Google dashboard shows Android fragmentation

By Features IDG.net

Google is providing developers with a dashboard that is aimed at helping them decide which versions of the software to support and that shows the fragmentation of the Android platform.

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The chart, displaying the percentages of Android phones using different versions of the software, also offers a peek at how the various Android phones are selling.

The goal of offering the data is to help developers decide whether or not to build applications that support older versions of the software, Raphael Moll, a Google developer, wrote on a blog post.

The chart only represents a snapshot of the market, as it displays phones that accessed the Android Market between Dec. 1 and Dec. 14.

The Motorola Droid, currently the only phone to run Android 2.0 and 2.0.1, has 17.7 percent of the Android Market, according to the dashboard. The heavily marketed phone only went on sale in early November, so the figures show that it has quickly taken Android market share.

Motorola's Cliq phone, one of the few that still runs Android 1.5, may be doing even better, however. Android 1.5 users represented 27.7 percent of people visiting the Market. The Cliq became available around the same time as the Droid.

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The bulk of phones hitting the Market -- 54.2 percent -- run Android 1.6. Most HTC phones, including the G1 and MyTouch, run that version of the OS.

Google has been quick to push out updated versions of the OS, but adoption of new versions has sometimes been slow. For instance, when the Cliq launched using version 1.5, 1.6 was already available. Motorola has yet to push the updated software to the phone.

In fact, version 2.0 came out just a handful of days after the Cliq became widely available. So far the Droid is the only one to run the latest software.

In the blog post, Google said it plans to update the dashboard regularly to reflect the release of new Android software and to include additional information like screen size. "Our goal is to provide you with the tools and information to make it easy for you to target specific versions of the platform or all the versions that are deployed in volume," Moll wrote.

While a growing number of handsets are available running Android, experts worry that fragmentation may slow down future growth. A platform with many versions of the software, and more to come, worries developers, who are not interested in having to tweak their applications for all the different versions. In addition, older Android phones may begin to have hardware limitations that prevent them from accommodating updates, ensuring that there are always many versions of the software in the market.

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