A recent report stated that fragmentation on the Android has caused a drop in the number of developers interested in developing for the Android. Fragmentation means something different for each person. It could be the SDK version, or the screen size, or the processor speed of the phone, although the last one should not pose a problem for any half decent developer.
Sure, there is no denying that to program for a single screen size and resolution makes the developers life a lot easier. A bitmap is easier to handle than a vector, absolute numbers easier to understand than relatives, and you know who big the text will look on your customers devices, because their device will be the same size as the device you are developing on. Also, the OS user experience is smoother because the OS does not have to cater for a variety of different phone attributes.
So that’s basically the pro’s of a one size fits all approach.
However, while it makes the developers life easier, is not necessarily good for the consumer. Some want to buy a smaller screen size, and typically a cheaper phone, while others use their phone as a mini tablet, often paying a premium for their phone in order to do so.
But fragmentation is not new!
Let’s have a look at another computing device with vast amounts of fragmentation. The humble microsoft PC, the device that is in many homes, offices, schools, etc. When we talk about fragmentation on the PC there are a lot more factors involved, such as, the monitor screen size, memory, windows OS (XP, NT, 7), Direct X version (9,10, 11), and also extending the number of buttons on the mouse. Developers for Windows, have to cater for all these differences, but did it not stop the success of the Windows PC, or the software range sold on the platform.
But now, all of a sudden, fragmentation is dirty word, thrown around by various journalists whenever Google ships a new SDK, or an unusual phone screen size come outs (Galaxy Note anyone?). But just as developers in past learned to cope with variations of Microsoft Windows hardware, so too will the Android developers. Advances in CPU and graphics processors, means that the Android UI experience becomes smoother and slicker, which started to be evident mid-2011 imho.
Sure there will be fallout. Developers will demand a minimum spec for their software, ala the minimum requirements table see you on the boxes of PC games. This may make some customers upset, but it should not be a big issue with mobile phones, as many carriers offer a phone upgrade whenever a contract is up for renewal, which many customers do take up.
In conclusion, developers really need to stop using fragmentation as an excuse not to program on the Android market, as they are missing out on a huge market. As for those journalist screaming ‘fragmentation! fragmentation!’, go speak to your Dad and ask him why all the variations of PCs did not kill Microsoft or the PC hardware manufacturers.