Angry Birds maker apologizes for Android fragmentation issues

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
The developer of "Angry Birds," a top-selling iPhone game, reported that bringing the title to Android devices ended up more difficult than anticipated due to fragmentation within the open platform.



According to a CNET report, the title's developer Rovio Mobile apologized for poor performance across a variety of Android devices, explaining that, "despite our efforts, we were unsuccessful in delivering optimal performance."



The company added, "So far, we have hesitated to create multiple versions of Angry Birds for the Android platform. But judging by the feedback we have received, we feel that by providing a lightweight solution, we are doing a favor for our fans. We are currently developing a lighter solution to run Angry Birds on lower-end Android devices."



Openly fragmented



The issues highlights the problem of platform fragmentation that is endemic to widely-licensed software platforms designed to run on nearly any makers' hardware. Apple chief executive described the problem as a "daunting challenge" for developers in comments to analysts at the company's most recent earnings report in October.



"Google loves to characterize Android as open and iPhone as closed. We see this disingenuous and clouding the difference," Jobs said. However, rather than focusing on the range of different hardware sold with Android, Jobs noted a parallel problem: a software-oriented fragmentation of the user's experience across different devices.



"Unlike Windows, where PCs have the same interface, Android is very fragmented," Jobs said. "HTC and Motorola install proprietary user interfaces to differentiate themselves. The user left to figure it out. Compare this to iPhone where every handset works the same."



In defense of variety



Jobs cited a popular Twitter client Android app, saying the developer "had to contend with 100 different versions of software on 244 different handsets. That's a daunting challenge," he said. "Many Android apps work only on selected handsets, or selected Android versions. This is for handsets that shipped 12 months ago. Compare with iPhone, where are two versions to test against, the current and most recent predecessor."



That developer later suggested in a blog posting that Jobs' comments were exaggerated, noting that in its experience with deploying a Twitter client, it was not "a nightmare developing on Android," and that "we only have two guys developing on Android TweetDeck so that shows how small an issue fragmentation is."



Android advocates point out that fragmentation of Android is, if anything, a feature, as it offers users choices. That's the same line of reasoning advocates of Microsoft Windows used in the PC market. However, it's also the marketing line Microsoft unsuccessfully tried to use in selling its PlaysForSure devices against the iPod, and again with Windows Mobile phones against the iPhone and Tablet PC and Slate PC devices prior to the iPad.



Performance and user experience



Prior to returning to Apple in 1996, Jobs said in an interview that "the PC wars are over. Done. Microsoft won a long time ago," a sentiment he repeated in downplaying the rivalry between Apple and Microsoft after taking the helm of Apple shortly afterward. Over the last decade however, Jobs has led a resurgence of the Mac platform over generic PCs running Windows, achieving a much higher rate of growth compared to the overall PC industry.



With the iPod, iPhone and iPad, Apple has reversed its underdog position entirely, successfully entering the entrenched and highly competitive smartphone market and immediately taking significant market share. With iPods and iPads, Apple completely dominates the media player and tablet markets, standing up to major efforts unsuccessfully led by Microsoft with its PlaysForSure, Zune, and Slate PC initiatives.



A key aspect of Apple's success in mobile devices comes from delivering a strong platform that is easy for developers to target and which delivers a consistent and reliable experience for users. Google's Android, like PlaysForSure, attempts to create a flexible software platform that multiple manufacturers can use to deliver products that work similarly.



Multiple layers of fragmentation for Android



However, one problem is that manufacturers themselves don't want to cede all control to a common platform. As Jobs noted, each Android maker is seeking to differentiate its offerings with different skins that make the look and feel of their products unique.



Individual Android makers also have their own ideas about how to reach competitive price points. HTC shaves off costs by using cheaper but lower quality 16-bit color displays with less accurate touch screens, while Motorola has typically chosen higher-end full color displays more like Apple's iPhone. Samsung features its own brand of AMOLED screens.



The Android OS is faced with supporting all of these, resulting in situations where, for example, Google's photo browser only shows graphics at the lower quality level of HTC's displays, leaving Motorola's superior 24-bit color screen underutilized. It is also lacking the optimized performance AMOLED could deliver were the OS expressly designed for it.



Additionally, Google appears uninterested in preventing service providers from also differentiating the Android products they carry, resulting in issues where Verizon Wireless has created exclusive deals for Android titles such as Skype that will only work on its phones and not Android devices from other makers. Service providers are also competing with Google in operating their own app stores.



Different hardware makers and service providers also choose to support different versions of Android on their devices, and either roll out updates late or fail to ever release updates for some models. This results in a situation where developers can't rely on the latest features being available on the phones users have. Additionally, the wide range of performance across the broad offerings of Android makers results in devices that can't run high performance titles (like games) acceptably, the issue expressed by Angry Birds' developer.



While successive generations of iPhones keep getting faster and gaining unique features such as iPhone 4's higher resolution screen and gyroscope, Apple has a much easier time abstracting away those differences for developers because it makes both the hardware and the software, and only has to manage users' experience across a few models. Customers are also more aware of what they can expect when choosing between iPhone models, as there are only at most two different generations ever available to buy at once.



With Android, users have no way of comparing the potential experience a given phone can deliver because there are so many different variables to consider, and many of these are not exposed in a way buyers can even compare, such as the difference between CPUs or amount of RAM available. Also, unlike PCs, where the price might give some general idea of the level of performance users could expect from it, mobile devices like smartphones are often sold with carrier subsides, masking the actual cost of the hardware.



Microsoft Windows vs Google Android



Microsoft has made managing users' expectations across a vast array of PC hardware its core competency, strictly enforcing limits on PC makers that prevented them from fractionalizing their offerings too much. Microsoft forbids its partners from making material changes to the Windows desktop and overall user interface, and standardizes hardware features for users. Despite all these efforts, it still can't match the tight integration Apple provides on the Mac, something Apple has successfully used to its advantage in advertising its desktop and notebook systems.



In contrast, while Google spends a lot of time accommodating differences in hardware between Android licensees, it has chosen not to enforce much control over the user's experience, allowing different companies to deliver Android phones that look and work so differently they could be easily confused for non-Android devices. There's also no standardized level of performance across Android devices, a problem that complicates the deployment of complex apps such as games.



The problem is also an issue for enterprise deployment, where the vast array of differences across Android devices makes it hard to support phones users select on their own. No significant number of Android phones support hardware encryption yet, making the entire platform unsupported by Exchange Server unless the security policy of the network is weakened.



Apple was able to simply add hardware encryption across the board with the iPhone 3GS back in 2009, rapidly resulting in the majority of the iPhone installed base supporting the feature years before Android, which still has no minimum security standard in place for new licensees of the platform.



Apple has similarly rolled out standardized new features such as the iPhone 4's gyroscope, Retina Display and FaceTime, which developers can target across a broad installed base. Android makers can introduce unique new hardware features, but developers can't count on a significant installed base having them, making it difficult to invest the efforts to target those features in their apps, and making it hard to advertise features that don't work on the majority of Android devices available.



Google has also avoided the "curated" degree of management of Android's app store, allowing other developers to list tons of unauthorized copies of titles that pretend to be associated with legitimate titles. A search for "Angry Birds" in Android Market reveals lots of "apps" that use the game's name and graphics to sell their own products, and in some cases even distribute malicious attacks.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 276
    This story is more proof that Jobs has no clue as to what he is talking about!!



    (yes... this is sarcasm)
  • Reply 2 of 276
    If I were an android fan, I would be pretty pissed about the fragmentation, and how some developers have no choice but to develop for the lowest common denominator.



    I'd probably be so mad, dammit, that I would post vitriolic messages on iOS forums disparaging iPhones and Apple products in general.



    Oh wait ...
  • Reply 3 of 276
    chronsterchronster Posts: 1,894member
    Completely overblown statements made by people who obviously favor the iPhone.



    There isn't even a paid version of the game for Android, and the only thing that affects performance is the stupid ads! Literally, in airplane mode, the game is as smooth as silk. Turn 3g on, get ads, and watch the game's framerates drop immensely.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by steve jobs


    "Unlike Windows, where PCs have the same interface, Android is very fragmented," Jobs said. "HTC and Motorola install proprietary user interfaces to differentiate themselves. The user left to figure it out. Compare this to iPhone where every handset works the same."



    he's talking about the launchers and phone apps, all of which can easily be replaced, and don't come anywhere CLOSE to the impact he describes.



    Articles like this are here to only reassure people made the "correct" decision in going with an iPhone. There is no CORRECT decision! It's all about what you like!
  • Reply 4 of 276
    daveswdavesw Posts: 406member
    tell me something i don't know.





    Android = the Windows of mobile.
  • Reply 5 of 276
    iOS also has some fragmentation, just not as bad as Android. 3 screen resolutions, 4 generations of processing power on the iPhone, a few on iPod Touches and of course 1 generation of iPads. Different memory sizes.



    Again, not nearly as bad, but there is something.
  • Reply 6 of 276
    hill60hill60 Posts: 6,992member
    So why are Roxio still wasting the money they make from iOS customers on Android versions when they could be putting their efforts into improving and making more special edition versions for the people who are paying their bills?



    Enough time wasting, Roxio should get back to the platform that matters.
  • Reply 7 of 276
    chronsterchronster Posts: 1,894member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by hill60 View Post


    So why are Roxio still wasting the money they make from iOS customers on Android versions when they could be putting their efforts into improving and making more special edition versions for the people who are paying their bills?



    Enough time wasting, Roxio should get back to the platform that matters.



    The platform that matters?
  • Reply 8 of 276
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by chronster View Post


    Completely overblown statements made by people who obviously favor the iPhone.



    There isn't even a paid version of the game for Android, and the only thing that affects performance is the stupid ads! Literally, in airplane mode, the game is as smooth as silk. Turn 3g on, get ads, and watch the game's framerates drop immensely.



    Well, the ads have become a defining aspect of the platform, since it's the only way for developers to make money, so, even if it is the ads, it's still entirely relevant. And, Rovio did say fragmentation caused them problems, as did many commenters on their blog. The sooner people come out of denial about the problems inherent in Android, the happier they will be.
  • Reply 9 of 276
    hill60hill60 Posts: 6,992member
    Really?



    Tell that to ID Software.



    Rage HD is available in HD and SD versions.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ghostface147 View Post


    iOS also has some fragmentation, just not as bad as Android. 3 screen resolutions, 4 generations of processing power on the iPhone, a few on iPod Touches and of course 1 generation of iPads. Different memory sizes.



    Again, not nearly as bad, but there is something.



  • Reply 10 of 276
    So yeah. Lowest common denominator for devs for Android, or reduced feature set or ignore the part of the Android market that don't support the features you want to include in your app. Those are all solutions for addressing the "freedom" of developing for Android. Conversely, you have roughly 85 different handset hardware configs in the market currently, hopefully all of which follow standardization guidelines, with another 25 or so slated for the end of this year and beginning of next year. This doesn't of course reflect the practice of re-branding for each carrier - just the individual hardware models that are the basis for the re-branding.



    So a dev has to ponder which platforms/models are most popular, which have the best feature set to optimize the app to, or which carriers show the most diligence in keeping the OS up-to-date for their customers. None of the US carriers are exemplars in that category.



    Apple, well they just have to apply their draconian control on everything, offer a paltry one model per year, and so forth. With only 4 models of iPhone, the iPad and the iPod Touch how can Apple possibly hope to compete for app dev attention when there is so much "openness" to be had?!



    /irony
  • Reply 11 of 276
    daveswdavesw Posts: 406member
    ANDROID = What's the point in being OPEN when your phone is JUNK?
  • Reply 12 of 276
    gqbgqb Posts: 1,934member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by chronster View Post


    ... launchers and phone apps, all of which can easily be replaced, and don't come anywhere CLOSE to the impact he describes.



    I guarantee you that 95% (or more) of users will NOT find replacing the GUI trivial.

    Again, devices built on the Android frameworks (let's stop calling it an OS please) appeal to chronic fiddlers and their unfortunate relatives who they talk into buying them.
  • Reply 13 of 276
    cbswecbswe Posts: 116member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by hill60 View Post


    Really?



    Tell that to John Carnack.



    Rage HD is available in HD and SD versions.



    John Carmack is somewhat inhuman when it comes to game programming. Almost all regular developers are "mere mortals"
  • Reply 14 of 276
    And it's only going to get worse as more and more device makers come out with more and more "differentiated" hardware and proprietary software layers, and Google puts more and more versions of Android out there. Eventually Google may have to "close" the platform and actually sell licenses to Android in order to head off a growing chorus of user complaints over all the incompatibilities. This is the downside to Google using the Microsoft model for platform dominance. It worked for MS because they had a head start in a new market. But with Apple already having established the market and imbued it with its high level of reliability, simplicity and quality, it means the Droid has to fight an uphill battle. Droid may have pulled even in numbers, but the more numbers, the bigger the problems.
  • Reply 15 of 276
    daveswdavesw Posts: 406member
    jesus you lost me there.....



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by kimys1022 View Post


    Well, first off, I'm not sure if you're saying Apple is bad or not, but I think you are because your title says Android Open, Android ONE. I apologize if I misunderstood you (I'm not the best reader)



    If you are being negative about Apple's decision to be "closed" and don't allow freedom, well, think about this. The article proves that too much openness is bad, but also, it's actually good that Apple is closed and not so much open. Here's an example story.



    Let's say Android is a name of a 1 year old boy. We will also say iOS is another 1 year old boy. They both go to the same kindergarden later. They later go to elementary school. Both are very good friends. They later go to middle school. As they mentally change, Android wants freedom. His parents say no. iOS wants also wants some freedom, but his parents specifically say no. They lock him up in his room just so that iOS doesn't have any change of escaping.



    In the course of the next few months, Android keeps asking for freedom. His parents say no, so Android runs away. iOS stays where is and continues his education.



    Android goes to a poor town without any money. iOS goes to one of many famous universities. iOS gets a job. Android lives on the street. Android becomes a criminal. Android becomes a bad, control-less person (maniac). Without anyone to "control" him, he doesn't know what is a right choice or a wrong choice. Android regrets having too much freedom, living outside of the control area.



    Yes, the story might sound stupid, but take this situation in your life. If you were given all the freedom in your life without any guardian, you might be lost.



    In the story, Apple is like the parent of iOS, while Google is the parent of Android. Apple strictly locked iOS up, so that he doesn't run away. It's like Apple in real world. Apple doesn't let us have so much freedom. Apple is very strict, but they are like our "parents" to protect us and guide us through our life. Google, the parent of Android, just takes freedom as not seriously. Google doesn't lock up Android. They don't believe Android will just run away for freedom.



    I hope we all get the message here. Too much freedom will make stuff, from operating systems to our life, very different. If you are a parent, will you let your kid have whatever they want? Even if it's something bad? Will you let your kid go anywhere they want? Even to somewhere illegal? NO! We care about our children, like how Apple cares about their iOS so that the customers can have a much better experience.



  • Reply 16 of 276
    So, games made for the original iphone vs the 3G vs. especially the 3GS and those vs. ipod touch corresponding gens which has faster variants of the same GPUs, and now the 4 and ipad isn't going to behave differently?



    That's nice. There are people who think that having stuff like the Google voice app being approved, then yanked around the same time Jobs comes back to work, to Apple saying "We haven't rejected it, we are studying it, no really, we are" and take 18 months to bring it back, most likely only at the behest of the FTC, equally annoying features of a closed system, and this is stuff that never had to happen in the first place.
  • Reply 17 of 276
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Cbswe View Post


    John Carmack is somewhat inhuman when it comes to game programming. Almost all regular developers are "mere mortals"



    Flashes of Johnny Carson were streaming through my mind's ether when the name Carnack was spoken.
  • Reply 18 of 276
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by chronster View Post


    Completely overblown statements made by people who obviously favor the iPhone.



    There isn't even a paid version of the game for Android, and the only thing that affects performance is the stupid ads! Literally, in airplane mode, the game is as smooth as silk. Turn 3g on, get ads, and watch the game's framerates drop immensely. ...



    Your being a bit disingenuous here yourself to say the least.



    In the first place, your talking about the actual developers statements. The Angry Birds people took the time to port their game to Android and did as best as they could to make it work but the fragmentation got them. I don't know how you can spin that as "people who favour the iphone" or people who don't know what they are talking about.



    Secondly, they published a list of at least a dozen Android phones that the game simply won't work on at all, and a simple visit to the comments thread or the store selling it will give you many reports of people who have 'approved' phones that the game doesn't run on either. All this after much development work on the part of the games creators. Do you really think they spent all that time on it, but somehow purposely screwed it up, just so they could cry foul? (they aren't even crying foul btw they are trying to fix it).



    Lastly, you are arguing that there is no problem, but then advising people to play it with all network connectivity turned off so it will work right? Seriously? And you don't see the problem with that statement or how it basically proves the opposite of what you are arguing?



    If we are going to be totally honest here, Angry Birds needs a good amount of memory and a good processor to run "smoothly" and it doesn't even run "smoothly" on an iPhone 4 if you have less than a gig or two of storage left. It's the only game I've ever played on the iPhone that I've had to crash out of or reboot the phone to get it to run again. Given that almost all Android phones on the market right now have much lesser processing power and much less storage than iPhone 4, it's pretty much a given that they are going to see some choppy-ness and glitches.



    Making out like it "runs smooth as silk" (for you) just makes you look foolish. It's not believable.
  • Reply 19 of 276
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,932member
    Google should apologize.
  • Reply 20 of 276
    atmatm Posts: 2member
    Quote:

    Prior to returning to Apple in 1996, Jobs said :







    source
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