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Android Fragmentation Isn't Hurting Its Adoption 419

Nerval's Lobster writes "Apple's developer Website offers a new, handy graph of iOS fragmentation — which, of course, highlights that the mobile operating system isn't fragmented much at all. A full 93 percent of iOS users are on iOS 6, the latest version; another 6 percent rely on iOS 5; and a mere 1 percent use an earlier iOS. Compare that to Google Android, which really is fragmented: some 33 percent of Android devices run some variant (either 4.1.x or 4.2.x) of the 'Jelly Bean' build, while 36.5 percent run a version of 'Gingerbread,' which was first released in December 2010 — ancient history, in mobile-software terms. (Other versions take up varying slices of the Android pie.) For years, Google's rivals have used the 'Android is fragmented' argument to hype their own platforms. But is Android's fragmentation really hurting the platform? Not as far as global shipments are concerned. According to recent data from research firm IDC, Android's market-share stood at 75 percent in the first quarter of 2013 — up from 59.1 percent in the same quarter a year ago. Meanwhile, iOS owned 17.3 percent of the market — compared to 23.1 percent in the year-ago quarter. Whatever the drawbacks of fragmentation (and people can name quite a few), it's clear that it's not really hurting Android device shipments or adoption."
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Android Fragmentation Isn't Hurting Its Adoption

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  • Misses the point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Score Whore ( 32328 ) on Friday June 21, 2013 @05:14PM (#44073931)

    The argument presented doesn't seem to actually grasp the point of the comparisons. On one hand you may be interested in market share. But when Apple presents the issue at WWDC they're not talking about market share. They are talking about what the actual platforms in use are and which ones are going to present the best area for developers to target. Three different versions of android are going to present three different APIs that app developers are going to have to deal with. On the iOS side you can target iOS 6 and know that you're be hitting almost the entire market segment.

  • by maccodemonkey ( 1438585 ) on Friday June 21, 2013 @05:15PM (#44073947)

    But that wasn't the point of the graphic. The graphic was created by Apple to tell developers that they should target the newest version of iOS exclusively, if possible.

    Now imagine making that argument on Android. Anyone suggesting that an Android developer should seriously target 4.2 exclusively would be laughed out of the room.

    This article is missing the point. It was a dig at Android for hurting developers, not necessarily users.

  • by danaris ( 525051 ) <> on Friday June 21, 2013 @05:20PM (#44073981) Homepage

    ...who's going to buy your app?

    If you've got to target 6 or so major differences in versions—not to mention the differences in hardware—to reach the same percentage of Android users as you could reach in iOS users by targeting only iOS 6, that's got to say something about the ROI you can expect.

    And that's not even taking into account the many datapoints showing that Android users buy something like half, or less, the amount of apps per device that iOS users do. (I don't have the numbers in front of me right now, but my memory suggests it was considerably less—like, closer to 10% than 50%.)

    The reason Android's adoption is high is pretty damn obvious to anyone who's actually paying attention: the phones occupying the space in carrier lineups that, seven years ago, would have been held by dumbphones are now cheap Android phones. People buy Android not because they're choosing it, but because that's what happens to come on their phone...which they use almost exclusively to talk and text. (And maybe check Twitter and Facebook.)

    Dan Aris

  • by maccodemonkey ( 1438585 ) on Friday June 21, 2013 @05:21PM (#44073987)

    It's the same with targeting Android 4.0.x as the baseline. You will hit 75% of the Android market. There are some folks who just use their phone to talk and text ... Android 2.2.x will do that until their phones break so they will not upgrade until they have to. Folks need to stop whining about fragmentation and target the majority because most of those "good enough" phones with 2.2.x on them will just be around ... it's not like they can be revoked or have a newer version that's crippled. It is what it is.

    So if Google announced a major new version tomorrow how long would it be before I could exclusively target that version? Talking about 4.0 is good and all, but 4.0 is two years old. 2.3 is three years old. It's not exactly a huge achievement that you can target 4.0, especially if that means if Google released a major update tomorrow it would take two years to be able to realistically target that version.

    That's Apple's point. They're saying on iOS you can make that transition in three months, not two years.

  • by steelfood ( 895457 ) on Friday June 21, 2013 @05:26PM (#44074033)

    They're saying on iOS you have to make that transition in three months, not two years.


    To look at it another way, if you don't transition when Apple does, you're hosed.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 21, 2013 @05:27PM (#44074045)

    I have a 2.x phone. I am considering upgrading. But really the apps I have work fine on it (oh I had other ideas when I first bought it). The screen is decent and the battery life is not in the toilet the voice quality is iffy (but many are). I have all of my 'must have apps' for the thing already.

    Do I want a new shiny phone? Oh hell yes.
    Do I really need one? Not particularly.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 21, 2013 @05:28PM (#44074055)

    Why does it matter, as an app developer? If your program runs without a force close and doesn't use any specific features to an Android version, your app shouldn't care if it is running on the latest code.

    Same with iOS. There are a lot of things where I can release an app and it shouldn't care if it runs on iOS 4, 4.1, 4.2, 5, 6, or 6.1.

    Why as an app developer would you exclusively target a version and lock everything else out, unless one is in the "latest and greatest" mentality, which is easy to get into, but is really a poor mindset to be in.

  • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Friday June 21, 2013 @05:31PM (#44074095)

    You wouldn't target 4.0.x, unless of course there's a feature that isn't in previous versions that you need. For the most part, the 2.x versions have most of the stuff people need, targeting a newer version should really only be done when you need to. There's no point in throwing out users if you don't have to.

    The bigger issue with the older phones is the storage size and the amount of RAM available.

  • by IamTheRealMike ( 537420 ) on Friday June 21, 2013 @05:34PM (#44074135)

    Yes, exactly. A lot of the reason Gingerbread sticks around is because it's not a bad OS at all and it is the last version that had non-OpenGL based graphics. So it can run on pretty meagre hardware compared to ICS+. Some manufacturers are using Android's openness to fix the OS version and push down the price rather than keep price stable and push up the OS. Both approaches are valid and both are needed - the fact that Apple is blind to this market reality says more about them than Android.

    Anyway this ignores the fact that Apple routinely updates older devices to the 'latest' OS that is actually something claiming to be the latest version, but doesn't have most of the new features. It's easy to play games with version numbers if you simply strip out anything requiring the latest hardware and still call it the latest OS.

  • App revenue (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Guspaz ( 556486 ) on Friday June 21, 2013 @05:37PM (#44074167)

    Android has 75% of the device shipments, but Apple has 74% of app revenue. Fragmentation may not affect device shipments, but it certainly seems to be affecting other things.

    Look at it another way. Android has 75% device shipment marketshare. Apple has 18%. This means Google ships 4.17x as many devices. But (not knowing the Android app store marketshare), Apple has a minimum of 2.85x the overall app store revenue.

    This means that Apple devices, on average, produce roughly 12x the app revenue. Is this because of platform fragmentation? Is this because of Apple's demograhics? I don't know, but dismissing fragmentation based purely on device shipment market share is shortsighted.

  • by scot4875 ( 542869 ) on Friday June 21, 2013 @05:37PM (#44074173) Homepage

    In other words, as the user of an iOS device that is no longer supported, you can expect the market to leave you behind in a few months, rather than a few years.


  • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Friday June 21, 2013 @05:44PM (#44074257)

    And this is somehow different from the PC market?

    I can't recall the last time I heard anybody complaining about the PC market being fragmented. It's standard for Apple to use fragmentation as an argument against their opposition, because they want to make all the decisions for the end users. It's easy to eliminate fragmentation when you limit the option to things that you've chosen.

  • Annoyed fanboy? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gnasher719 ( 869701 ) on Friday June 21, 2013 @05:53PM (#44074309)
    This really, really sounds like an Android fan who just can't stand it if Apple has something good to say about iOS.

    Fact #1: Apple doesn't care about the market share of Android. Apple's market share in the phone market has been growing every year since 2007 when it started at zero. Today, cheap feature phones are being replaced with cheap smartphones. But if you don't buy a $600 iPhone but choose a $100 phone instead, Apple doesn't care whether that $100 phone is a Nokia feature phone or a cheap Android phone.

    Fact #2: Developers don't care about market share, they care about the number of people who are willing to pay for software. Someone who pays $600 for a phone (iOS or Android) is much more likely to pay for software than someone who paid $100 (Android or feature phone).

    The market fragmentation in itself is not the problem. The problem is that those on a three year old OS are not likely to buy any software. (You are free to assume otherwise and either write software that runs on the oldest OS and doesn't use any features of the newer OS, or put in lots of work to work fine everywhere). Which means the number of potential buyers is much lower than the number of Android users. It also seems to indicate that many new phones actually ship with an old OS.
  • Mathematical! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Citizen of Earth ( 569446 ) on Friday June 21, 2013 @06:15PM (#44074475)
    Let's see. With Apple, you can target 100% of 17% = 17% of phone buyers, whereas with Android you can target 75% of 75% = 56% of phone buyers.
  • Re:App revenue (Score:5, Insightful)

    by harperska ( 1376103 ) on Friday June 21, 2013 @06:36PM (#44074609)

    Anecdote is not the singular of data. When aggregate studies show that more money is to be made developing for iOS, two games by one studio that buck that trend do not negate the aggregate. It just provides an interesting data point that happens to be an outlier. Independent studies that unbiasedly sample a large number of apps that are on both platforms which show that the conventional wisdom is wrong would be newsworthy. As would analysis of apps like this to see why they buck the trend, and whether that difference can be capitalized in other apps. But to use a single data point simply as a counterpoint to a trend is laughable.

  • by Pieroxy ( 222434 ) on Friday June 21, 2013 @06:57PM (#44074761) Homepage

    Are you kidding? iOS6 runs on every iPhone down to the iPhone 3GS released in June 8, 2009. That's more than 4 years ago. Do you want to compare that to Android average upgrade path across all manufacturers? How many Android phones actually *can* run the latest OS after 4 years of service?

    Easy to bash Apple, but on some points they do hold their ground much better than 90% of Android manufacturers. Try not to bash them on those points, will you?

  • by danaris ( 525051 ) <> on Friday June 21, 2013 @06:58PM (#44074763) Homepage

    That's a false dilemma you've got there. Android includes tools to manage the fragmentation. If you're having to individually target particular handsets, you're doing it wrong.

    People buy Android, because they don't want to be overcharged for Apple's iOS walled garden, and don't want to be limited to only Apple's selections. I'm sure that some people buy Android because it's less expensive, but that's a perfectly legitimate reason for choosing it. Just because you're an Apple fanbois doesn't make it any less legitimate to remain cost conscious.

    I think you've missed my point: they don't choose Android because it's cheaper. They just go to buy a cheap phone, and these days, that happens to be Android. They're not thinking about it in terms of iOS vs Android vs whatever. They're just going to buy a phone that'll do phone stuff.

    Dan Aris

  • by swillden ( 191260 ) <> on Friday June 21, 2013 @07:36PM (#44075059) Homepage Journal

    This article is missing the point. It was a dig at Android for hurting developers, not necessarily users.

    That was the point of the Apple graphic, sure, but who cares? Developers, sure, but the evidence is that that doesn't matter, because developers will follow the users.

    If you project the trends out another year or two -- and I see no reason why that's an unreasonable thing to do -- we're rapidly approaching the point where even if average Android users spend less money on apps, Android is going to so completely dominate the smartphone market that it won't matter. Already some app developers (particular game makers []) are seeing Android revenues surpass iOS revenues, and that's just going to increase.

    Ultimately, if fragmentation doesn't hurt user adoption, it won't hurt developer adoption.

    I actually hope the current trends don't continue; I'd like to see Ubuntu phone or Windows phone, or something, start to gain some share, and for Apple to hold onto its share, because I believe that competition is important.

    (Disclaimer: I work for Google, but they don't speak for me and I don't speak for them.)

  • Re:Annoyed fanboy? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pherthyl ( 445706 ) on Friday June 21, 2013 @08:43PM (#44075601)

    >> You must be somewhat mathematically challenged, because even if you and Apple are right, targeting a subset of 75% of the market is still better than targeting nearly all of 17% of the market.

    And yet, 75% of app revenue is from iOS. So as a developer the 75% marketshare means nothing if those people aren't buying apps.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982