Fragmentation – Android’s Many Parts-What You Need to Know About Your Android Smartphone

Posted: December 3, 2013 in Smartphones
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The Android Operating System is a fragmented mess.
According to this latest chart from Google showing what Operating System is on devices visiting the Google Play store(ie. Android Smartphones) only 1.1% have the latest OS update Kit Kat. Over 44.4% of Android smartphones in use are using an OS 4-7 versions old(Ice Cream Sandwich, Honeycomb, Gingerbread and Froyo,!!! Finally 54.6% of devices in use are using the second to last OS Jelly Bean, and sadly not all of those devices, due to carrier restrictions and device type, will be updated to Kitkat!!! As a final nail in Androids coffin many BRAND NEW DEVICES are shipping with the second to newest OS update Jelly Bean rather than the latest and greatest version Kit Kat.

So what does this mean to Android Phone users? Well it means that over 98% of Android phone users are not using the latest OS, don’t have access to the latest features and the device you use likely cannot and will not receive the latest update. That’s the way Android works. Google owns the OS(Android) and phone makers(Original Equipment Manufacturers-OEM’s) install whatever version of the operating system they want on the phones they make. A lot of the budget Android phones received older versions of the OS. Thus brand new cheap android phones, built with low spec hardware(i.e. low RAM, slower chips) cannot run some of the newer versions of Android. Think system requirements for a program for a computer. There are minimum spec requirements in order for the program to run as designed. Notice how some apps won’t work well or work at all on your phone, but they work on other devices. FRAGMENTATION. This is likely because some apps are designed for a newer version of Android that may not be available on your device. Or the app may be optimized for a device with higher end specs than the device you own. The Android OS, particularly versions prior to the latest iteration 4.4 KitKat are “resource intensive” and require high specs to run smoothly. The lags and hangs common on the range of Android devices is a result of this fundamental design of the OS. It is not terribly efficient.
By contrast every new Windows Phone you buy, from the low end ($99 off-contract Nokia Lumia 520) to the high end($99-199 on-contract Nokia Lumia 1520) runs snappy, smooth and swift on the latest version of the Windows Phone OS – Windows Phone 8. Microsoft designed the Windows Phone Operating System to be “resource light” so that it runs virtually identical on low end budget devices with low specs like 512gigs of RAM and a dual core chip and a high end device with 2gigs of RAM and a quad-core chip. Updates for Windows Phone 8 devices are also more consistent and reliable than what is found in the Android camp.

Google’s latest Android OS update, Kit Kat, hopes to answer the issue of a newer OS’s ability to run on low spec devices by making it “lighter” , less resource hungry like what Microsoft has been doing with Windows Phone since 2010. The challenge for Google is that OEM’s(Phone Makers) are not obligated to use the latest update. Current practice, and history proves that many may opt to use older versions of the OS. The 1.1% share of Kit Kat, Androids latest iteration isn’t very promising especially when over 44% of those using Android phones are using an Operating System 4-7 versions old and have no hope for an update; and another 54% are using a device just shy of the latest update and due to carrier restrictions and device they also may not get the update.

Google is attempting to wrest some control from carriers by providing updates to some of thier services, independent of a full update to the OS, thus allowing users to experience some of the latest features. However, at this point, it is certain that Google can’t be pleased with the fragmented landscape of the Android OS, and it’s limited control of the open source Android Code which makes it difficult to provide the unified experience many Windows Phone users and iOS users have. Android is a fragmented mess, and as long as carriers have the ability to customize the OS as they please with Skins like Touch Wiz and HTC Sense, push out updates at thier discretion and OEM’s having the ability to use any version of Android they please it will be a challenge for Google to pull things together. Like the nursery rhyme goes all the kings horses and all the kings men…

  1. Kris says:

    Wow, I’m not so sure Android has a coffin as of yet, but it has become the humpy dumpy metaphor you mentioned. Fragmented? Yes, but because it is open source and manufacturers can manipulate versions, this gives a lot of creative advantage. Better than Windows OS? Never! Windows OS is definitely defragmented with extreme cohesiveness, as demonstrated in commercial ads. Low priced electronic goods are seductive. Eventually, people will see the value of relying on an operating system that is less variable and less device and/or manufacturer dependent.

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