Fragmentation – The scourge of the mobile OS

Fragmentation   The scourge of the mobile OS I’ve just read this DailyFinance article and I have to agree on the majority of the findings. Android developers are enjoying quite an open and easy application ecosystem. Apps appear in the Android Market without much difficulty and customers love that – there’s many thousands of apps to choose from. However, one thing we noticed whilst reviewing the Tattoo was that hardly any apps were showing in the same Android Market. The reason appears to be the difference in screen resolution. The Tattoo has a 240×320 QVGA, whilst the Hero and many other Android devices use a HVGA resolution screen.

Windows Mobile has already been through this pain when the first ever Smartphones hit the street. Every non-touch Smartphone had one resolution setting and apps became widely available. Life was good, just as it is for the iPhone developers now. However, as more models appeared with different specs things became difficult. Apps didn’t work properly, things needed re-coding because developers really didn’t expect it.

Whilst writing the HTC HD2 review I suddenly had that same feeling all over again. Here’s a touch-screen phone without a stylus which is trying to make all those Pocket PC apps work with a finger. There’s bigger menus, a bigger “X” button but, somehow, the odd little check-box and awkward drop-down still creeps into those apps. What do the developers do? Over in the Android camp a mad scramble has already started, with developers adding notes in their listings, “Does not work on Hero or Droid” says one Android Market listing. “Only works on the G1” says another.

It’s a tough decision which Apple have already made with the iPhone. Keep control, keep the specs pretty similar. One phone, only. But is this the right decision? People want variety. Some want slide-out keyboards, some want hi-res screens, others are happy with lower-res screens. Meanwhile Windows Mobile and Android continue to launch new and different-looking phones. The developers have to try and keep up, and all the while there’s OS updates to consider too – Android 1.5, 1.6, 2.1. It’s hard to please all the people, all the time.

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