Originally Posted by Gatorguy
I didn't understand how Google was addressing "fragmentation" until the past few days. It now looks as tho the specific version of Android isn't nearly as important as it once was. They've come up with really a brilliant way of making sure the latest OS features & improvements are available to 98% of current users while still allowing the OEM's to customize the shell or 3rd parties to "fork" the OS for specific uses.
How is that possible? Google Play Services. Read up on it if you're curious.
The most important aspect/definition of fragmentation to me (and I would guess many mobile devs) is API penetration rate and ARPU.
Well, okay...and security feature in the base OS level since I tried to search on this topic (which android version to target) for the last month and all I could find was the statistic that 79% of mobile malware targets Android.
Hence the out of date 2012 metric since I didn't find any late 2013 ARPU numbers. However, if the ARPU numbers still hold then Gingerbread (API 10) is the sweet spot with a 1.20 ARPU and 33% market share according to the dashboard. If I go to API 15 (ICS) then I lose a third of my potential market. If I go to API 17 I lose 93.5% of my potential market.
Google Play Services does not address API or OS level security flaws. Just the allows updates to the core apps that support Googles revenue stream (YouTube, Gmail, etc) and the Google APIs that support those apps. So vulnerabilities in those apps get patched but not the API/OS vulnerabilities that malware apps will use on 2.x devices.
And lord help you if Google Play Services itself ever gets hacked. It has essentially any privileges it deems necessary to do whatever it wants to your phone without asking. Also lord help you if it ends up being buggy because it always runs in the background. Watch that battery life crater if it doesn't want to sleep correctly on your phone.
It does help me as a dev if the new API I want to use is part of GPS but not for the code application framework APIs, hardware APIs or security APIs. But an API 10 device + GPS is still mostly a API 10 device if I'm not using google services (maps, account auth, google+ stuff, etc) heavily in my app. Button Bar, notification panel, lock screen, etc is all still API 10.
That's not to say this isn't a huge improvement...account authorization and in-app billing is very important as are the location and games APIs...but it doesn't really change the fragmentation story until all the 2.x devices are history. I still wont target above API 10 till that happens.
With respect to the iOS fragmentation, it matters more to users than developers whether they get Siri or not. I still get to target the latest API version in iOS and cover the majority of the iPhone market. The remaining few percentage points probably have lousy ARPU numbers anyway.
For folks keeping track, GPS is closed source and essentially Google just forked Android into a closed source architecture. No more free ride for Amazon. Or Samsung for that matter if they ever play hardball with Google. Sorry, you're not a Google branded/approved device. GPS wont run on your android and without it, half the APIs are gone...