What the F*WK? "Android Fragmentation"

According to Nielsen, Google's Android OS runs 43% of America's Smartphones - that's a lot, and sounds like Google should be flying high considering they've only been around for a few years. Not so fast my friends. Android is open source & free, meaning any OEM can leverage it to create the next great Android device. This is great for Google. This has resulted in a tremendously fragmented ecosystem that, according to app developers, presents a significant problem (see chart below).

Michael DeGusta presents this another way: it's also incredibly troubling for the end consumer. Little-to-no high-end devices run on the latest version of Android; how frustrating is it for a consumer to spend $200 on a device that's outdated 3-weeks later?

Image via Phandroid.


  1. I don't think that many people are spending $200 on an Android smartphone. Android is getting a much larger market share by being offered on $29 smartphones. At $29, I'll get a smartphone instead of a basic phone, maybe use the web browser and download media and never care about the apps.

  2. I'd love to see a breakdown Android phones by price paid. How many people are buying a $200 that can legitimately compete with the newest iPhone and how many are buying an Android phone instead of a RAZR?

    In fact, take a look at all the free smartphones at AT&T, three use Android OS and the iPhone3GS (yes, the iPhone 3GS is free now) uses Apple.

  3. Don't have any buckets as of now, but $135 is a good approximation across all Smartphones.

  4. Android just gave me the gift of a system update today (the first I can remember since I bought the HTC Incredible phone a little over a year ago). Not sure what all it did, other than make things seem faster and smoother.

    Anyway is that what you mean when you say the device gets outdated 3 weeks later? Or are you referring to the hardware?

    If you're referring to the software, is it your stance that the constant updates of iOS on iPhones results in a better product for consumers? My understanding is a lot of the cool iPhone stuff gets saved for the new phones?

  5. Software. Apple releases changes directly to the phone. Android updates, on the other hand, have to go from Google to the device manufacturers to the carrier to the device. This results in end users rarely, if ever, having the latest and greatest versions on their machines as there's little incentives for HTC to update the code on the Incredible.

    It all boils down to control over the end-to-end process. Some believe Apple will be cornered (as they have on the PC side), and I would tend to agree (in the long-run) by maintaining too tight a leash. Microsoft places tighter controls on their Windows OS for PCs than Google does for Android, which is why we don't see this on the PC side of the business. I would imagine whoever ends up here (and Microsoft is getting there with Windows Phone), will gain share over the next 5 years.

  6. Cool Apple hardware updates are reserved for the new phones (think video features with iPhone 3GS). Software updates for iOS are generally released to legacy versions of the device shortly after the launch of the new device/iOS.