Android's leading itself down the path of death
Android is currently the mobile operating system that holds the majority of mobile OS market share. The popular belief is that Android ended up with most of that because of the fact that it's everywhere: every carrier, every electronics store, and periodically on every television set.
But Android's biggest feature is also the one that's killing it. Since just about every manufacturer can make any class of Android phone, and often forget about the less important ones, people all over the globe are stuck on different versions of Google's green baby.
What started out as one phone running Google software has now turned into hundreds of phones running hundreds (maybe even thousands!) of different instances of Android. Developers have to pick and choose which version to support on their apps, what types of processors to code them for, and even which marketplace they should be sold from! The product of all these factors is Android fragmentation. You've definitely heard the term before, but with the recent release of the Kindle Fire and the Nook Tablet, things are just gonna get much, much worse. Read on to find out why.
The biggest contributing factor of Android fragmentation is the multitude of different app stores. There's only one Google-sanctioned store, the Android Market. It certainly has the least amount of problems, but it's plagued with trojans and viruses since Google doesn't impose any rules (Android is free, after all.) Another issue with the Market is that since it is approved by Google, it's the go-to store for just about every Android phone on the market today. Some can take advantage of all the apps, and some can't. If you've got Donut, you're pretty much out of luck for Gingerbread-specific apps. Tablets are a different story. A Dell Streak 7, for example, runs Honeycomb, and can't take advantage of a lot of apps in the Android Market.
Then, when you take into account Amazon's app store, things get even more messy. Amazon offers a free paid app every day. I like to take advantage of that if I can (Honeycomb isn't Amazon's favorite OS, apparently,) but the problem is that I may not be able to remember right away which app store I used to download which app. Then I can't request a refund if I hate the darn thing or go look for more apps by that developer because who knows which one they'll be on!
And then there's all the junky no-name app stores that not a lot of people know about. They still exist, though, and that's a serious problem. Consumers face themselves with weird download habits all the time (some people are just uneducated in the tech space) and sometimes they'll download an app from a store they'll never visit again. That app could be infected with all types of junk, too.
It all stems from Google wanting Android to be open. There's no doubt that it is a successful way to go about an OS; just look at the daily activations. But then you look at the problems that face Android. If a consumer gets a free on-contract Android phone and finds that it can't install any apps, what is that going to do to that person's perception of Android? It's certainly not going to help it at all. "You need a Tegra 2 do play this game," says his Droid X2, which has a dual-core TI-OMAP processor.
Before you call me an Apple fanatic yet again, let me remind you that Microsoft has taken the locked-down route for WP7, too. There's one app store (with the option of being able to unlock your phone to sideload apps.) There's one set of internal hardware, so nothing has to be coded for multiple processors or any other slight variation that would make an app crash. And as much as most of you can't stand being in a "walled garden," you have to understand that it works and gives users a much more pleasurable experience.
Android's so far down in the hole right now that I honestly don't think there's a chance for it to dig itself out. I'm not saying that Android's bad; I really do love it. But something has to be done about fragmentation.
Does it bother you as much as it bothers me? I'm sure most of you root and ROM your way to happiness anyway, but I'm curious.