Android fragmentation 'worse than ever' - but OpenSignal says that's good -->
The Android device landscape is increasingly dominated by Samsung, according to new data compiled by Opensignal, which found that smartphones and tablets from the South Korean company made up 47.5% of all Android systems using its app.
But the operating system itself "is the most fragmented it has ever been," say the developers behind a highly popular app used for checking signal strengths.
The findings emerge from an annual report on the state of the Android device market, following a similar one - with the same number of downloads - carried out in 2012.
They also found that the complexity of the Android installed base has expanded almost threefold, rising from 3,997 different makes and models of devices at this time in 2012 to 11,868 now. The data was gathered from the 682,000 most recent downloads of its app out of a 4m lifetime total.
The breadth of data makes it one of the most comprehensive and open reports on the state of the Android market in
The extent of the "fragmentation" of Android - in which older versions are still used alongside much newer ones - is also laid bare by the data, which shows that there were eight different versions in use, of which 37.9% were on Android 4.1, aka "Jelly Bean" - slightly above the 32.3% figure
OpenSignal's app for Android and iPhone provides details of mobile coverage including maps, signal strength and available nearby Wi-Fi networks.
The astonishing complexity of the devices being used is shown in a treemap of devices, contrasting 2012 and 2013. The size of the square is proportional to the number of those devices using the OpenSignal app.
The 2012 map is dominated by Samsung's Galaxy S2, released in
By 2013, the Samsung Galaxy S3 (released in
"Despite the problems, fragmentation also has a great number of benefits for both developers and users," notes
The data also points to a revival for
Samsung dominates with 47.5%. "Some of the brand names shown as different in the graphic are part of the same company, i.e. Moto and
A graph showing the market share of the most common API level also points to increasing fragmentation at the OS level. When the most common API level has a high market share, it indicates that more devices have a common OS. But having hit a peak of over 60% in
Screens also come in a multitude of sizes both for smartphones and tablets on Android, in contrast to those for the iPhone and iPad, where there are effectively only four different ones, Johnston points out.
Even so, Johnston points out that Android's fragmentation can also be thought of as evolutionary diversity. "While fragmentation certainly poses a headache to developers who have to test and optimize on an ever-increasing number of devices, the success of the of the Android ecosystem cannot be separated from its fragmented, free-for-all, nature. Similarly, it is easy for developers to bemoan API level fragmentation, but this is part-and-parcel of device fragmentation. Cheaper devices will struggle to run the most recent versions of Android and the fragmented operating system serves as an enabler of an ecosystem that is becoming more globally, and socio-economically, inclusive," he notes.
"What is clear from this report is that Android fragmentation, of all varieties, is increasing. Too often this is treated as a problem with Android, rather than a strength, but we feel that this misses the bigger picture. While there are certainly problems associated with fragmentation (and as developers we know them all too well), it is wrong to suggest that it is only a downside.
OpenSignal has made the data available for download and has also produced a PDF report.
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