As Android market share grows 7% gain quarter over quarter, developers are increasingly concerned with OS fragmentation. 57% of developers polled in a small but statistically significant survey agreed with the statement that Android fragmentation is “a meaningful or significant problem.”
If you carry a Motorola handset like me, we use the MotoBlur UI. Or if on HTC, you use the Sense UI. These UIs are different from the UI on Google’s Nexus phones, the out-of-the-box Android. There are modifications to most programs, even the core apps like Mail.
The inconsistent UI is one challenge for developers – and for Google. Many users receive OS updates months after Google releases a new version of Android. The Motorola and HTC developers have to modify the new OS with their UI and this takes time.
Google has responded to this challenge by requiring all partners modifying the user interface submit these changes for approval. Ultimately, having the same version of Android across devices is a massive consumer benefit and one that Apple iOS users take for granted.
Today, 40% of users are behind on Android release cycles and are using versions older than 2.2. As a result, these users’ experience is sub-optimal. In these early stages of OS development core features change very quickly. Honeycomb’s beautiful new UI make take 3 to 6 months before reaching the masses.
By consolidating the OS fragmentation and serving users better, developers benefit with greater distribution, consistent game experiences across the largest smart phone user base, and ultimately the best monetization – so goes the theory. Handset makers and carriers suffer because of their inability to differentiate handsets from competitors.
On the other side of the competitive arena, Apple has controlled the user experience tightly since the inception of iOS. And the developer and consumer ecosystem has flourished. Android is replicating some of these behaviors.
In the short-term, Android fragmentation is a concern for our portfolio companies with mobile applications. But bearing this burden is well worth it. The long-term gains of being early on Android’s market place and building a vibrant user base are undervalued. It’s great to see Google taking some bold steps to ensure Android’s ultimate success.