Google's solution to Android fragmentation coming in 'Froyo'

One of the largest problems currently facing Google's Android operating system is the great degree of fragmentation due to the many different products that manufacturers and carriers have brought to the market. As it stands now, there are four different versions of Android software on various handsets: 1.5, 1.6, 2.0, and 2.1. The reason for this can be attributed to the inevitable differences in hardware, third party software (such as HTC's Sense UI), and the carrier or manufacturer's capacity to update their products.

Currently released Android phones ordered by their supported Android version so far include the following:

  • 1.5: HTC Hero, T-Mobile Pulse, LG GW620, Motorola Cliq, Motorola Backflip, Samsung Behold, Samsung i7500, Samsung Moment
  • 1.6: HTC Dream, HTC Magic, HTC Tattoo, Motorola Devour, Sony Ericsson Xperia X10
  • 2.0: Motorola XT800
  • 2.1: Google Nexus One, HTC Legend, HTC Desire, Motorola Droid, Samsung i5700

This large degree of platform fragmentation finds users and developers unable to take advantage of newer features and bug fixes that the latest release holds. For example, users without Android 2.0 or higher are left without Exchange support and new UI improvements among other things. Taking note of these critical problems, Google will tackle the issue head on by taking their software into their own hands for their next Android release.

Named "Froyo", Google's next Android version will be detached of the usual set of first party applications and core components that currently populate the OS. Instead of bundling those applications with the operating system, Google will instead make them available through the Android Market for download. This is currently how updates to Google Maps are handled on Android.

This new approach will apply to both Android applications and system components.  So for example, if Google brings a new update to the virtual keyboard or email application, all one would have to do is download the update directly from the Market as it instantly becomes available. No longer would users have to wait for their carrier or manufacturer to make it available for download.

Also reported is that Google is finishing up most of the core work required for Android and will soon be shifting development to consumer features and applications. Developers should be getting finalized APIs and frameworks as Froyo arrives, so they can instead focus on making applications faster and easier with greatly matured tools for the OS.

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The only issue I have with the marvellous 'Froyo' is the following (As a Vodafone Magic Owner):

- Will it get pushed out to existing devices? we've struggled to get other updates so what makes froyo any different?

- Is it going to really be finished? I know Google say it will be 'matured' but.... IIRC most of the system still uses software rendering throughout, this is a big issue!

- Is JIT going to be sorted for Froyo?

- How much of the 'core' will be updatable via the marketplace? this is clearly not going to work that well IMO, you have far too many issues to worry about, unless third parties are not allowed to modify the core, but developers could easily rely on something that soon changes.

- I've not touched Android development since 1.5, but the last time I looked you couldn't initialize an object without the garbage collector coming along.

- Better task management. This OS is not a multi-tasking OS by any means. I load a page in the browser, check an SMS, go back to the browser and the page re-loads >.<

- The SMS app is terrible!

I think performance wise, Android has a long way to go. I suppose it's smooth on a 1Ghz Snap Dragon, but that is a mighty powerful CPU.

Motorola has stated that 2.1+ is coming to the Cliq in 2nd Quarter, rumor has it sometime in May. What they mean by "2.1+" I assume is that it will be at least version 2.1 or perhaps a stepping above. Moto is trying to standardize versions on all of their Android models.

Thats one of the reasons why I didn't choose an android device, much like WinMo you have to wait till OEMs update their own F/W and they rarely do that.

Also I did not want to mess with custom ROMs, to get these new updates, its just too much of a PITA.

Pabs(Sco) said,
Thats one of the reasons why I didn't choose an android device, much like WinMo you have to wait till OEMs update their own F/W and they rarely do that.

Also I did not want to mess with custom ROMs, to get these new updates, its just too much of a PITA.

But what is the alternative? Even on phones like the iPhone you have to wait for updates and then flash them to your phone. At least with custom ROMs you aren't waiting for a Google or carrier update.

There's no HTC Hero updates for now (april ?), but there's a lot of unofficials 2.1 ROM on the market. Many are working perfectly and can be used daily (modaco website is a good place to start)

This is good news. One of the things that annoys me about my Desire is that I seem to have two versions of all my applications, the not-so-great Android version, and the ever-so-good HTC version.

My only worry is that now that components such as the virtual keyboard are uninstallable, and some foolish user will do so without thinking about it.

Hopefully they include some of the features found in Cyanogenmod too. I'm currently using Cyanogenmod 5 on my Nexus One and it's blazing fast (compared to the original rom).

Good idea, as long as they don't add/have dependencies in their applications so you are still stuck to the newer OS releases in order to run the apps.

There's also the Acer Liquid (which I own), it's currently on 1.6 but it's getting upgraded to 2.1 by the end of April.
Maybe Google can give us a date for Froyo?

SharpGreen said,
You have the Devour on your list twice. Devour's codename is/was Calgary. And it runs 1.6.