posted by Bernd Leger
Android’s market fragmentation is often mentioned as a concern for mobile app developers. The concern is that Android is fragmented across multiple handset makers, device form factors and OS builds, but new data from Localytics suggests that developers shouldn’t be worried. Whether it’s OS version, screen size or screen resolution, the Android devices using apps with Localytics as their analytics solution have remarkably similar specifications.
Across all apps using Localytics, a full 73% of Android usage came from devices running a variant of Android 2.3. While the build, known as "Gingerbread", is not the most recent, from a fragmentation perspective it should be good news to developers that such a large majority of users are running the same Android OS version.
Add Android 2.2 “Froyo” to the mix, and the majority becomes even more convincing - 23% of Android user sessions were running some flavor of "Froyo". Between the two, Android developers can be confident that they only need to actively target two Android OS builds in order to achieve 96% compatibility with the Android ecosystem.
Another concern for Android developers is screen size and resolution. Of all app usage analyzed for this study, 41% of all sessions came from Android devices with 4.3 inch screens, by far the most popular size. 4 inch screens accounted for 22% of sessions, 3.2 inch screens for 11%, and 3.7 inch screens contributed 9%.
Resolutions were even less fragmented, however, with the most widely-seen screen resolution - 800 x 480 pixels - contributing 62% of the study’s sessions. The next most popular screen resolutions were 480 x 320 (14%), 960 x 540 (6%), 480 x 854 (5%) and 320 x 240 (5%).
For both screen size and resolution, Android developers have more to deal with than iOS developers, thanks to Apple’s single handset form factor. However, with five options accounting for more than 90% of all Android app usage, the fragmentation is not particularly daunting.
For developers working on Android tablet applications, the fragmentation numbers are similar to those seen in handsets. Led by Amazon’s Kindle Fire, Barnes and Noble’s Nook and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab - the three most widely-used Android tablets as measured by Localytics - nearly three quarters of all Android tablet usage is from devices with the same specs.
Screen resolution and size are actually even less fragmented than handsets - 74% of Android tablet usage takes place on 7 inch devices with 1024 x 600 resolution. 22% are 10.1 inch devices with 1280 x 800 resolutions, so by taking into account two screen size/resolution combinations, developers should be able to easily reach nearly all of the Android tablet market.
OS distribution is similarly stable, with 71% of Android tablets running Android 2.3 “Gingerbread”. Most of the remaining tablets are running some flavor of Android 3 “Honeycomb” - 14% are powered by Android 3.2, 7% by 3.1. The rest run “Froyo”.
In all, while Android developers do have to think about an element of fragmentation foreign to iOS developers, the problem seems to be much smaller than made out to be. Android devices, particularly tablets, tend to be very similar in OS version, screen size and screen resolution. Although iOS developers only have two form factors to craft their applications for, the similarities of Android’s most-used devices should make it less of a challenge to develop for than often thought.
For the purposes of this study, Localytics looked at the number of user sessions seen by apps running Localytics as their analytics provider. All data is usage-based. The time frame is the two-week period ending Jan. 22, 2012.
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