The Fragmented Faces of Android

by Matt Klassen on May 17, 2012

Device Proliferation in Android Ecosystem

While some of the greatest strengths of Google’s free open source Android platform are its versatility and accessibility, the resultant fragmentation of the OS is also one of its greatest weaknesses. While it’s great that developers, carriers, and basically anyone who knows to fiddle with OS code can shape Android into their own unique creations, there’s also the issue that Google has little control over what Android looks like when it hits an actual mobile device, meaning that developers program without knowing what sort of Android device to program for.

App developer Open Signal Maps (OSM) offers a useful little app that assists users in finding where the strongest and weakest cell signals are, but as an aside it has also managed to compile a tonne of information about what kind of Android devices are loose in the Android ecosystem.

Now, after six months of amassing data, OSM has compiled that information into several useful diagrams, dramatic visualizations of just how diversely populated the Android universe really is.

According the OSM website, the project began 6 months ago, with the company having now compiled data from 681,900 unique devices and has sorted the information based on device model, brand, API (version of Android) and screen size, presenting its findings in several charts and diagrams (click here to see them all)

While the map is clear evidence of the proliferation of Android devices, the findings show what many of us in the tech world already know, Samsung clearly at the top with its Galaxy line of mobile devices (accounting for 40 percent of OSM’s app traffic) followed by the lesser lights HTC and Motorola, which themselves are followed by a myriad of other unique Android devices. 

In fact, as the above diagram shows, beyond the major Android players, the platform ecosystem fragments into minute particulate, with the study logging approximately 1,300 unique devices that accessed the app only once (this would include unique Android models and small market Android phones like the Hungarian Concorde Tab, which showed up once)

Of course you could remove those 1,300 unique devices to get a better picture of the Android world, but truth be told you’d still be left with some serious fragmentation.

OSM’s conclusion is that while the mobile world, particularly developers, often bemoan Android’s fragmentation—given the fact that you never really know what sort of Android device to program for—there seems much that can be celebrated. For instance, the fact that Android is so versatile means that it has been able to circle the globe faster than most other smartphone platforms; evidenced by the 195 different countries OSM has collected data from.

Further, from a developer’s standpoint, with Android having infiltrated various global markets the benefit is that more people will be able access your software, an entirely untapped market unavailable on other platforms.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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