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.