Google Android Device Dashboard Highlights Fragmentation

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2009-12-18

Google's Android developer group Dec. 17 released a device dashboard to help developers decide what iterations of the Android operating system their applications should support.

That dashboard also happens to show just how fragmented the mobile platform aimed at challenging Apple's iPhone has become.

The device dashboard lists the distribution of Android platform versions on devices running Android Market, said Google Android developer Raphael Moll.

The dashboard currently lists 5 Android instantiations of varying distribution through the first two weeks of December: 1.1, 1.5, 1.6, 2.0 and the fresh 2.0.1. Only Android 1.5, 1.6, and 2.0.1 are shipping in volume, pointing developers to what they should focus on.

Android 1.6 is the lead OS, coming on 54.2 percent of devices, including the T-Mobile G1 and myTouch 3G. Android 2.0 claims only 2.9 percent in the wake of the fresh upgrade to 2.0.1, which stands at 14.8 percent. The Motorola Droid, well marketed by Verizon Wireless, runs on 2.0 and 2.0.1.   

The SDK for Android 2.0.1 was released just two weeks ago, and Moll advised developers whose application uses features specific to Android 2.0 to upgrade to Android 2.0.1 because all Android 2.0 devices will be upgraded to 2.0.1 before Jan. 1. Android 1.5 units, such as the HTC Droid Eris and Motorola Cliq, come in at 27.7 percent.

Google said it will expand the dashboard to include information such as devices per screen size, and will update the dashboard to reflect deployment of new Android platforms.

Why is Google offering this device dashboard? Moll's official reason is: "Our goal is to provide you with the tools and information to make it easy for you to target specific versions of the platform or all the versions that are deployed in volume."

The unofficial reason is that Google is aware of the increasing fragmentation of Android. The mobile-watching world knew there were these many operating systems floating around for Android.

But to see them rounded up, literally, in a pie chart showing the varying rates of adoption (or lack thereof) is a sobering experience. In Android fragmentation, applications written for one OS iteration may not run on others. Also, apps written for newer Android builds may not run on older hardware.

In another sign of the fragmentation inherent in Android, Moll offered a bit of advice for developers of Android 1.6+ apps, noting that devices can have different screen densities and sizes.

"There are several devices out there that fall in this category, so make sure to adapt your application to support different screen sizes and take advantage of devices with small, low density (e.g QVGA) and normal, high density (e.g. WVGA) screens."

Android Market will not list apps on small screen devices unless its manifest explicitly indicates support for "small" screen sizes, so developers must configure the emulator and test their app on different screen sizes before uploading it to the Market.

In related Android news, Google Dec. 17 also released new resources and sample code on A new resources tab boasts tutorials, FAQs and sample code. Speaking of which, a new batch of sample code is available via ZIP download.

The sample code covers Wiktionary, multiple resolutions and a contact manager, among others.

Meanwhile, a Google spokesperson confirmed for eWEEK that there are 16,000 Android free and paid apps, not 20,000 as others previously reported.

Rocket Fuel