Fragmandroid: Android fragmentation visualized

“In this report we examine the extent of Android fragmentation and analyse its impact on both users and developers,” OpenSignal reports.

“Android devices come in all shapes and sizes, with vastly different performance levels and screen sizes. Furthermore, there are many different versions of Android that are concurrently active at any one time, adding another level of fragmentation,” OpenSignal reports. “What this means is that developing apps that work across the whole range of Android devices can be extremely challenging and time-consuming.”

OpenSignal reports, “This is the best way of visualizing the sheer number of different Android devices that have downloaded the OpenSignal app in the past few months. From a developer’s perspective, comparing fragmentation from this year to the previous year, we see that it has tripled, with even more obscure devices from around the world downloading the app.”

Source: OpenSignal – July 2013

Much more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews readers too numerous to mention individually for the heads up.]


  1. I have to say I’m amazed that the authors of the article choose to view this as a plus for the platform from a developer and end-user perspective. Even going so far as to say that it’s being imitated now by Apple, so it must be the way to go. I don’t think anyone in their right mind would suggest that this type of landscape is preferable for developers, and hence, for end-users. One could imagine that one would have to decide what stable of applications are the most important to the user, and then find which device supports those applications in the best way for the user. And, while that criteria may be valid on the date of purchase, I could see it changing over time. I think these guys are being just a bit self-smug in their analysis.

    1. great points,

      Many applications don’t run on the cheaper handsets due to the handset locked to the older OS. Thats dissatisfaction. Not beneficial to consumers. ANd thought the number of users for Gingerbread remains high, the market share is a steady falling (see white maker share API line), meaning consumers are not happy and developers too aren’t. Jelly Bean improvements are not all that effective nor exciting the masses. People think they got a PHONE they really want? All I can add is they BOUGHT an expensive phone equal to an iPhone, yet that what they got, might be rendered obsolete.

      Conclusion: The real benefit Apple offers is obviously a great phone with great software and a great operating system. Truly its the Upgradability of iOS that offers the most benefit: As it ensures the continued usability of the phone and the INVESTED applications that users have purchased. And farthing that, the investment of applications is transferable on Apples other devices, not to mention that the applications are ensured once again on the different screen sizes. Apple provided the most benefits. Its by far a better value.

      1. And a far less to worry platform too for security – and if buyers ever did worry about the true benefits; they could see the obvious difference is Upgrades extend the live of your investment. Come on now, a phone at 699.99 is expensive be it iPhone or Samsung S4. Yet what you buy to use on the phone should also be a continued as a usable app in the future. If you cant run the app, you would buy it either. Look at the percentage of users who are running Apples latest upgrade… 95%… that tells the story right there. Clear, simple Apple makes everything easier.

  2. Different types and forms of phones isn’t fragmentation, it’s choice & convenience to customers. Some developers find this endearing as some different form factors make their apps shine. The only Android fragmentation that is worth caring about is the previous Android versions that are still active.

    1. Even there (versions) Google is (again) not being completely honest.
      They are (now) claiming that jellybean is the most widely used version, but that is only true because they named both 4.1 and 4.2 “jellybean” (as apposed to 4.0 which was called “ice cream sandwich”)
      So really if you separate by major version updates (as the pie chart has) you see that the most popular version of android out there is actually 2.3 (aka “gingerbread”) Its a 3 year old version of android which I think most people would like to upgrade but can’t because they are locked out. The really stunning thing is that “gingerbread” phones are still being sold!

  3. huge comment…

    1st good report

    2nd, The benefits, “Despite the problems, fragmentation also has a great number of benefits – for both developers and users. The availability of cheap Android phones (rarely running the most recent version) means that they have a much greater global reach than iOS, so app developers have a wider audience to build for. It may be tricky to do, but the potential reward definitely makes it worthwhile. For consumers, extreme fragmentation means that they can get exactly the phone they want – big or small, cheap or expensive, with any number of different feature combinations.”

    Reflecting on these benefits and use of the data comparison:
    This pie chart provides plenty of information

    a) cheap phones running Froyo, Eclair and Donut are so low in the number of users – that handset makers should discontinue it. Those do not show or express a greater reach in global choice… and the phones that run these are not upgradable.

    b) G’bread 2.3.3 – 2.3.7: hold a stronger number of users. Yet again, typically the phones which run those systems are non-upgradable. The number is interesting 34.1%… most likely these people are locked into 3 year contracts. Again the benefits do not truly help users rather the system disappoints them. There is no value in the old device gaining features by upgrades.

    c) IceCreamSandwich 4.0.3 & Jelly Bean 4.1: again holding strong numbers of users offer insight to the real competition here of Apple. As the phones that run these systems are on average expensive and near the price of Apples iPhone. So here is choice finally. Handset makers attempting to offer iPhone quality… yet this is not the wide selection in price – rather in quality.

    d) 4.2.x Jelly Bean: is said to be very few users… yet it is the first offer on few selected handsets with an upgrade offer.

    “For consumers, extreme fragmentation means that they can get exactly the phone they want – big or small, cheap or expensive, with any number of different feature combinations.”

    Conclusion… the benefits of fragmentation are said to provide choice… big or small, cheap or expensive — YET CONSUMERS still do not really get the phone they truly want. They just settle based on budget. And that goes for the high end also. Simply because most of them really want an iPhone. There are said to be only two competing operating systems. Yet to truly compare – one needs to realize the real benefit is “upgradability to the invested handset”. Therefore iOS6 and ANDROID Jelly Bean 4.2.x are the true and only comparisons to be made here… and i believe 4.2.x only appears on expensive phones. Now, doing so you can see 5.6% compared to 95%. Apple wins hands down. Still more so, This pie chart does not even tell exactly how many iPhone or iPad users were surveyed… nor does it compare those number to Android on par. — 682,000 different handsets, 37.9% on two implementations of Jelly bean. But how many users were surveyed?

    Last words, the white line on the chart, “Android Operating Sytem Fragmentation”. — The white (cherry if touched) line shows the market share of the leading API level at any time. BIG BIG BIG deal here… the DECLINE is STEADY from JULY 2012 until JULY 2013. AND it is VERY IMPORTANT to read that… these declines are not seen for the high-end expensive phones (the green areas of the low end users) are the ones FORCING decline – it is within the inexpensive GLOBAL choice (so called BENEFIT of FRAGMENTATION) within the Gingerbread handsets that ANDROID is having sad signs.

      1. thx,
        and the Android market share was to be well into the 50% even 60% range only a few months ago – apparently out doing Apple. I am reading here it is down below 37%.

  4. It’s actually much worse than the graphs show.

    The graphs compare major releases. For example, they show iOS 6 at 95% and iOS 5 at 5%, and then do the same for Android, but show it spread out over 8 different major releases. The problem is that they show the latest release being 4.2.X, and that breaks down into 3 versions.

    4.2 was released November 2012, but then due to bugs and the adding of features, they released 4.2.1 and then 4.2.2..

    Now, unlike iOS where you can upgrade any device to a certain major release, and then get any update to that major release, with Android, point releases aren’t always available to all. So for example, any iOS device that can run iOS 6 can be upgraded to 6.1.4. However, many Android devices are stuck at 4.2 or 4.2.1.

    How does this all impact developers? See:

    Note: “Today we have an Android development team that is almost 3 times the size of the iOS team.”

    And they’re still having major problems trying to achieve comparable app performance and feature parity compared to iOS.
    And yes, this makes a huge difference. My Nexus 7 (I need an Android device for development and testing) auto-updated to 4.2.2. Great right? No! Many apps didn’t support it… Major apps too, like the CNN app, TiVo, etc…

    Meanwhile my father, despite the advice from my whole family, decides to get an Android phone. He’s all excited that it has 4.2 “the latest Android”. I have to tell him he needs to upgrade because of some bugs and things that weren’t supported. Unfortunately, his device can’t be upgraded yet… 4.2.1 came out later in November 2012 and 4.2.2 came out in February 2013.

    1. Simple solution if someone in the family gets an android then they are on their own. The only help I will provide is when they exchange it for an iPhone.

  5. Users don’t care. I switched from iPhone to Android three years ago and still currently have an iPad. Grand total apps that I can get on the iPad that I miss on my phone? Zero.

    You’re whipping a dead horse here. Devs have to support Android because it’s more popular and users don’t notice the difference. The only people concerned with fragmentation are vehement supporters of iOS who believe that it is something that detracts from Android.

    1. I’m sorry you feel that way. Hopefully, you will reconsider you decisions. I almost made the same mistake you did, and now I’m back on iPhone. Hopefully, you will see the light.

  6. The way I read that report is that if someone is paying you to develop, something develop for android. If you want to make money and develop something with a high quality user experience develop for iOS, you will save yourself (or your company) a lot of headaches.

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