Fake Steve on Android Fragmentation, i.e. Why It's Harder to Develop for than iPhone


Is the Android Marketplace a more open alternative for developers compared to the iPhone App Store, or does the growing diversity of hardware, software, and overlays make it just as frustrating in its own way? Okay, so Fake Steve is likely to be more pro-Apple than a Fake Eric would be, fair enough. And, yes, some high-profile developers have taken issue with Apple's draconian incompetent App Store approval process, well taken. But as much as Fake Steve is funny, the real Dan Lyons (of Newsweek) behind him is an equal opportunity offender, happy to take the p*ss out of Apple at any opportunity, often anti-Linux, and just as often insightful when it comes to things like Old Media and, yes, competing platforms. So take this with a giant-sized fake grain of salt, but take it:

There are just a bunch of different devices that have a lot in common with each other but aren’t quite the same. Trying to turn that into a “platform” is like trying to build a porch using three hundred pieces of wood, none of which are the same size. From the [Gadget Labs] story:

A slew of problems have made managing Android apps a “nightmare,” they say, including three versions of the OS (Android 1.5, 1.6 and 2.0), custom firmware on many phones, and hardware differences between different models.

Dear friends, this is only going to get worse, not better. Think about it. Every handset maker wants its device to be different. And special. So they intentionally tweak the OS to give themselves what they think of as an “advantage,” when really it’s nothing of the sort, because all it does is prevent ISVs from writing apps for them. Even if the handset makers weren’t totally short-sighted and evil, there’s the competency issue.

No doubt Apple's App Store can make developers tear their flesh off in frustration, and GPS/CPU/GPU/Camera/etc. issues fragment the iPhone/iPod platform as well, but at the end of the day, does 50+ million "compatible enough" iDevices that are gate-keeper'ed still offer developers a better experience than a wide range of quasi-competitive, free'er devices?

(Yes, Google is closed as well, just not as closed...)

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Fake Steve on Android Fragmentation, i.e. Why It's Harder to Develop for than iPhone


PC's don't all have different UI's. If you buy a dell or hp, you get windows. Not windows with Dell UI to differentiate or whatever.

@bman i was seriously about to say the same damn thing
This isnt that big of a deal that some would make it out to be. Most Apps are made with a baseline to support such a OS (for blackberry 4.5 is the cutoff for most phones even though there are numerous older builds).
Fake Steve is worried about every phone not having the same apps because some hardware features may be missing or companies using a new skin over the phone? (thats mostly what those are...new skins). Google easily controls this by setting requirements for the device to meet depending on OS build and these requirements dont make a massive jump every update, if it meets said requirements then the apps should work (its not always that easy but at worst you might have to go in and change a few lines to optimize for a device).
In all honesty, it wouldnt surprise me for Apple to pull an Apple (oshit...world destruction incoming) and cut support/features from the iphone and 3G in favor of the 3GS and whatever new model comes along next year because who knows, maybe the new baseline will be 256MB of RAM for multitasking and that would leave the previous models out in the cold.

@cardfan, the UI is built on TOP of the OS, its nothing more than a skin...look at the HTC HD2, its all Windows Mobile 6.5 but with a snapdragon processor and HTCs UI on top, it doesnt affect anything with the apps running.

You're kidding right? This old school journalist sees through Lyons and his BS. I gave up long ago hoping some kind of fair, even-handed information could come out of this guy when he's not channeling Steve.

Wow, how many years did it take that person to realize that all by himself ??! Hahaha. This is what happens when consumers want different types of handsets. The good thing about Apple is that it makes the software and hardware work almost flawlessly, compared to MS (although they could do the same but face lawsuits endlessly). If Apple were to decide to make a completely new device and bumped up os (higher resolution, higher megapixel camera, front-facing cam, etc...) it wouldn't matter a lot because any app/software could get changed effortlessly since Apple is the only one makes the device and software, unlike other OSes which run on different devices/hardware and firmware. iPhone = one os and one device. Others = different os versions, multiple devices. The PC market is completely different. Why? Because anyone can change the hardware inside and make adjusments (ie add ram sticks, add/remove hdd, change motherboard, overclock/underclock, etc...) to one's wants/needs, unlike a cell phone. Also, since PCs don't really have a limit on the hardware devs can create endless programs. However if you go to a Mac you won't find apps-to-apps compared to a PC. Yes people say a PC gets viruses and what not, but what do you expect if the PC is used more?

So what? WM has the same situation, with all those 400x240, 800x480, 320x200 and such making developer's life a nightmare (which I observe daily), and so... what? The whole case might not be overly pleasant but there's one sure thing about it - it's not new.

Honeycomb iaecrfnte? very clunky, not yet polish just a collection of widgets and icons This is the real honeycomb UI (albeit for smartphone):youtube.com/watch?v=2GE1lvRirIgyoutube.com/watch?v=LFlDJdphyt4

Ok on bbolime website they basically broke down the plan for the iphone further for better understanding it seems. So the phone plan has not changed.Anyway my 2 cents on the future of bbolime and the iPhone is that I am curious to see what will happen when the iPhone 5 comes out. The rumors is that this will be in septermber and with the usual logistics as to which countries will get them when is phased out, I can see a steady availability everywhere probably in January 2012. So in 6 months will bbolime be upgrading to the iPhone 5 because the 3GS would be classed obsolete and the iPhone 4 will be demoted to the price and storage capacity of the present 3GS as has been the case will all iPhone models to date. Will bbolime have enough stock till April 2012 before upgrading to the iPhone 5 because I believe Apple will cease making its present models probably in 3 months (if the next model do come out in September).Well that was my 2 cents on the subject matter and will be holding onto my 3GS till then as an upgrade is needed but only to the iPhone 5

Yep, not new, & Fake Steve overstates the case for all the reasons you cmntrs have stated. But the grain of truth in his sandbox is that it's easier to make one app for one gatekeeper (however weird) than to ensure common performance on disparate hware/sware combinations. The Apple model (as usual) is the worst model . . . except for all the others.

There is no consistent UI experience on the internet. There was one for AOL. Guess which won out in the end?
Woe to those who choose not to adapt. People want to customize, to experiment and try out new things. You can't treat people like delicate porcelain dolls that break down if anything is a little different.

^ The point is that without consistency in the UI the apps simply won't be as functional. And functionality counts for a lot in a mobile platform.

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Isn't there a problem with one OS, one manufacturer as well? After a while, that company rests on its laurels and stops innovating. Look at Palm and Blackberry are they not losing marketshare?

Honeycomb itnfreace? very clunky, not yet polish just a collection of widgets and icons This is the real honeycomb UI (albeit for smartphone):youtube.com/watch?v=2GE1lvRirIgyoutube.com/watch?v=LFlDJdphyt4