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kris

iOS fragmentation barely exists, according to Apple, but is it self-selecting data?

After mentioning that 93% of iOS users were using iOS 6 on their devices last week at WWDC, Apple has released it in handy pie chart form!



Fair enough, most people I know seem to upgrade iOS as soon as they get the chance.

This is presented in contrast to Android, which has a lot more fragmentation in its OS versions:



There are lot of reasons for the Android fragmentation, of course. With a wider spread of devices (4000+) versus Apple's small iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch lineups, there's a lot more devices out there that are outdated, or running manufacturer skins that make it hard to issue an OS update right away. And Android still holds 52% of the market, versus Apple's 39%. Being the majority tends to breed a lot more diversity.

What actually catches my attention is that "Earlier iOS" number of 1% of the market. Because as the owner of an iPod touch 2nd-gen, I'm part of that 1%. And it's not because I don't want to upgrade iOS, it's because I can't -- the upgrades only go two generations past your device, so my iOS experience stops at iOS 4. I suppose I could buy a new iPod touch, but it's hard to justify the expense when I don't use it that often (I don't commute as much as I used to) and it works just fine when I do use it.

What I definitely don't use anymore is the App Store.

Most apps being released now, that I might take an interest in, are for iOS 5 or iOS 6. Heck, a lot of apps are iOS 4.3 and higher, and my device stops at 4.2. Those are the real tease, because for a brief moment it seems like I might be able to download them, but when I try the dreaded error message comes up.

So in general, I don't bother using the App Store. Which matters to the data Apple presents above, which is calculated by visits to the App Store. Of course iOS 5 and iOS 6 users visit the App Store all the time, it has plenty to offer them. But for users of iOS 4 and below, you have very little reason to visit, and I suspect most don't. It's basically self-selecting data, and it's inaccurate.

Does it really matter? We live in a world of yearly upgrades (18 months at the most), so it seems silly to worry about users who don't choose to upgrade. They could get a new phone when their contract is up... and since most contracts are two-year contracts, the two generation window of compatibility makes sense in a market way. It's just not very human friendly.

As a side note, I have a Galaxy Tab running ICS, and a Galaxy S III running Jelly Bean 4.2, and I love using them both, especially the latter. Part of it is knowing that I'm unlikely to run into walls when I browse Google Play. And that means a lot to my overall satisfaction with the device, because it means I still have possibilities.

Sources:

www.engadget.com­/2013­/06­/21­/apple­-publicly­-charts­-...
techcrunch.com­/2012­/05­/15­/3997­-models­-android­-frag...
bgr.com­/2013­/06­/04­/ios­-android­-market­-share­-april­-...

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27 replies
frankspin

As a long time Android user I can tell you that fragmentation is much better now but it is still something that burns me, or us, with each new release. And it is a huge factor of why I'm considering iOS for my next phone; even despite the issues you encountered.

First off the obvious is that Android cannot be upgraded outside of the carriers. This leads to an extended amount of time for anyone on a major US or Canadian carrier. My previous phone was an Incredible 2 which got released April 2011. As of today it is still without even Android 4.0 and it's been over 2 years****. Even now I have a Galaxy S3, from Verizon, sitting on my desk that is still not upgraded to 4.2 and just got to 4.1 in the last few months.

Second, the fragmentation is also bad due to OEM skinning. I fully understand and support why they do it, heck I even like some of the additions they made, but the area this plagues Android is lost features. Through OEM's skinning some of Android's new features may be lost because the OEM has something better in mind. First thing that comes to mind is lock screens because each one has made their own lock screen.

Where this becomes an issue for Android is that it's an all or nothing proposition. As phones were hitting 4.0, and even 4.2 now, there were apps that tons of users couldn't use because they didn't have 4.0+. At least, for the most part, with Apple you still get an bare essential OS upgrade to allow you access to SOME features and new apps.

I understand that Apple strips out a lot of features to make older versions work on older devices. The old iPhone 4 we have is running iOS 6 and there are certainly missing features. On one hand it'd be a little frustrating to not have Siri or Passbook, but on the other hand if Apple feels they wont work well that's also fine. As long as there was some return value from the upgrade then I still think it's fine.

One other point I'd like to extend to is development. I'm 50/50 on it being a pain for developers to support due to the number of devices but I can tell you that even as a casual user I see issues all the time. I constantly see people saying "X App" doesn't work on my [insert ridiculous rom name here] phone. As a developer this has to drive them nuts because people are modifying Android's functions which in turn can affect something they built. Android Central interviewed people from Pocket Casts and they go into this a bit more indepth (www.androidcentral.com­/iterate­-43­-pocket­-casts­-and...) and this was just from March.

I may have deviated off topic a bit here but I feel I needed to make this stated. I do think Apple is fudging the numbers a bit but I also think there are still better in the long run than Android. Ultimately I think at the end of the day the general consumer really doesn't care and like you said, most of us are on 18-24 month upgrade cycles anyway with our carriers. So as long as we shop smartly (is that a word?) we can stay ahead of the curve, somewhat.

****I understand that people will say "Just root it" but the thing to remember is that should not be the solution to a problem.
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Dignan17

There's a difference, though. Apple has all the control over the fragmentation. Android, for better or worse, has no control over the fragmentation for anything but the Nexus devices.

What does this mean? It means that at least with Android you have a choice over whether you're exposed to fragmentation. I hate to be one of those "buy a Nexus" people, but the fact is: if fragmentation is something that bothers you, there's something you can do about it! You bought your Incredible 2 in April 2011 and it doesn't even have ICS on it? Well if you'd bought a Nexus S as early as December 2010, you'd be good up to 4.1.2.

I'm not saying Android fragmentation doesn't exist, but I am saying that if it bothers you, there's an easy solution to it.

*edit*

I should clarify: my reaction to your post is mostly towards the idea that you'll switch to an iPhone next because of the fragmentation you experienced on a phone like the Incredible 2. That seems silly to me. If you're going to switch, it should be because the other platform offers features that are more valuable or appealing to you. It shouldn't be because of something you yourself have control over.
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frankspin

I have other reasons and issues about Google/Android, the fragmentation is just one of them. I completely am aware I have a choice to switch off to a different phone but I'm on Verizon where there is a limitation in what you have choices with. I think I take a big issue with this because at I/O Google stood on stage saying they created this "alliance" and it was just smoke & mirrors.
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Dignan17

I guess I just still don't understand your complaint. This is an issue we've known about for years (yes, since before 2011), and if you actually care about Android fragmentation, I don't see why you'd get a phone other than the Nexus line.

If you don't care about fragmentation, then get whatever phone you like. But if you do care about it, then get the Nexus phone of the moment or don't make it one of your justifications for jumping ship. Sorry, that just irks me...
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TgD

I agree for the most part with you. I want to add to what you started with the idea of skinning slowing things down.

For the most part we have seen skins baked in to android. TouchWiz, HTC Sense, Timescape (and Facebook in xperia) to name a few.

However with the Facebook Home skin built into the HTC first, it took more of a modular design. The skin was an app preloaded on the phone, and although it modified the look and feel of android heavily, it could be easily disabled.

Now if more manufacturers did this, I imagine updates may go a bunch easier. Separation of the OS from the skin would in theory allow the core OS to be updated without affecting the skin. Likewise, the skin could be updated without the need to update the whole OS.

Perhaps there are technical or business reasons (they don't want people removing skins) for the current model, but it just seems like there should be an easier solution.

Now to bring this post back on track,

When Apple posts stats like this I wonder about all the old iOS devices sitting in a drawer somewhere or maybe in landfills. If iPhones and iPods running iOS 2-4 are not accessing the app store that frequently, they must either be broken or not in use in at all, or not used in a way that generates statistics (Kris' situation).

Apple hasn't sold 99% more iOS-5-and-6-capable-devices than iOS-5-and-6-uncapable-devices

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frankspin

Off topic, but to your point about Facebook Home vs TouchWiz or Sense, I think the huge difference is that the main OEMs will over haul the underlying OS, where Home was really nothing more than an App. It's definitely a dual edged sword because in spite of it's ugliness, TouchWiz does do certain things better than stock Android. Same can be said for Sense.
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dougandmegan

As a long-time Android user, I have to disagree. Almost all apps work on all devices. I believe the idea of fragmentation is mainly a myth started by Apple.
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kris

Also, as to whether Android fragmentation is a problem for developers, it's worth looking at Myth #5 in this article:

www.gamasutra.com­/blogs­/GreggTavares­/20130619­/1946...

They might not speak for every developer, but making your app work across many devices can be done.
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dougandmegan

The reason these numbers are completely ridiculous is it does not take into account how Apple is incorrectly defining fragmentation. If you have an iPhone 4 it is supposedly running the latest version of iOS, but is it? No! You don't have Siri, you don't have maps with voice directions. Apple just fragments and pretends it does not exist.
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Goldman

OS outdatedness does not necessarily mean fragmentation. Nice try. Did you talk about Windows "fragmentation" over the last two decades?

People talk about Android fragmentation because Android isn't a single OS. It's dozens of proprietary, hacked variations for different vendors and different devices, and THEN you add different versions on top of that (outdatedness). THAT is fragmentation.
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philnolan3d

Of course they choose to ignore all the fragmentation within each version of ios. For example older iphones can use ios6 but half the features are disabled.
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jogdial

The data was presented to developers, to show how their target market is made up of devices running different versions of iOS. As noted, it was based on people visiting the App Store over a 14-day period ending in June. I think this is a reasonable sample; one could argue for a longer sample period but I doubt it would move the figures by much.

If you're a person using an iOS device, but not visiting the store in a 2-week period then you're not in the target market for most developers. If you no longer visit the app store (as you describe) - you're not browsing, buying, downloading, or updating apps, and developers can't sell or give you an app if they wanted to. You're not in their target market. Yes, they're targeting the people who visit the app store at least once every 2 weeks. I find this quite logical and reasonable.

Apple hasn't presented data for "This is what every iOS device still working is running right now." That would be unnecessary. In reality, developers are targeting active app store users, not inactive ones. Yes, you can argue that some "inactive" users are forced out of the app store, but seriously that's progress. If you look at the hundreds of millions of iOS devices ever sold, this proportion is still very small, and if it still works, like you say, you can continue using it as long as you find it useful.
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kris

My point is that I would visit the store if it offered me anything -- but it no longer does. I have been actively and purposefully pushed out of the App Store. The demographics as they exist were created by Apple and the developers, not by the users.
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philnolan3d

Sure that's not how they presented it on the surface, but you can be sure they knew it would be seen that way.
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Ryandroid86

But here is the Difference. Google is in the process of helping there developers. When you create an app they give you all the API Levels required for any version of android. So if I make an app and use API level 9 (2.3). It will work on all versions higher unless there is a specific device reason (resolution, translations)

Google even gives you the template to match all new applications for 4.2 (jellybean) look. So fragmentation is only due to the fact that manufactures dont want to update old devices. That is there choice since its an open source operating system.

Its not Google nor androids fault. Apple just says this to scare potential buyers away as if nothing works together.... I assure Google is closing that gap rapidly. You can now have the Nexus launcher, Nexus camera, Nexus calender, Nexus Lockscreen, and Nexus Messaging.... Any phone can have these app which will ALWAYS be updated. regardless of your phone Manufacturer.

But I agree.... This is all just Rubbish and really doesn't matter. Two different Ideas and directions... Yet we compare them on the same field as if they both have one phone....

We should only compare the Nexus Vs Iphone.
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XRM7

But at the same time, that means that Google's efforts to create great new APIs is being wasted because the developers have almost no choice but to develop for 2.3. So now what you have is, a Nexus device, running 4.2.2, but it's apps are running like it's 2010. So you are getting a worse Nexus experience than you should be because other people don't care as much about technology as you. So in reality you think you are being catered to by having a Nexus device, but in reality, those people with a device running 2.3 are really the ones being catered to.

On the iOS side, Apple is saying "Sorry users of old devices, but if you want to take advantage of the best of iOS, you are going to have to upgrade your device." Meanwhile, they are saying, "Hey everyone else, we just announced new APIs to do , and within a month, a majority of apps are going to support that API if it makes sense for that app." And I can't really blame them, considering they give OS updates for 3 years.

So for example, when Apple releases iOS 7 with APIs for game controllers, the majority of games where it makes sense to implement those APIs will be updated to make use of the controller within a month or two. And yes, I realize that you can use SixAxis to use a PS3 controller on Android, but I have a Nexus 7, and it is a far from ideal solution for the vast majority of games except for emulators because the apps simply aren't made with game controllers in mind. So that will be an advantage that iOS will have over Android, and even if Google came out the next day and decided to officially support game controllers rather than rely on options like SixAxis, Android users wouldn't even be able to do make use of it for years. Yes, I said YEARS. Because developers aren't going to make games support those new APIs until 4.3 is on the majority of devices.

So yes your points are valid, but just remember next time you think "Just buy a Nexus device, and you won't have to worry about fragmentation." Remember. Your Nexus device will be just as fragmented as the rest because developers will still develop for API level 9 regardless of the fact that you have a Nexus device. Fragmentation in terms of what OS you are running is overblown, because yes, you can just get a Nexus device, do a little research and get a flagship device, or upgrade when you are able to Fragmentation in terms of what it does to your app selection, irregardless of whether you own a Nexus or not, is still a big problem.

Let's put it this way. Would you rather Android developers catered to Android 4.2 APIs and released better apps, or continued to support users running 2.3, and thus releasing worse apps. As a Nexus user, I'm betting that you would like them to create the better apps. But right now, they are releasing worse apps. And you, as a Nexus owner, are suffering from it.
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philnolan3d

Why would the apps run poorly on a modern device? High end graphics and features get enabled if they're on a device that supports them. If the device doesn't support the feature it's not available. Just like the new Camera app with Photosphere. My phone's hardware doesn't support the Photosphere function but I can still run the app and get all it's other great features, I'm just missing the Photosphere icon.
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XRM7

They don't run poorly. They just will be missing features that they could have implemented if they weren't still supporting 2.3.
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philnolan3d

Read my post. Why would the features be missing
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XRM7

You are talking about a stock camera app. Do you really think any developer that doesn't go by the name of Google Inc gives a crap about trying to implement different APIs depending on what version you are running. Because they don't. Almost every single other app developer is going to be giving you an app made with 2.3 APIs for phones running 2.3, regardless of whether you are running 2.3 or 4.2.
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Ryandroid86

when it comes down to it.... it doesnt matter. your awesome new phone will suck in 4 years.
and if thats the case what developer in there right mind would want to develop for it. I made an app and I made it compatible with 2.3. and it runs fantastic on my GN 4.2.2. No difference just more users.

So as time goes on... my next app I will start with compatibility for 4.0 or higher.... because at that point gingerbread will be dead. Its just a cycle we will live with.

Im sure there could be better implementations into the APIs. but for now.... the "fragmentation" doesnt bother me nor anyone else....
To be honest this should only bother the developers... hints why more big applications appear on apple products first because you dont have to change the resolution for each phone like android apps.

This doesnt effect the consumer like everyone makes it sound. If some app doesnt work on your phone.... download the other 20 that do the same thing. One is bound to work.

All I can say is... Thank God for open source, developers, and choice
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XRM7

You think that it affects developers only? Hello! The better the APIs, the better the apps.

This is just an example of one API enhancement: You see people complain about stuff like battery life for example. Yet, they use apps that apps that remind them to do something when they get home or any other countless location-based apps. Many developers have found workarounds to do semi-geofences. Many of them of course being poor implementations that use much more battery life than they should. Google comes along at I/O 2013 and has a quality much more battery efficient geofencing API that every developer can simply use. The end result is their app is better and less of a battery hog.

The problem? Well, that API doesn't exist in 2.3, and well they are programming their app for 2.3, so guess what. That app you continue to use continues to drain your battery. You could be running a Galaxy S4 with Android 4.3 hacked onto it. It won't matter. You are going to continue wasting your battery life because you are the minority and developers don't care about you. YOU LOSE! It's as simple as that.

And that is one API out of thousands that developers aren't utilizing because they don't care about you and your fancy jelly bean phone.
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Ryandroid86

Wow. I lose. Real mature. I'm not trying to win. This is a discussion. Your words mean nothing. Just as mine mean nothing. And to say no one cares about my phone is an understatment. If that was true there would be no developers.

Great case for battery but once again. Who cares. Every OS is getting better from every angle. But fragmentation should not be a reason to avoid android. Neither apple or Google has it perfect yet and should realize there is always room for improvment. I'll repeat two different directions. One phone closed source. Vs multiple phones open source. Its hard to compare the two. Buy I think Google has done well so far considering the level of difficulty.

I'm not a hater of either platform. But sounds like pride is getting the best of you.
Good luck with whatever platform you use.
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XRM7

Maybe you misunderstood what I was saying. I wasn't saying you lose as a personal attack on your argument. I was saying, you, as a Jelly Bean user, lose out on a better applications because keeping gingerbread users as potential customers is more important to developers than making sure your experience as a Jelly Bean user is as good as it can be.

That's the issue with fragmentation. As a Jelly Bean user, you are being treated as the red-headed stepchild. Developers are actually saying "I don't give a crap about what you want because it hurts my profits." As a technology enthusiast, You should be absolutely livid about. People think that fragmentation only hurts people who buy low-end devices, but in reality fragmentation is actually hurting people on high-end devices more. You are the one missing out on a better experience because apps are continuing being developed for API Level 9.

And personally, I think it should be the other way around, which is exactly what Apple's ecosystem is right now. Apple and their developers are saying, "I don't give a crap about your iPhone 3GS. You aren't buying my apps anyways. When you upgrade, you can use my apps." And that allows developers to develop apps that make full use of the latest and greatest APIs, and in turn, gives the best experience they possibly can to the new devices.

What it boils down to is this: I am arguing for the developers to say F you old technology and make my new technology the best it can be. You are arguing for developers to say F you new technology, I'm going to continue supporting 2010.
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Ryandroid86

Well I didn't say screw the new. I agree that we should push towards the future. Its the cycle of life. But there just needs to be a set standard with API releases and android updates. Right now it's disorganized. To be honest we are on the same page. I agree with you. And I too agree that after three years they should no longer be able to use old API s. And there should be an easier way to update the apps with the new API. Just like updating your phone including new scripts for better performance and not having to start almost over.. That would solve everything.
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iamsteezze

"Does it really matter? We live in a world of yearly upgrades (18 months at the most), so it seems silly to worry about users who don't choose to upgrade. They could get a new phone when their contract is up... and since most contracts are two-year contracts, the two generation window of compatibility makes sense in a market way. It's just not very human friendly."

From this quote, I may say that you are a little wrong there. Talking of iOS, the 18-month or two-year cycle you mentioned is not correct. Why? My simple response clear. Take a look at the iPhone 4, it was released in June 2010 and this is 2013. With iOS 7 looming in the corner, i hope you are aware that the iPhone 4 will receive the update. That alone refutes your argument.

You have a 2nd gen iPod and you expect to receive an update to iOS 6 when your galaxy tab of 2010 refused to be updated after 6 months?

Sometimes, i feel it's not compelling to give responses to Android users who feel they can complain about iOS devices because if you look at it....some Android phones of 2013 still come with ICS. If you have an Android phone, it's manufacturer, be it Sony, Samsung, HTC, Motorola and the rest only promise you guaranteed update for 6 months and after that, you may never get an update again. Ask those who use GS II, or any Sony smartphones for how may updates they got in 6 months.

In conclusion (my opinion, for I may be wrong), I don't want any company to win because if any should, then we the consumers lose. Competition is good for the industry. I love to be updated and when there is an update, i expect to have it immediately and not wait for some company delay it to sell new phones or say "If you want the latest software, then buy a new phone" which, in my opinion is useless.
Here in Brazil, most people (teenagers) and some adults use the iPhone 4 due to how expensive the 4s and the 5 are, and most of them (the ones i spoke to) are really exited about iOS 7 because they know they will get it using a 2010 phone where as, their Android counterpart can't even boast of Jelly bean 4.1 because they are stuck to 4.0.1 or 4.0.2 because they are expected to buy a new Android phone to be able to use the latest 4.2.
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BlagoJones

You are aware that just because Apple is updating you to iOS 7 doesn't mean anything, right? I have a 4th gen iPod Touch, and it got "upgraded" to iOS 6, but literally all that update did was give me an updated iOS number. There was no functionality improvement whatsoever. As people have mentioned here, Apple pretends there is no fragmentation by "upgrading" old products when, in actuality, half of the products they're upgrading don't receive the majority of the actual OS improvements.
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