Why are we still talking about Android fragmentation?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from Arizona
Published: November 17, 2011

How many times can we talk about Android fragmentation? I don’t mean that in some kind of rhetorical question, either. I’m serious. How many times can we talk about this? I will go ahead and admit that fragmentation was a big deal, when Android phones were just starting to really take off. And honestly, it was. There was no rhyme or reason to the release of Android phones, software updates, and phones not getting software updates. Google wasn’t necessarily being open about how updates would work, and the manufactures weren’t saying much, either. But, let’s just be clear here, Android was new, and everyone was just getting used to it. People were still getting accustomed to Android having flagship phones (like with the Nexus One, or Motorola DROID). All of these things were new, and fragmentation may or may not have been a natural occurrence in that particular situation.

But seriously, why are we still having this conversation? Google releases reports, pie charts even, that show us in nice little shades of green, where exactly the Android army stands. And, as you can expect, most devices are running recent software, or are just one version off. For smartphones, we’re looking at Android 2.2 or Android 2.3. For tablets, Android 3.0, 3.1, or 3.2. And now we’ve got Android 4.0 coming down the pipe (at least here in the States, it’s already available in the UK). And guess what? Not every device running Android 2.3 is going to get Android 4.0. Sorry, it’s just not going to happen – and that isn’t a bad thing.

When did we start thinking our phones suddenly started appreciating over the length of time we owned them? I don't get it. I thought it was well known that pretty much everything we buy devalues after we buy it, and as we watch other things in that particular market release and offer new features, features that our phones (or other products) just don’t have, why would we expect to get the newest and greatest? (After-market purchases and installations with some products obviously make a difference, just to have it noted.) Unfortunately, ladies and gentlemen, the moment we buy our phone, that’s it. If you buy an HTC-branded phone, HTC is in no way obligated to actually continue to support it with software upgrades. Security fixes and important updates, yes, but not just software. They don’t need to give you Android 2.3 if you’re on Android 2.2, especially not if they know (or even assume) that it will worsen your experience on your phone.

And yet, that is exactly what everyone expects. And when did this start happening? If you’ve got an HTC DROID Eris, or a Motorola Devour, or Motorola Backflip, or an HTC Hero – are you seriously thinking you should get the latest version of Android? If so, why? I’m genuinely curious. Wouldn’t it make more sense for HTC to release a new phone for you to buy with better specifications, which can actually run the software you want so badly?

Phones are expensive, I know. That’s an unfortunate truth of our favorite market. But if you’re not buying the high-end of high-end smartphones, you shouldn’t be getting angry with the manufacturers or carriers because you don’t get a software update. Your phone isn’t high-end to begin with, and it’s only going to get “worse” as time progresses and new phones get released. These companies are part of a business, and they need to make money. HTC, Samsung, LG, Motorola, and any other company out there has to release multiple phones to make a dent in the crowded Android army, and they’re going to keep making them better and better. They will update your phone if they truly believe it will make for a better experience, and that’s exactly the way it should be.

Besides, you know you’d just get even angrier with the manufacturer if they released an update and it slowed down your phone. This has happened before (and will probably happen again, unfortunately).

image via The Understatement