Ex-Google boss says Android fragmentation drove him to iOS

“It’s no huge surprise Android has a few issues with fragmentation: most of us with a Google-run handset are still waiting for the update to Ice Cream Sandwich, so Jelly Bean is still a pipe dream. But it’s not just a nightmare for us consumers, it’s a headache for developers too,” Joe Svetlik reports for CNET. “And when one of the developers in question used to work for Google, and says he made his new app for iOS because of Android’s fragmentation, you know the problem is bad.”

“Rian Liebenberg is the man who used to work for Google [as former Engineering Director]. He spoke to Electricpig about his new venture Recce, a mapping app. And he chose to make it for iOS over Android,” Svetlik reports. “‘We do have a working Android build, but given some of the device fragmentation, we couldn’t guarantee we were going to have a great Android experience on every single implementation,’ Liebenberg said… That’s really quite damning. But many on Android will know exactly what Liebenberg is talking about. Ice Cream Sandwich launched back in October — that’s nine months ago. Yet it’s still only found on 10 per cent of Android devices.”

Read more in the full article here.

Adam Bunker reports for Electricpig, “Recce runs seamlessly on the iPhone and iPad, but recreating its speed and fluidity on a myriad Android handsets has proved too big of an ask, even for a Google engineer to muster, in time for launch.”

“You don’t need to be an Apple fanboy to acknowledge and talk about the problems that Google’s had in convincing developers about the ease of Android developing,” Bunker reports. “It’s about the problems found in developing for a gazillion different devices with different resolutions and processors, and running across several different software iterations.”

Bunker reports, “Liebenberg isn’t the first developer who’s told me this – it’s a wider issue than this specific app.”

Read more in the full article here.

Recce - London by mapplyMacDailyNews Take: Liebenberg’s Recce (London) is quite interesting looking and it is available now for iOS – and iOS-only (smirk) – free for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch via Apple’s App Store here.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs, October 18, 2010:

Google loves to characterize Android as ‘open’ and iOS and iPhone as ‘closed.’ We find this a bit disingenuous and clouding the real difference between our two approaches… Android is very fragmented. Many Android OEMs… install proprietary user interfaces to differentiate themselves from the commodity Android experience. The user is left to figure it all out.

Compare this with iPhone, where every handset works the same. Twitter client, TwitterDeck, recently launched their app for Android. They reported that they had to contend with more than a hundred different versions of Android software on [hundreds of] different handsets. The multiple hardware and software iterations presents developers with a daunting challenge. Many Android apps work only on selected Android handsets running selected Android versions. And this is for handsets that have been shipped less than 12 months ago. Compare this with iPhone…

In addition to Google’s own app marketplace, Amazon, Verizon, and Vodafone have all announced that they are creating their own app stores for Android. So, there will be at least four app stores on Android, which customers must search among to find the app they want and developers will need to work with to distribute their apps and get paid.

This is going to be a mess for both users and developers.

Contrast this with Apple’s integrated App Store which offers users the easiest to use, largest App Store in the world, preloaded on every iPhone. Apple’s App Store has over three times as many apps as Google’s marketplace and offers developers one-stop shopping to get their apps to market easily and to get paid swiftly.

In reality, we think the ‘open’ vs. ‘closed’ argument is just a smokescreen to try and hide the real issue which is: What’s best for the customer? Fragmented versus integrated. We think Android is very, very fragmented and becoming more fragmented by the day. And, as you know, Apple strives for the integrated model so the user isn’t forced to be the systems integrator. We see tremendous value in having Apple, rather than our users, be the systems integrator.

We think this is a huge strength of our approach compared to Google’s. When selling to users who want their devices to just work, we believe integrated will trump fragmented every time. And we also think our developers can be more innovative if they can target a singular platform, rather than a hundred variants. They can put their time into innovative new features, rather than testing on hundreds of different handsets. So we are very committed to the integrated approach, no matter how many times Google tries to characterize it as ‘closed,’ and we are confident that it’ll triumph over Google’s fragmented approach, no matter how many times Google tries to characterize it as ‘open.’

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Fred Mertz” for the heads up.]


        1. Got my versions confused. I was thinking Gingerbread = 3.0, but no, that’s Honeycomb.

          So yeah, I agree with you, Gingerbread (2.3) is the predominant version now. But I’ve still seen Froyo on new phones. My buddy got one two weeks ago as a work phone. Brand new. The poor bastard.

  1. All sorts of CEOs, CIOs and whatever can stand in front of the analysts and shareholder meetings and tout “open” all they want.

    Consumer’s vote with their wallets.

      1. While your definition might be true in some circles, the better-known definition of “to frag” arose during the Vietnam War when troops would roll a fragmentation grenade into the tent of an NCO or junior officer. It’s a popular term in war gaming these days.

  2. “DAMNING!”

    Except it’s not. Android is bigger than Apple. So is Windows. Both are fragmented. Different screen sizes, different versions. But they’re on millions more devices because they’ve simply got a different ethos. Open vs. closed. Freedom vs. control.

    Is it affecting app availability? The Android market reports 482,231 apps. Apple reports “over 500,000.”

    The Galaxy S III is selling out. The Nexus 7 is selling out. This supposed disaster isn’t one.

    PS: Apple has become a follower of trends, not a leader. They’re following their competitors in creating a bigger phone, and following their competitors in creating a smaller tablet, suing all the way.

    And Apple rumor sites like this one are seeing their weekly traffic stats fall to their lowest levels in years.

    1. Hate Apple much?
      Play with numbers and specs all you want. Apple is not going away and more and more people are moving to Apple products. Once they do, they stay.

      Just a thought.

  3. James C.

    Fragmented like only 7 to 10% of Android phones in use are using Ice Cream Sandwich, the latest Android OS and that is 9 months old.

    Fragmented like there are 5 or 6 different OS iterations being put on Android phones being sold today.

    Fragmented like there are 7 or 8 major Android phone manufacturers and quite a few smaller manufacturers.

    Fragmented like there are several different screen sizes, pixel counts, screen shapes, screen capabilities, refresh rates et cetera.

    Fragmented like there are several different CPUs in play with very different capabilities hooked up to several different GPUs with very different capabilities.

    When you put these many differences together you have hundreds of variables to take into consideration when coding an App.

    If the Android Market has almost 500,000 Apps and each App has just 25 different variants to cover as many fragmented phones as possible, there might only be 20,000 different Apps available for any given phone.

    Less than 20% of the Android phones on the market today have anywhere near the capabilities of the iPhone 4S. The rest are just glorified feature phones with hardly any Apps capable of running on them.

    Give your head a shake man.

  4. The 7% number is for May, six months after release. That’s on par with Windows 7. Yes, there are low-end phones, high-end phones, mid-range phones, phones for everyone. Because one size really doesn’t fit all.

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