What Android Fragmentation Means for Purposed Devices

Android fragmentation is a problem for all developers, and purposed deployments are not immune. The devices range wildly in size and shape, and come with vastly different performance levels and screen sizes. Plus, multiple versions of the operating system are floating around—some manufacturers don’t even standardize across their own products.

In 2012, 3,997 different Android devices were offered on the market. In 2013 that number has tripled, to 11,868. Here’s some context for you: That’s about a thousand times as many types of devices as Apple’s iOS mobile operating system is running on.

So the Android operating system is the most fragmented it has ever been, and while the list of devices you need to support may not be long, you may have no choice but to support multiple types. Developing apps that work seamlessly across your range of Android devices becomes a challenge to even the most hardcore developer, and ends up sucking up all your available time and effort. Other projects fall through the cracks.

What’s worse: all that time spent, and then manufacturers continue their eternal dance of discontinuing old hardware and introducing new. Even if you had standardized on one particular model, you’re stuck now: you may be out of luck when it comes to purchasing it in the future.

So you’re left with this, in the end: there’s no single Android standard operating system or hardware to count on. And as you can imagine, it wreaks havoc on the sleep of the security specialists at your company.

But here’s the thing. Despite the seemingly endless parade of difficulties, fragmentation actually has some significant benefits for your company. Big or small, cheap or expensive, powerhouse or workhorse: considering the number and variety of devices out there, there’s no doubt you’ll be able to find exactly the tablet you want, for exactly the purpose you’re planning on using it for.

In terms of the OS? Android offers unprecedented variety and tremendous flexibility all the way down. Working with iOS means accepting, before you ever start to work on strategizing your mobile fleet deployment, not only Apple’s specific vision but also its restrictions. If you want to use Android, you don’t have to accept Google’s vision: You are free to substitute any available vendor’s vision – or, if you are a developer, your own vision. It’s the kind of control that is often worth the hassle of dealing with an open system.

Google’s initial decision to offer a wide-open technology to be leveraged by anyone was in pursuit of a vision of a new mobile world. But the company is starting to push back with its newest iteration, Jelly Bean, which offers code that helps older devices to support newer Android features—and probably makes your life just that little bit easier. It’s the best of both worlds, and you’ve got the opportunity to launch the most customized fleet of tablet kiosks yet.

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