself if the fragmentation "problem" justifies choosing ios over Android!...I don't think so.
      • RE: ?

        @trob6969 You can read between the lines all you want and jump to conclusions but that in no way means you are correct in your assumptions. Why don't you list the capabilities that he requires/uses/wants that he lost going to iOS? What, you can't because you have absolutely no clue what his requires/uses/wants are yet you assume the fragmentation should be less of an issue to him that losing those capabilities. You have shown more bias in your post by assuming your requires/uses/wants apply to everyone than he showed in the article by a long shot.
    • Wow - don't read much...

      And he's 100% correct. top to bottom.
    • What a surprise...

      A poster that doesn't bother to refute anything he said but just claims he is anti Android. How about you prove him wrong, that would be a good start to backing up your claim.
  • That's where apple excelled

    To really argue this, it's my opinion that you have to look at the price ranges available along with the hardware features they come with. Apple typically stays with just 2 configurations but a new iOS (with some exceptions) works across all models made within the last few years. Why? Unified hardware. Android devices range in the multitudes of configurations. Because the hardware changes so rapidly, there is no unified architecture to build off of and ensure compatibility with future updates. Companies don't make just 2 phones, unless your apple. In reality, phone manufacturers make the most money when signing up new clients and current customers upgrading their phones. Mobile companies make huge investments in the devices they carry every year. No new phones means no new sales growth. Knowing you have 50 new smartphones every year with newer, faster hardware with better displays, how could you keep updating something that can't handle it? Now keep in mind it's not always the phone manufacturer that updates android. It's the carriers we always end up waiting for updates from, IF they release any for that phone. We can apply the same reasoning towards 1st and 2nd gen phones that people still have and can't update to iOS 5. Making iOS also fragmented in some cases. Should we blame the carrier for not updating iOS 5 to work on a 1st gen iphone or do we blame apple? Only most android phones don't start in around $499 each either.
    • I'm curious

      about this statement: "[i]Only most android phones don't start in around $499 each either.[/i]"

      Most Apple phones do not start in around $499 either - the most expensive subsidized device is $399. Right now there is an iPhone at every staged price point from free to $99, $199, $299, and $399 - again all subsidized. Unsubsidized is a different matter with both Android and iOS devices.

      As for iOS fragmentation - there are no apps that run on iOS 5x that cannot run on iOS 4x or 3x with the exception of some core apps that Apple claims cannot - which jailbreakers have proven to be false with the sole exception of Siri integration into iOS 5.
      • backwards compatibility on this side, too

        With the exception of a few really low-level root-requiring apps and similar, the majority of Android apps work on 2.2, 2.3, 3.0, and 4.0; there's a bit of a dip if you go back to 2.0 and 2.1, but very few phones are running those releases.

        This argument is like saying "PCs are a mess because there are too many versions of Windows running on computers!" Somehow, despite there being decent market shares of XP, Vista, and 7, with a few percentage points hanging on to 2000/9x, the Windows desktop/laptop market has been perfectly fine for quite some time. The fact of the matter is that the majority of software runs on all three, and for those that do not, they generally realize that their machine is pretty dated and they simply can't run everything.

        I've run Android 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.3.5, 4.0.1, and 4.0.3 all on the same hardware - hardware that was never designed to run Android in the first place, I might add - and I've never had an issue with software not running on the platform.

        If you care enough about running ICS on a phone, head over to xda-developers. If you don't, there's not a phone or tablet in existence that doesn't play Angry Birds.

      • hmm

        There are apps that run on the iPad 2 that will not on the iPad... same for iPhone 4s vs iPhone 4. The GPU in the earlier versions will not handle what the new GPU can.
    • There's a difference...

      Nobody's saying that new versions of the OS need to be made compatible with 4 year old phones. That being said, it's completely reasonable for the customer to expect that a phone for which they've signed a 2 year contract should be receive updates (and in a timely manner), at least during the 1st year of that contract, if not the full 2 years. In many cases with Android, it's not a matter that the hardware can't handle it, it's just that the OEM and/or carrier have little or no interest in making it happen.

      Apple does generally provide support for the last couple of models, which should cover most users under a contract. For example, iOS 5 is supported on the 4 and 3GS.

      So sorry, you're comparing Apples to Oranges, no pun intended.
  • Fragmentation is a "major problem"?

    You say " fragmented the Android platform is.... That???s a major problem for you, as end users, and for developers."

    That's funny, because I've been using my Galaxy Nexus every day for the last two months and my Incredible for two years before that and I don't ever remember either device being a "major problem" for me no matter what way I try to look at it. Oh darn, I don't have [i]Temple Run[/i] on my phone. So what.
  • Fragmentation is not a bug, it's a feature.

    Calling Android fragmented is like calling Windows fragmented. Does the program written for Windows 7 always work on Windows XP...of course not. Android has loosely three supported versions in circulation Android 2-4. It's the equivalent of Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7. Having the flexibility to use older versions of the OS means lower cost. It's why I can get a Kolby Cyros for $75.
    • do you understand what fragmentation is?

      Do you really understand what fragmentation is? The author isn't discussing the difference between Froyo, Gingerbread or ICS and iOS 3, 4, or 5. The problem with fragmentation in Android is that the same version of an operating system runs differently depending on what type of device it's on.

      It's not the equivalent of XP, Vista or 7. If I load windows 7 on a Dell, HP, Lenovo (desktop or laptop), it all looks and runs the same way. Android version whatever can be totally different depending on if you have a Motorola, Samsung, or HTC phone. And even so within the same company. I originally had a Motorola Droid 2 with Android 2.2 and my coworker a Motorola Droid X with the same OS and there were come clear differences between the phones.