For a long time, many bloggers have been talking ‘fragmentation’ in the Android ecosystem. While Apple has been updating all their iPhones to the latest version (which is not the case for Android phone manufacturers, who seem to be getting pulled screaming and hollering into providing an update to the next version), fragmentation creep is starting to rear it head in the iPhone space as well.
In most cases, fragmentation will not be a big cause of worry for Apple, as its users switch to the latest device as soon as it is launched.
In the case of Android, it seems as if manufacturers are only interested in selling a handset and are not worried too much about retaining a customer for the long haul. Also, given the competition, vendors see money only when a new handset is bought – there is no profit in offering an update.
While the fragmentation is very small presently and is expected to remain that way, it is a cause of worry for developers and will prove to be problematic for customers. Developers will now have to develop applications that work across multiple versions of the OS or create separate versions of the application, based on the version of the OS. Customers will also increasingly find that the number of applications available for thier ‘older’ version of the phone will increase at a less rapid rate (if not remain constant, or worse, reduce). In other words, apps may not support older versions of the OS and that will leave customers with less apps in the store.
Of course, ‘less’ will still mean a lot, considering the number of apps in the store.