A Deeper Look at Android Fragmentation

Android OS VersionsThere are seven different Android OS versions in the world right now and Gingerbread still dominates the scene, despite the presence of two newer versions. We’ve covered this before and it’s fairly common (and easily attainable) knowledge in the development and QA world.

But just how bad is the fragmentation? What happens when a new version is released? Does the Android landscape get more fragmented with each new release or are older versions phasing themselves out? How quickly does a new version catch on? That’s what pxldot wanted to find out. Here are some of the findings pxldot came up with after taking a deeper look at Android fragmentation:

While it may be interesting to see how versions wax and wane over time, it’s a challenge to pin down exactly how “bad” the fragmentation is at any given time. In order to develop a model that measures this, we have to define what makes a particular version distribution better or worse than another. There’s no right or wrong way to do this, but the model I would propose is based on two tenets: the more handsets on the most recent version, and the less divided the remaining installed base (aside from those on the most recent version), the better. Using these two factors I built a formula that provides us with a value of how “bad” Android fragmentation is; it can theoretically go from 0–12.5, with higher numbers indicating “worse” fragmentation. …

From a historical perspective, Android fragmentation was actually at its lowest level recently (December 1, 2011). Since then we have returned to high fragmentation, but this is typical after a new version is released. We can also begin to see how slowly the fragmented Android ecosystem improves; extremely low early adoption of the new version, in conjunction with multiple older versions having a large share of the non-current-version devices, make for up to six months of highly fragmented user base. …

A logical next question should be, “is Android fragmentation improving over time?” I would rework this question to be, “are Android versions rolling out more quickly over time?”…

It looks as though the newest version is making its way into the market more slowly over time. …

It’s clear that Gingerbread has disseminated into the market much more slowly than either of Froyo or Eclair. In fact, it took Gingerbread about 17 weeks longer to reach a version distribution milestone (10%, 20%, 30%) than its two predecessors. While it is too early to fairly judge [Ice Cream Sandwich’s] trajectory, it certainly appears to have started at a slower pace than did Gingerbread. A seemingly endless string of devices entering the market with Honeycomb and few older devices being upgraded to ICS makes it unlikely that we will see the Android version distribution improve in the near term.

Read the full article and check out the accompanying graphs at pxldot >

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