Search Engine

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Is fragmentation hurting Android?

Choice is usually a good thing. As customers we want to be able to choose the colour, the specifications, the price, etc. that suits us. That thinking is pretty much out the window when it comes to Apple though and iPhone is a perfect example of this.

Ever since it was introduced in 2007, pundits have ridiculed Apple’s smartphone for nothing having camera, not having expandable memory, no copy-paste, no multitasking, and only one colour.

Most shortcomings and lack of choice have been addressed by Apple over the models since then but in principle the arguments still exist, now targeting the iPhone 4S.

Chances are if you do adhere to such arguments against iPhone you’re a big Android fan. One of the big differences between Android and iOS is the choice you have as a customer. There’s a myriad of different form factors, designs, screen sizes, touch and keyboards, memory, processors, etc. on the Google side. And that’s good in the sense that there is a choice, so almost whatever you want there’s an Android device out there for you. If you instead go for

Apple, there’s one smartphone and one tablet. Sure, there is different size of storage space and Cupertino did keep iPhone 4 and 3GS around, but still, in reality, there’s only one, the 4S.

This variety of choice is often called fragmentation and the argument is that from software development and user experience point of view it’s not necessarily a good thing. Consider developing an app for Android Honeycomb, Google’s operating system for tablets: you will be faced with 7, 8.9, and 10.1 inch displays (at least), with a variety of pixel resolutions. Surely that can’t be helpful in terms of developing a consistent and good user experience. I’m not a programmer and I readily admit that I have no idea what Android has in

its back pocket that it pulls out to rescue developers that are trying to create that consistent user experience, but it would seem to me it’s not a very good situation.

On the other hand, I can also see that on iOS, where it’s standardised to the point of almost being just one choice, it can be stifling creativity, but I don’t see it as bad for users as fragmentation could be for Android. One simple test for that is look at the apps available for both platforms. Apple’s iOS leads in terms of number of apps but not by much. What’s more interesting, solely based on my own experience of using many iOS and Android devices, is that I think there are more apps of high quality and unique ideas for iOS. This is of course just my opinion, but I do find it easier to find apps with better design of interface, graphics as well as functionality for iOS than for Android. Perhaps part of the reason for that is that iOS is less fragmented.

Rest assured, Apple is not going to change its approach so the question is will Google? I don’t think so because it deals with so many hardware partners.


Post a Comment