What Is Android Fragmentation?

The Google Android operating system has become very popular, but there is a troublesome issue that remains to be addressed by companies selling devices running Android; that issue is fragmentation. The term refers to the vast disparity in the availability of updates to Android devices. With a Windows computer for example, if it's still a supported OS you will get security and other fixes through Windows Updates. Google also issues new versions of Android from time to time - however, unless you happen to have a Google "Nexus" device, you either won't get these updates at all, or they will be considerably delayed. Why is this?


Google does provide the updates, as I said, but almost all the providers of Android-powered devices fiddle with the default Android OS to provide a customized interface or to add features. If a new version of Android comes out, they need to go through a process to re-apply their tweaks and to test and approve them before allowing users to update. Most don't seem to bother. Other than perhaps "rooting" your Android device (a marginally perilous and geeky process), you really don't have any other option.

I have the sense that the Android device makers probably just want to you buy a new device with the current Android version. Also, because of Android's popularity it is rapidly becoming an appealing target for malware - malware writers love popular platforms as it gives them a larger "attack vector". While Android upgrades themselves won't fully address malware infections, there are security improvements from version to version, and so you can see this fragmentation phenomenon is a concern.

Other that sticking to Google Nexus devices, or rooting an unlocked device, there is not a whole lot most of us can do. You could maybe hop over to Apple, who does not have this issue as they provide their own hardware, too.

[caption id="attachment_6500" align="aligncenter" width="300"]android fragmentation Android versions world wide - click to enlarge
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