Android Fragmentation Easing, Says Localytics

Android fragmentation is less of a challenge than it was two years ago, and developers shouldn’t be as concerned about it, says Localytics. The mobile-app analytics firm will release a study on Wednesday, Feb. 1, showing data to support this idea and suggesting that OS version, screen size, and display resolution are now fairly similar on most Android devices.

Some supporting data points from the findings, which measure device attributes from apps that use the Localytics platform:

  • At 73 percent, nearly three-quarters of all Android devices are running a variant of Android 2.3, also known as Gingerbread.
  • A further 23 percent run Android 2.2, or Froyo, bringing the total percentage of Android devices running these similar versions up to 96 percent.
  • The majority of Android devices are using either 4- or 4.3-inch screens, accounting for 61 percent of all devices.
  • The 800 x 480 resolution is still fairly standard, accounting for 62 percent of Androids. Surprising to me is that only 6 percent run the higher 960 x 540 resolution that gained support nearly a year ago.
  • Tablets currently experience less fragmentation, with 74 percent being 7-inch slates at 1024 x 600 resolution, while 24 percent are 10-inch tablets with 1280 x 800 screens.
  • Most of these tablets (71 percent) run on Gingerbread, Android’s phone platform. That’s likely due to sales of the Galaxy Tab from Samsung (005930:KS), Kindle Fire from Amazon, and Nook Tablet/Color from Barnes & Noble.

Google’s own dashboard numbers, last updated on Jan. 3, support Localytics’s findings.

I generally agree with the data. Although hundreds of Android handsets are out there, developers using the Gingerbread APIs and supporting 800 x 480 displays are likely targeting the vast majority of currently available Android handsets, not to mention most of the tablets. Google has added zoom and stretch functionality in Android 3.2 to help support different screen sizes as well.

At this point, given that Android fragmentation once appeared out of control, I think the current situation is the best Android developers could hope for. The problem isn’t gone, but there are tools to work around it—supporting multiple screen sizes and display densities, for example—and nearly all phones still arrive with Gingerbread at this point.

I still believe Android 4.0 is Google’s best effort to combat the fragmentation issue. Having used that software on a phone and now using it on a tablet, it’s definitely more of a unified experience, although there are still inconsistencies.

Android 4.0 is a “fresh start” for the platform on both tablets and smartphones; getting handset makers to adopt it sooner, rather than later, should be a key Google initiative to help both consumers and developers.

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