Measuring Android Version Fragmentation

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Comparing Android version market share and adoption rates over time.

Android fragmentation is a dirty little buzzword you’ve likely heard everywhere from Angry Birds to Steve Jobs and probably in strategy meetings with us here at MarketNet about that big app idea your company has.

Just what exactly is fragmentation and how big of a problem is it for Android and your project? Chris Sauve at pxldot has done a great job summarizing and charting the issue on his blog post Android Measuring Stick.

One of the best things about Google’s Android operating system is that it’s open source and available for other developers and device manufacturers to pretty much do whatever they’d like with it. That means we can get cool things like fitness accessories and Fossil watches powered by Android, but it also means that there’s no one true version of Android out there that to develop for.

Right now there are three versions of Android still out there in numbers large enough to require support, and that’s ignoring the brand new Android 4.0 (also called Ice Cream Sandwich) that was released in November and is currently running on about 1% of Android devices. It’s easy to predict that in just a month or two there will be four versions of Android out there, each with huge numbers of users. Even if version 2.1 (Eclair) is “only” at a 7.6% share, with the number of total Android devices out there numbering in the hundreds of millions that is a lot of potential customers you could be turning away if your site or app doesn’t work with that version. Add in the diversity of screen sizes available and you’re starting to understand what a difficult and important issue market fragmentation can be for a mobile project.

Google Chrome Coming to Android Devices*

Google Chrome is finally coming to Android phones and tablets. A beta is available for download now if you’re one of the lucky few already running Android 4.0/Ice Cream Sandwich (hence the asterisk* in the post title.) No word on when (or if) Chrome will come to other Android versions or become the operating system’s default browser.

In general the user interface looks very intuitive and clean, particularly the tab view and tab switching functionality. Chrome for Android will also reportedly bring improved performance and better rendering of pages. Plus if you’re signed in with a Google account you can sync things like tabs and bookmarks across devices (phone, tablet, and desktop.)

Get more information and some hands-on impressions over at The Verge.

Update: Chrome for Android won’t support Flash. From Adobe, “Adobe is no longer developing Flash Player for mobile browsers, and thus Chrome for Android Beta does not support Flash content.”