We all know one of the biggest problem of Google is Fragmentation. We once asked Google Developer Expert and Instructor in the Professional Android Developer course, Adrián Catalán, about this topic and he told us that he found this to be a side-effect of Android´s valuable openness.
According to Google’s data, most of the people use a version of Android launched two years ago, Nougat is on the top of the list with 31% of active Android devices; followed by Marshmallow with 26%. Oreo, on the other hand, is only used by 4.6%, the rest of devices are running even older Android versions.
The latest Android version offers a lot of new amazing stuff for users. Oreo is a faster and more powerful version with autofill, picture-in-picture and limit background features, to name a few. However, it is also true not everyone is able to upgrade to newest versions or buy the latest flagship device.
What is the problem with fragmentation?
Fragmentation is considered an issue for developers mainly for two reasons: It makes more difficult to popularize new mobile technologies because only a few users can acquire the latest devices, and because the variety of OS versions make it more difficult to identify and fix security flaws.
However, seen it differently, the truth is that this side-effect has been part of the foundation of Android as an open source project and that is also what has made it the great operating system that it is, helping to increase affordability and accessibility to mobile technology in less fortunate countries.
Having added that last part, we do believe some measures must be taken in order to reduce fragmentation issues, and Google has shown wanting to do so.
What is Google doing about it?
One measure Google took in order to reduce slow Android updates was the release of the Project Treble a year ago. It was created to separate the vendor implementation from the Android OS Framework by introducing a new vendor interface.
Despite Project Treble is only targeted at new devices launched with Android O and beyond, this could be a great step to solve fragmentation in a near future. Check out a list of Android devices updated with Project Treble support.
In addition, in order to reduce risks and shorten the technology gap, Google made an announcement a few months ago: new apps (starting august) and existing app updates (starting november) must target a recent Android API level.
This statement means developing apps with API level 26 or higher, corresponding to Android Oreo. In 2019, this change will continue advancing and increasing the API level accordingly to new OS releases.
Hopefully, this progressive change will provide developers time to plan ahead, whenever they need to add a new update. Otherwise, If companies or developers decide their apps don’t need any update, this new regulation won’t affect them.
Lastly, there are also other types of initiatives that seek to provide the best possible Android experience for all type of users around the world. Android Go and Android One can increase the number of devices running with the latest versions of Android, also contributing to reduce fragmentation.
As you can see, Google is aware of the problem fragmentation represents and is fighting against it, although it´ll probably take some years to reduce the almost 95% of users using an old operating system.
The strategy of restricting the API level might seem clever, however, some people might take it skeptically, considering the freedom provided by the company since the beginning.
So, What do you think about Google’s strategies to fight fragmentation? Do you really believe is a big problem?