On the part of Google, it is a monthly ritual wherein Google release Android distribution numbers which tell developers which versions of Android are in circulation and what percentage they hold vis- -vis the total pie. The details also provide insights into the problem of Android fragmentation. For the uninitiated, the Android ecosystem is open source, which provides device manufacturers with the flexibility of choosing which Android version to put on their device, and when to upgrade their older devices to the latest Android iteration. This flexibility has resulted in several older devices being stuck on older Android versions, which breaks up the Android ecosystem into several segments or fragments. From a developers’ viewpoint, fragmentation in Android means that he needs to design his app to be compatible with more Android versions, or else lose out on a large chunk of users.
To tackle this issue somewhat, Google brought a lot of changes in their latest and greatest Android version yet – Android 4.4 Kit Kat. The Kit Kat build was basically designed from scratch, keeping the needs of ageing and low-end devices in mind. Kit Kat has been slimmed down with Project Svelte, which has seen major improvements in memory management – with the software running very well on devices with 512 MB of RAM. However despite its features, Android 4.4 Kit Kat is yet to come to most devices. As evidenced by the Mixpanel data, published by Statista (see the graph below), we see that fragmentation in Android still lives on. As compared to iOS, which has seen around 85% users upgrade to the latest version, Android users are still mostly on the various builds of Android 4.2.x and Android 4.3.x Jelly Bean. The latest Android version is on only 8.24% devices. This is not much different from Google’s Android distribution numbers released during March’s first week.
Fragmentation on iOS is non-existent only because there aren’t any other OEMs who use iOS except for Apple. For Android, fragmentation may not be too easy to deal with. Though Kit Kat is backwards compatible with older devices, since Google doesn’t directly control the upgrade process for all manufacturers and carriers, some amount of inertia is bound to remain, which would see adoption of the latest version slow down. Do you think Android fragmentation is a major cause for concern? Do let us know in the comments below.