Ask any developer what is the biggest challenge facing Android and they’ll tell you “fragmentation.” Ringing indisputably true for the last few years; Google has not ignored this issue and put very clever initiatives in place to overcome this problem.
Let’s be clear what we’re talking about here; OS fragmentation. This was probably the most difficult form due to new features and API’s introduced in newer versions not being available to the third-party manufacturers who do not update their devices.
Hardware fragmentation – due to the myriad of different spec devices Android is available on – is still a problem. Although this being said, internal components are becoming more standardised among the high-end releases which is helping to ease development.
So let’s highlight Google’s ingenious solution to API differences; build most of the functionality directly into Google Play Services – turn it into a platform by itself. This is why the “app” has almost every possible permission; it’s essentially system-level. It is constantly running in the background and can update without any user input.
So the OS handles the basic stuff, and Play Services acts as a layer between handling the complex.
DeveloperTech isn’t going to suggest it, but arstechnica will: “If you ever question the power of Google Play Services, try disabling it. Nearly every Google App on your device will break.”
Looking back at Google’s big developer conference I/O, it was most obvious of this new strategy. Where many expected a grand new Android release, we didn’t have any. That doesn’t mean we weren’t treated like the dessert-related names with each OS version; we just had all the good-stuff in fantastic app updates.
Of course the OS still matters; both for the “basic” stuff, and design changes – which we expect to be a huge focus of the next update, Android KitKat.
Google has just updated their Android Developer Dashboard with the latest OS stats. Jelly Bean is now up to 45% (from 40% last month) which considering all the old devices still making the rounds; isn’t half-bad. But since Google Play Services is available since Gingerbread – Developers have access to a combined 97.6% of devices through this new approach. That’s worthy of a round of applause Google.
What do you think of Google’s approach to fixing Android fragmentation?