Google’s Commitment Issues, Miracast, and Android Fragmentation

I bought a recently released HP 7 Plus tablet, a very nice device with bare minimums and a decent price tag ($100). But it still is on Android Jelly Bean. What it means is some (popular) apps, such as Instagram, no longer support it.

It makes some sense, as it is not the latest flavor of Android and is not even that popular. But wait, it is! Currently Jelly Bean has the largest market share in all smart phones! So why is not supported? The answer is simple: fragmentation. Google’s management of their OS has allowed their large market share (44%) to be split while these various Android versions require developers to almost rewrite their apps for each version.

Version Codename share in OS Market(June 2014) OS Market Share(Q1 2014) Total Market Share
2.2 Froyo 0.8% 44% 0.35%
2.3.3 – 2.3.7 Gingerbread 14.9% 6.55%
4.0.3 – 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich 12.3% 5.41%
4.1.x Jelly Bean 29.0% 12.76%
4.2.x 19.1% 8.40%
4.3 10.3% 4.53%
Android4.4 KitKat 13.6% 5.98%
iOS 7 iOS 7 89% 10% 8.9%
iOS 6 iOS 6 9% 0.9%
iOS (rest) 2% 0.2%

How is that? Because hardware changes, bugs are discovered and get fixed, requirements amd external technologies change,  and as a result APIs advance. But the burden of compatibility with different APIs is left on Android app developers who have to maintain multiple branches now.

Result? If you are developing a new app from scratch, you better do that for iOS. You are able to use the latest version (iOS 7 at this moment) while having a much wider outreach: 8.9% of total work market for iOS7, versus 5.98% for Android KitKat.

iOS/Android Market Shares in Q1 2014

iOS/Android Market Shares in Q1 2014. Flip phones (30%) and other OS phones not shown. (data from ABI research)

So how does fragmentation happen?

 

As I had noticed before Google is too impatient in getting results. For example, look at wireless display. Android currently natively supports Miracast Wireless Display. Even my doomed Jelly Bean device does it. But Chromecast, another product of Google on the receiving side of ‘casting’, does not! The reason is not only about Google in this case. Miracast has been a mess. But instead of either pushing Miracast to improve or making Android and Chromecast compatible, they rather leave the service on Android running and ask users to install yet another set of services to support their protocol.

Airplay, Chromecast and Miracast comparison sheet [from FlatPanelsHD.com]

Airplay, Chromecast and Miracast comparison sheet [from FlatPanelsHD.com]

But will Google one day in near future jump off this ship too? Maybe. Until then, customers have to use a Miracast receiver for some of their devices (including older Androids) and another for Chromecast. And that is exactly how the poison that is fragmentation extends.

My biggest worry is for the near future when Google integrates deeper into consumer electronics by adding Android Wear, Auto and TV. Will we have to change our TVs and cars every 2 years? Very possibly!

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