How Device Fragmentation Affects App Developers
Device fragmentation is a huge issue in the mobile world, but it is especially challenging for small businesses whose internal resources are stretched thin. Some companies choose to skip Windows, Blackberry, and other smaller operating systems, focusing only on iOS and Android. But even if you’re developing only for iOS and Android—or just one of the two—you’re still facing a massive range of devices.
The Flurry Blog‘s Mary Ellen Gordon recently pulled some stats to find out if small app developers are becoming an endangered species due to the inconsistencies of connected devices:
Suppose you’re an app developer who wants to ensure that your app is optimized to function well on 80% of the individual connected devices currently in use (e.g., my iPad, your Windows phone). How many different device models (e.g., Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ Wi-Fi, Galaxy S III) do you think you need to support? 156.
Maybe you’re okay with having your app optimized for only 60% of active devices. That still means that you need to support 37 different devices. Even getting to 50% means supporting 18 devices, as shown below. If you’re a large or particularly thorough app developer, reaching 90% of active devices will require supporting 331 different models.
Even if a company settles for covering only 20 percent of device models, it still faces a massive headache, according to Gordon.
Developing apps on the device models that represent the majority of devices currently in active use has become an expensive and time-consuming process. Not optimizing or testing apps on devices being used by even a minority of people exposes developers to negative user experiences and potentially to buying expensive devices to troubleshoot problems as they arise.
Having your app available on some device models and not others can be a real problem. Darrell Etherington of TechCrunch concludes the only way to succeed globally is to go cross-platform—and to do it well:
The way to achieve truly global appeal, and hopefully convert that into global success, is to go cross-platform, which when factoring in Android often means testing on a host of devices to ensure that you’re not sacrificing user experience in one key area. Because while devices may come in many different flavors, app marketplace reviews are all aggregated to the same place. Anger a group of users associated with one device, and you’re going to poison the well of your review pool, so to speak, not to mention generating negative word-of-mouth buzz.
Device fragmentation will not necessarily kill off app developers. However, it certainly will continue to make it difficult for dev teams to succeed, and this difficulty will only increase as more devices make their way into the mobile landscape.
Overall, whether you want to develop for several platforms—or only one—you need to test under real world conditions across devices to ensure quality. Developers who neglect testing will struggle to keep up in a world filled with countless devices and high user expectations.