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Google engineers talk fragmentation, how to make Android work for emerging markets

post #1 of 178
Thread Starter 
This week's Google I/O saw no announcements of any new versions of the company's mobile operating system, Android, and that may be because the team that is building the system is working to address the platform's biggest problem: fragmentation.

versions
via Garee's Blog


The issue of fragmentation arose this week in a panel discussion with assorted members of the Android team in attendance, according to Ars Technica. In the course of a forty-minute question and answer session, the team spoke on a number of topics related to Google's overwhelmingly popular operating system.

"This is something we think about a lot ," Dave Burke, Google's Android engineering director, said of fragmentation. Part of the problem, Burke said, lies in the fact that Android device vendors are able to take the open source code and create their own Board Support Packages ? specific implementations of an operating system ? to ensure compatibility between their devices and a certain build of Android.

"We do a lot of iteration," said Burke, "so that we try to build a system that works really well on a broad range of hardware."

Google was widely expected to release a new version of its operating system at this week's Google I/O, but the Android team's comments seem to indicate that the search giant has taken a different track this year, focusing more on honing what already exists on the platform rather than leaping ahead to new versions with new features and new architectures.

The team also discussed emerging markets where Android has become popular due to its ability to run on lower-specced hardware.

"We're looking at ways to make Android more efficient for the entry-level smartphones to help improve that situation," Burke said.

Fragmentation in the Android operating system is both a blessing and a curse for the platform. Reliance upon older versions of Android allows device manufacturers to put low-specced, low-cost devices into the hands of consumers in developing markets, but it also means that many consumers are unable to access some of the latest apps on the platform.

The issue also presents a problem for many Android developers. Having to write across multiple versions ? around 40 percent of Android devices are running a three-year-old version of the OS ? presents a challenge for smaller developer groups, which has led some observers to believe smaller groups will be squeezed out of the platform as it progresses.

In recent months, Google has changed the way it calculates the distribution of Android versions. While the company acknowledges that many devices are still on Gingerbread, first released in 2010, it now publicizes proportions only related to the users that access its Google Play Store, meaning that many Android device users essentially go uncounted with regard to developers.

By comparison, Apple's iOS 6 already accounts for 83 percent of web traffic from Apple devices in North America.
post #2 of 178
"In recent months, Google has changed the way it calculates the distribution of Android versions. While the company acknowledges that many devices are still on Gingerbread, first released in 2010, it now publicizes proportions only related to the users that access its Google Play Store, meaning that many Android device users essentially go uncounted with regard to developers.

Classic. They didn't like the numbers so they only counted what they want to see. This discounts all of the Android phones only being used as feature/dumb phones.

If so they should only count activations that "access its Google Play Store". You know, phones activated and being used as smartphones.
post #3 of 178

But... but... the Android apologists for ages have said there is no fragmentation, or that it only affects people that doesn't include them, cause you know... it's all about them.

Google admits that Android is fragmented.  What a surprise.  Shouldn't be too long before the Phandroids pollute this thread and try spinning this story.

post #4 of 178
...but, but, but fragmentation is a myth, there is no fragmentation...

There's no Key Lime Pie either, unless Santa Claus is bringing it for Christmas.
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post #5 of 178
They are waiting on apple to release something awesome @WWDC to inspire them.
post #6 of 178
So Google is going to tweak and improve JB instead of coming out with a new version. But when Apple does an iOS upgrade that doesn't add a gazillion features (needed or not) then suddenly they're not innovating.

Add that to fragmentation and the apologists have a lot of work ahead of them.
post #7 of 178

"around 40 percent of Android devices are running a three-year-old version of the OS"

 

Wow... think about that for a second.  I would've thought much less than 40% would even have a phone that was 3 years old.
 

post #8 of 178
Do these Google employees have single-digit IQ's? I mean, this was to be expected, even before Android was released and still in development. Gees Google, if you are going to copy someone else's work, why don't you copy it verbatim? Instead of just creating a mess out of it.
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post #9 of 178
A developer conference with no mention of a new OS version? Fail. Wait, it's google? Please ignore.
post #10 of 178
Quote:
Originally Posted by studentx View Post

"In recent months, Google has changed the way it calculates the distribution of Android versions. While the company acknowledges that many devices are still on Gingerbread, first released in 2010, it now publicizes proportions only related to the users that access its Google Play Store, meaning that many Android device users essentially go uncounted with regard to developers.

Classic. They didn't like the numbers so they only counted what they want to see. This discounts all of the Android phones only being used as feature/dumb phones.

If so they should only count activations that "access its Google Play Store". You know, phones activated and being used as smartphones

 

The OS calculation is done this way to provide developers with better information on the target demographic.  Activations are a bit different because even if the owner never access the play store, they're still likely to use Google's own services with the applications which are included.

post #11 of 178
Quote:
Originally Posted by macslut View Post

"around 40 percent of Android devices are running a three-year-old version of the OS"

 

Wow... think about that for a second.  I would've thought much less than 40% would even have a phone that was 3 years old.
 

 

Just because the OS is three years old doesn't mean that the hardware is.  If a manufacturer wants to build a device and throw an old version of the OS on it, they are free to do so.  

post #12 of 178
'"We do a lot of iteration," said Burke, "so that we try to build a system that works really well on a broad range of hardware."

Or to convert that into real-world speak: "We're always chasing our tails because we can never keep up with such wildly diverse hardware - and self-interested telcos".

Fragmentation is a core part of the Android business model. It will never go away, unless they throw it away, start again and adopt the Apple model - which just isn't possible. They can no more eliminate fragmentation than a snail can become an eagle by painting wings on its shell.
Edited by foris - 5/18/13 at 9:31pm
post #13 of 178
Quote:
Originally Posted by sflocal View Post

But... but... the Android apologists for ages have said there is no fragmentation, or that it only affects people that doesn't include them, cause you know... it's all about them.

Google admits that Android is fragmented.  What a surprise.  Shouldn't be too long before the Phandroids pollute this thread and try spinning this story.


Who said there was no fragmentation? Who said it was all about "them"?

post #14 of 178
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post

Do these Google employees have single-digit IQ's? I mean, this was to be expected, even before Android was released and still in development. Gees Google, if you are going to copy someone else's work, why don't you copy it verbatim? Instead of just creating a mess out of it.

You know the answer to that. What's the point of attacking someone's IQ when you well they are much smarter than most people in this forum? Criticize their work, their approach. But demeaning their IQ is a reflection of yourself more than anything else.

post #15 of 178

Now wouldn't it be original if they introduced 4.3 RIGHT after iOS 7. 

Android 4.3, inspired by Johnny Ive.

post #16 of 178
Quote:
Originally Posted by ankleskater View Post
What's the point of attacking someone's IQ when you well [know] they are much smarter than most people in this forum?...But demeaning their IQ is a reflection of yourself more than anything else.

 

How ironic, have you tested the IQ of most people in this forum?

Otherwise you're just as guilty of demeaning posters' IQs as the original poster was demeaning Google engineers.

post #17 of 178
Quote:
Originally Posted by macslut View Post

"around 40 percent of Android devices are running a three-year-old version of the OS"

 

Wow... think about that for a second.  I would've thought much less than 40% would even have a phone that was 3 years old.
 

That's the problem. There are new phones still being sold with this on them.

post #18 of 178

Android was a joke when it was first released, and now it's a terribly fragmented joke. It's not a high performance OS, and you can't even do a simple thing like play a piano in realtime on Android, without a noticeable latency. I'm not surprised that Android is focusing on "emerging" markets, as Android is a mighty fine match for the cheapest and junkiest of phones that you can find out there.

 

When I think of Android, I think of their obesity and tooth decay promoting mascots, I think of massive amounts of malware, I think of fragmentation, I think of cheap devices, I think of "emerging" markets and I think of BOGOF deals. Basically, I think that Android sucks, and my opinion won't change no matter how many devices they claim to have activated. The majority of those devices are junk, and junk multiplied by a billion is just a whole bunch of junk.

post #19 of 178
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post

Do these Google employees have single-digit IQ's? [...] creating a mess out of it.

 

LOL, classic PhilBoogie!
post #20 of 178
Quote:
Originally Posted by dnd0ps View Post

Now wouldn't it be original if they introduced 4.3 RIGHT after iOS 7. 

Android 4.3, inspired by Johnny Ive.

 

I find this laughable.  Almost every major feature in iOS 4, 5 and 6 have essentially been copied from Android (and other OSes).  Features that have been on Android from ver 1.0 in most cases.

 

iOS 4 - Folders (limited with no scrolling), multitasking (gimped), task switching, home screen wallpapers (no live wallpapers)

iOS 5 - Wireless cloud syncing, notification center, Twitter integration (only Apple could make this lame hardcoded integration a feature - as opposed to the incredibly powerful Intents for app integration in Android), lockscreen camera, custom tones...

iOS 6 - Maps and Navigation, limited sharing menu (look above for Intents on Android), call rejection

 

Every system builds on phones that came before it.  Even Bell's telephone built on telegraphs.  Whether you accept it or not, Android has long since eclipsed iOS.

post #21 of 178

I said before, Apple made the right decision in demanding carriers allow Apple to control the OS on the iPhone.  One of the largest issues with cell phones has been carriers who shovel their own baked version of an OS onto their devices (with the appropriate crapware installed), and when updates become available they rarely push them out to users.  There is no money in it for the carriers, so it's unimportant to them.

 

It would be like Dell selling you a computer that could only run Windows XP SP1, and never be upgraded to SP2 (or beyond).  We don't put up with it on computers, why do we allow it on our portable devices to be feature frozen by the carrier?

 

Sure Apple has some fragmentation due to aging devices, but it's far far worse with an Android device.. even tablets that are not tied to a carrier who will sell new devices with older Android versions and be slow to update them (if ever).

post #22 of 178
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChiA View Post

 

How ironic, have you tested the IQ of most people in this forum?

Otherwise you're just as guilty of demeaning posters' IQs as the original poster was demeaning Google engineers.

 

Google's interviewing process is notoriously tough and they've hired many of my smartest friends. Judging by the quality and tone of the AI forums, I would estimate that people on here on smarter than the general population but nowhere near as smart as the average Google employee*. Whether you like Google's business model or not, you've got to admit that they've performed some amazing pieces of engineering over the years. What's the average person on here achieved?

 

(* I'm discounting the people they bought from Motorola. 1tongue.gif)

post #23 of 178
Quote:
Originally Posted by ankleskater View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post

Do these Google employees have single-digit IQ's? I mean, this was to be expected, even before Android was released and still in development. Gees Google, if you are going to copy someone else's work, why don't you copy it verbatim? Instead of just creating a mess out of it.
You know the answer to that. What's the point of attacking someone's IQ when you well they are much smarter than most people in this forum? Criticize their work, their approach. But demeaning their IQ is a reflection of yourself more than anything else.

You're right, I shouldn't criticize Google's employees. I'm sure they're very talented, and assume MS has employees cut from the same wood. It's their vision, or better yet the company's vision (like Google, MS, Nokia) that seem to be lacking. The work hard, push out many products and if the hardware can't keep up they just put more of it in the box. But they do so without thinking things through.

What's the thing that keeps Apple employees busy? You'd think: "work!" ...but it's not. They think, they talk, they discuss. Endless discussions on how to view things differently. View things from a different perspective.

Google and MS probably have many discussions as well. But somehow I think Apple and its products is the topic in those discussions.
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post #24 of 178

This is offensive. I bought my eclair device in the beginning of 2010, and it's basically unsupported since 2011. All apps are out of date on android market, even Facebook doesn't work, and Google just chooses to ignore.

200€ for that phone, I should've bought an iPod touch for the same price and use a feature phone. And it's not because of Sony, the phone is capable of running 2.3.7.

 

Right now, I forward my gmail to my iCloud account, and respond using that account. I do the same with my webmail account. Eventually everyone from my gmail account will email me using icloud.

I changed my search engine to Bing, without losing a thing.

I use safari, a faster browser, more integrated and better overall, despite the memory problem.

There's only youtube left, Google.

 

F*ckers.


Edited by pedromartins - 5/19/13 at 6:33am
post #25 of 178
Those visual representations of their Android version names are just hideous. I imagine that Jobs would say that Google has no taste to think these were a good idea.

Quote:
Originally Posted by studentx View Post

"In recent months, Google has changed the way it calculates the distribution of Android versions. While the company acknowledges that many devices are still on Gingerbread, first released in 2010, it now publicizes proportions only related to the users that access its Google Play Store, meaning that many Android device users essentially go uncounted with regard to developers.

Classic. They didn't like the numbers so they only counted what they want to see. This discounts all of the Android phones only being used as feature/dumb phones.

If so they should only count activations that "access its Google Play Store". You know, phones activated and being used as smartphones.

That sounds like those numbers using 4.x are therefore much lower than the number of activations suggest.

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post #26 of 178
Quote:
Originally Posted by os2baba View Post

I find this laughable.  Almost every major feature in iOS 4, 5 and 6 have essentially been copied from Android (and other OSes).  Features that have been on Android from ver 1.0 in most cases.

iOS 4 - Folders (limited with no scrolling), multitasking (gimped), task switching, home screen wallpapers (no live wallpapers)
iOS 5 - Wireless cloud syncing, notification center, Twitter integration (only Apple could make this lame hardcoded integration a feature - as opposed to the incredibly powerful Intents for app integration in Android), lockscreen camera, custom tones...
iOS 6 - Maps and Navigation, limited sharing menu (look above for Intents on Android), call rejection

Every system builds on phones that came before it.  Even Bell's telephone built on telegraphs.  Whether you accept it or not, Android has long since eclipsed iOS.

It's a good thing the most important thing in technology is to implement a half-assed, barely functional version of something instead of doing it right the first time¡ You know, you forgot to note that Android technically had cut/copy/paste before the iPhone... which clearly means Apple copied that, too¡

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post #27 of 178

If Android has memory problems on low-end smartphones, it doesn't bode well for the future, for it's use on even smaller wearable devices.

post #28 of 178
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


In recent months, Google has changed the way it calculates the distribution of Android versions. While the company acknowledges that many devices are still on Gingerbread, first released in 2010, it now publicizes proportions only related to the users that access its Google Play Store, meaning that many Android device users essentially go uncounted with regard to developers.
 

 

In fairness these version distribution graphs are produced so developers making apps to release through Google Play know which versions they should be targeting for potential customers - the fact that there are another X million devices out there that never access google play is irrelevant to the developers as they will never be a potential customer for the app in the first place...

 

Of course the big side effect of this is that it does make Androids fragmentation problem look a whole lot better than it would be if you included every cheap froyo / gingerbread running heap of junk that comes free with your packet of cereal.

post #29 of 178
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ursadorable View Post

Sure Apple has some fragmentation due to aging devices, but it's far far worse with an Android device.. even tablets that are not tied to a carrier who will sell new devices with older Android versions and be slow to update them (if ever).

It's not called fragmentation when it's a result of progress and the opposite of stagnantation. It's fragmentation when there are new models being released that have considerably less capability than previous options thus fragmenting an otherwise simple lineation where all items within range would be included based solely on their initial release date.

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post #30 of 178
Quote:
Originally Posted by os2baba View Post

 

I find this laughable.  Almost every major feature in iOS 4, 5 and 6 have essentially been copied from Android (and other OSes).  Features that have been on Android from ver 1.0 in most cases.

 

iOS 4 - Folders (limited with no scrolling), multitasking (gimped), task switching, home screen wallpapers (no live wallpapers)

iOS 5 - Wireless cloud syncing, notification center, Twitter integration (only Apple could make this lame hardcoded integration a feature - as opposed to the incredibly powerful Intents for app integration in Android), lockscreen camera, custom tones...

iOS 6 - Maps and Navigation, limited sharing menu (look above for Intents on Android), call rejection

 

Every system builds on phones that came before it.  Even Bell's telephone built on telegraphs.  Whether you accept it or not, Android has long since eclipsed iOS.

 

Uhm, I'm seriously not sure where you believe Android is eclipsing iOS, that's a good one.

 

1.) You seem not that familiar with iOS development, since there are ways of integrating multiple apps with each other and allowing them to communicate.

 

2.) Apple's Twitter Integration is vastly superior, since it is an OS wide solution, which you may or may not decide to use. If you use it however, there is a unified way for developers to make use of it. There is no point at all comparing this to Intents and the requirement of having another app installed for your Twitter integration to work.

 

3.) Apple's Multitasking is not gimped but done right for mobile devices, at least for the current state of technology. All apps that really need to run in the background and operate while you play around with another app do work flawlessly, while all other tasks, which technically do not really need to run in the background simply don't and that's how it should be.

Always finding it funny to see how obsessed Android users are with their battery consumption, how their most used app is the task manager and the second most used function is quick enabling and disabling hardware features. Seriously.

 

You know, at the end of the day it is pointless at this point to argue about which feature appeared where first, because it is ridiculous and a matter of opinion. However, one thing can not be argued against and that is: How can one call an OS superior, which in its most current version, given current hardware doesn't manage to scroll the bloody built in Settings app smoothly? That's the real joke.

post #31 of 178
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChiA View Post

How ironic, have you tested the IQ of most people in this forum?

On this forum.
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post #32 of 178
Quote:
"around 40 percent of Android devices are running a three-year-old version of the OS"

Wow... think about that for a second. I would've thought much less than 40% would even have a phone that was 3 years old.

Actually, many "new" phones can only have the three-year-old OS on them.
post #33 of 178
Quote:
Originally Posted by ascii View Post

If Android has memory problems on low-end smartphones, it doesn't bode well for the future, for it's use on even smaller wearable devices.

 

Of course it does, all Android memory and performance problems are due to Java and nothing else. And this won't go away.

post #34 of 178
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveMcM76 View Post

 

In fairness these version distribution graphs are produced so developers making apps to release through Google Play know which versions they should be targeting for potential customers - the fact that there are another X million devices out there that never access google play is irrelevant to the developers as they will never be a potential customer for the app in the first place...

 

Of course the big side effect of this is that it does make Androids fragmentation problem look a whole lot better than it would be if you included every cheap froyo / gingerbread running heap of junk that comes free with your packet of cereal.

 

True, however I believe this is more a marketing strategy than with developers in mind, since the other number to put this into context (activations) does not exclude such devices. Therefore this whole picture is blurred because the actual amount of potential customers remains unknown and distorted by a blown up activations count.

post #35 of 178
Quote:
Originally Posted by os2baba View Post

I find this laughable.  Almost every major feature in iOS 4, 5 and 6 have essentially been copied from Android (and other OSes).  Features that have been on Android from ver 1.0 in most cases.

iOS 4 - Folders (limited with no scrolling), multitasking (gimped), task switching, home screen wallpapers (no live wallpapers)

No live wallpapers? Go back to Google Central. Without the iPhone Android wouldn't have a touch screen.
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post #36 of 178
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland View Post

On this forum.

Both 'in' and 'on' in this instance are acceptable and make sense.

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post #37 of 178
Quote:
Originally Posted by RichL View Post

Google's interviewing process is notoriously tough and they've hired many of my smartest friends. Judging by the quality and tone of the AI forums, I would estimate that people on here on smarter than the general population but nowhere near as smart as the average Google employee.

What does smart mean?

Cause it doesn't necessarily equate to a good product designer, or good taste.
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post #38 of 178
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland View Post


On this forum.

on that note, within this forum is ideal.

post #39 of 178
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ursadorable View Post

I said before, Apple made the right decision in demanding carriers allow Apple to control the OS on the iPhone.  One of the largest issues with cell phones has been carriers who shovel their own baked version of an OS onto their devices (with the appropriate crapware installed), and when updates become available they rarely push them out to users.  There is no money in it for the carriers, so it's unimportant to them.

It would be like Dell selling you a computer that could only run Windows XP SP1, and never be upgraded to SP2 (or beyond).  We don't put up with it on computers, why do we allow it on our portable devices to be feature frozen by the carrier?

Sure Apple has some fragmentation due to aging devices, but it's far far worse with an Android device.. even tablets that are not tied to a carrier who will sell new devices with older Android versions and be slow to update them (if ever).

Google wasn't responsible on putting Android on a device other than a Nexus (which do get updates), so why does it fall on Google to update another manufacturer's phone?
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post #40 of 178
Quote:
Originally Posted by pedromartins View Post

This is offensive. I bought my froyo device in the beginning of 2010, and it's basically unsupported since 2011. All apps are out of date on android market, even Facebook doesn't work, and Google just chooses to ignore.
200€ for that phone, I should've bought an iPod touch for the same price and use a feature phone. And it's not because of Sony, the phone is capable of running 2.3.7.

Right now, I forward my gmail to my iCloud account, and respond using that account. I do the same with my webmail account. Eventually everyone from my gmail account will email me using icloud.
I changed my search engine to Bing, without losing a thing.
I use safari, a faster browser, more integrated and better overall, despite the memory problem.
There's only youtube left, Google.

F*ckers.

The manufacturer chooses to ignore it not Google. Google has done it's part in updating the OS, it's up to the manufacturer to make it workable for their device. Google doesn't control the manufacturers, they don't listen even when Google tells them something. Google told Samsung not to copy iOS and they still did it, Google told Samsung not to put Gingerbread on a tablet and Samsung still did it. How can Google prevent a manufacturer from making a device with outdated components that can only run Gingerbread?
Edited by dasanman69 - 5/19/13 at 5:40am
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