The end of Android fragmentation? Gmail now available in Market

New Gmail for Android

The longest running complaint about Google's Android OS is fragmentation. With an accelerated development roadmap, carriers are finding it harder and harder to keep up with offering the latest version of Android on their devices. Usually, smartphone users have to wait a few months after Google releases the latest version of Android before their phone's manufacturer can get the update ready for their devices.

It has been long discussed that with Froyo (2.2) and the upcoming Gingerbread (3.0), fragmentation issues would begin to dwindle. Google planned to accomplish this by un-tieing Google apps from OS updates and instead, offering these apps directly on the market. Now, according to the Google Mobile Blog, Google's new strategy has begun.

Available in the Market for all Android devices running 2.2, is the new Gmail app. No longer will users have to wait for a full OS update to take advantage of the new features that Google wants to add to their own apps. With these apps readily available in the Market, Google can now update them on a much more frequent basis, independently of system updates. No doubt users will be happy with this change.

The new version of Gmail that was just released adds a few new features for Android users to take advantage of. Here's what you'll notice:

  • Improved message replies
  • Access to quoted text
  • Limited support for Priority Inbox ("Important" label)

To give the new Gmail for Android a go, scan the QR code below with the barcode scanning app of your choice.

Gmail for Android - QR Code

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Wake me up when they put the Launcher on the market.

This is no different than being able to update Outlook Express to Live Mail and IE6 to IE8 in Windows XP. It doesn't matter how many components you let us update, it doesn't change the fact that we're staring at the same old desktop every time we turn on our phone. Hardware capabilities aside, if they don't start grasping the importance of updating the functionality of the home screen, if they fall into this "it's the apps, stupid!" mentality, then there really WILL be nothing to differentiate the phones, and there really WON'T be anything vendors can do to make themselves stand out, because the entire OS will ultimately just steer the user to the Market.

The default Launcher has barely evolved since Cupcake, and the status bar hasn't added any new functionality whatsoever. Are there any enthusiasts out there who DON'T almost immediately install LauncherPro or ADW?

Fragmentation will not end until providers and manufacturers all distribute the same version. It's a pain for developers to make their apps compatible with the different versions of the OS and the different skins these providers have. Separating things like the Gmail from the core system doesn't end fragmentation.

Klethron said,
Fragmentation will not end until providers and manufacturers all distribute the same version. It's a pain for developers to make their apps compatible with the different versions of the OS and the different skins these providers have. Separating things like the Gmail from the core system doesn't end fragmentation.

And this is where WP7 steps in

thommcg said,
Motoblur & Sense I mean.

I don't know, I find Sense to be excellent and I consistently find myself returning to it each time I try to go CM6 only.

Owen Williams said,
I don't know how this is the "end of fragmentation" - in fact.... It's nowhere close to it at all.
It's part of the process by which Google plans to limit the effects of fragmentation. If you can continue updating your core apps past the time that your carrier will give you OS updates, then I'd say that's pretty good.

Benjamin Rubenstein said,
It's part of the process by which Google plans to limit the effects of fragmentation. If you can continue updating your core apps past the time that your carrier will give you OS updates, then I'd say that's pretty good.
However, it falls flat on it's face when carriers/OEMs can't be bothered updated the OS though. If your running 2.2 already then this is rather handy, anyone (like myself and many others) still stuck on 2.1 still have to wait for the 2.2 update before we can take advantage of that. Ironically it's the fragmentation that it's trying to end that is causing it to fail.

Benjamin Rubenstein said,
It's part of the process by which Google plans to limit the effects of fragmentation. If you can continue updating your core apps past the time that your carrier will give you OS updates, then I'd say that's pretty good.

I hear what you're saying, and its progress but nowhere near enough. This doesn't change that the carriers are screwing everyone. Google needs to start pushing the updates themselves before Android becomes the next Windows Mobile. Google needs to restrict third party UI's from stopping updates (perhaps just pushing them first) and stop OEM's from hindering the process.

In reality, just because Google did this, doesn't mean that my HTC Legend (A 2010 device, I'll add) will get the official Froyo drop.

Google...it is very simple...just give the Google apps only to carriers who agree to support the device for 2 years or more.
Fragmentation is the most important reason why i will go to WP7...

bluefisch200 said,
Google...it is very simple...just give the Google apps only to carriers who agree to support the device for 2 years or more.
Fragmentation is the most important reason why i will go to WP7...

WP7 will have the same issue: people expect an OS in their computer to be stable and functional, and then concern themselves with how much flash they want to add.

In the mobile OS market, same expectation of stable and functional, but people buy new phones for the new flashy features - the manufacturers will demand WP7 update itself quickly so that they can sell the next "new" phone. Yeah they will try to develop themselves on the WP7 platform but they will rely on MSFT to update the core functionality.

rick_to said,

WP7 will have the same issue: people expect an OS in their computer to be stable and functional, and then concern themselves with how much flash they want to add.

In the mobile OS market, same expectation of stable and functional, but people buy new phones for the new flashy features - the manufacturers will demand WP7 update itself quickly so that they can sell the next "new" phone. Yeah they will try to develop themselves on the WP7 platform but they will rely on MSFT to update the core functionality.


WP7 will stay functional, you don't have any idea what you're talking about.

day2die said,
It doesn't matter what OEMs do because the updates are directly from Microsoft.
Indeed, as Microsoft, surprisingly, saw the issues occurring with Android... If you let the manufacturer release updates if they want, and when they want, you get upset people.

neufuse said,
why can't we just have a firmware update like Apple? I mean comon, stop letting the carriers tell you what to do

I don't Google has all the resources to issue all the updates itself, Apple can manage it because it only has a few variations of a similar phone. Just look at BlackBerry OS, phones being sold today like the 8520 and still coming with OS4, this fragmentation is not exclusive to Android.

neufuse said,
why can't we just have a firmware update like Apple? I mean comon, stop letting the carriers tell you what to do

If people stopped buying those bastarded phones then Google would be responsible for all the updates (or the manufacturer directly at least)! I'm glad i got a Nexus, can't stand those stupid carriers! I might buy a Desire HD or something down the line as long as i can get some CyanogenMod on it!

thealexweb said,

I don't Google has all the resources to issue all the updates itself, Apple can manage it because it only has a few variations of a similar phone. Just look at BlackBerry OS, phones being sold today like the 8520 and still coming with OS4, this fragmentation is not exclusive to Android.

Microsoft's doing updates the Apple way - Google could if they wanted.

neufuse said,
why can't we just have a firmware update like Apple? I mean comon, stop letting the carriers tell you what to do

If it is a firmware upgrade, manufacturers would have an even harder time differentiating their products. Lord knows we don't need even less variety when it comes to this market.

andrew_f said,

Microsoft's doing updates the Apple way - Google could if they wanted.

Microsoft is doing it on a much smaller scale for the foreseeable future, Android is mainstream.

rick_to said,

If it is a firmware upgrade, manufacturers would have an even harder time differentiating their products. Lord knows we don't need even less variety when it comes to this market.

It's already been established that carriers can have their own specialized branches of the Market. Why not vendors? Let each phone run standardized code, with access to a vendor-specific library of free software and widgets.

This is so duh and obvious that my brain actually had to get dumber to come up with it.

thealexweb said,

Microsoft is doing it on a much smaller scale for the foreseeable future, Android is mainstream.

Right, keep saying that to yourself... Microsoft does pretty gosh darn well with updating Windows which is run on hundreds of thousands of different hardware configurations, I don't think it will be much different than a phone.

Froyo didn't just add improvements, it also screwed up he-aac v2 support so now my music collection in my phone is useless, sound quality on 2.1 was very nice but since 2.2 can't decode parametric stereo correctly it sounds like ****...

How does this stop Android fragmentation? My HTC Legend still doesn't run Froyo... So while I can get a handful of updated apps (which is nice don't get me wrong) I still have none of the system-wide improvements Froyo brought to the table...

.Neo said,
How does this stop Android fragmentation? My HTC Legend still doesn't run Froyo... So while I can get a handful of updated apps (which is nice don't get me wrong) I still have none of the system-wide improvements Froyo brought to the table...
It doesn't solve it. It's just Google's way of alleviating it as best they can. Perhaps they plan to branch of certain system functions into apps as well... Not sure what they have up their sleeves.

.Neo said,
How does this stop Android fragmentation? My HTC Legend still doesn't run Froyo... So while I can get a handful of updated apps (which is nice don't get me wrong) I still have none of the system-wide improvements Froyo brought to the table...

It doesn't, but at least Google are doing what they can - as discussed yesterday, the biggest problem is the hardware manufacturers.

Benjamin Rubenstein said,
It doesn't solve it.

Yet the title reads "The end of Android fragmentation?". Answer is still "No". Forcing an open door really.

Can't stand the whole lack of updates and fragmentation crap. Last time I'll buy an Android phone unless this becomes a thing of the past.

This is kinda good but then it kinda sucks as these updates will go to the "/data/apps" instead of overwritting /system/apps. Therefore you'll have less space for actual apps you want to install. With phones coming with 1.5GB (8GB for the one of them Droids, i think the Inc or the X) that will be less of a problem but now, most 2.2 phones only have 512MB total for system apps and storage (256/256MB split)

Quick question, does it support IMAP or similar (does the app basically just log you into gmail.com, or does it support IMAP or what)?

Nagisan said,
Quick question, does it support IMAP or similar (does the app basically just log you into gmail.com, or does it support IMAP or what)?

this is the gmail app that only works with gmail which uses microsoft exchange activesync over the air technology. if you need imap, there's a separate mail app for it built in android

leo221 said,

this is the gmail app that only works with gmail which uses microsoft exchange activesync over the air technology. if you need imap, there's a separate mail app for it built in android
I use gmail, I am wondering if the gmail app works with imap or if it works like imap, because I currently use k-9 mail to handle my email because it handles gmail using imap.

Nagisan said,
Quick question, does it support IMAP or similar (does the app basically just log you into gmail.com, or does it support IMAP or what)?

It onnects to gmail over a proprietary protocol. This gives it perfect integration with Gmail and labels (which IMAP butchers into folders). Android also has an "email" app that handles all email accounts other than Gmail or Google Apps.

mrp04 said,
It onnects to gmail over a proprietary protocol. This gives it perfect integration with Gmail and labels (which IMAP butchers into folders). Android also has an "email" app that handles all email accounts other than Gmail or Google Apps.
The problem I have with the Gmail app, is no matter how well its integrated with gmail itself, it uses a POP method of receiving email, which means I have to setup polling every x minutes to check my email, I much prefer IMAPs push capabilities using k-9 mail, I get email as soon as I receive it instead of however many minutes until the next poll. My email is not that vitally important that I need to receive it instantly, but I prefer getting alerts when I get email, not 1 alert every X minutes when I get email.

Nagisan said,
The problem I have with the Gmail app, is no matter how well its integrated with gmail itself, it uses a POP method of receiving email, which means I have to setup polling every x minutes to check my email, I much prefer IMAPs push capabilities using k-9 mail, I get email as soon as I receive it instead of however many minutes until the next poll. My email is not that vitally important that I need to receive it instantly, but I prefer getting alerts when I get email, not 1 alert every X minutes when I get email.

are you sure you are using android "gmail" app, not "mail" app? gmail supports push. under the hood they use activesync licensed from microsoft. that's what enterprise uses with exchange server.

Nagisan said,
The problem I have with the Gmail app, is no matter how well its integrated with gmail itself, it uses a POP method of receiving email, which means I have to setup polling every x minutes to check my email, I much prefer IMAPs push capabilities using k-9 mail, I get email as soon as I receive it instead of however many minutes until the next poll. My email is not that vitally important that I need to receive it instantly, but I prefer getting alerts when I get email, not 1 alert every X minutes when I get email.

You're not using the Gmail app.

leo221 said,
are you sure you are using android "gmail" app, not "mail" app? gmail supports push. under the hood they use activesync licensed from microsoft. that's what enterprise uses with exchange server.
Hmmm, okay, I thought it relied on pop, requiring background data to be enabled and all......I thought there was an option to select how long between checking for mail. Oddly enough, after looking at it again, it doesn't seem to be fetching mail, the last email it shows that I received is on Sept. 8th, but k-9 has emails that are as new as today, shouldn't the gmail app show the exact same messages if it works like imap?

Nagisan said,
Hmmm, okay, I thought it relied on pop, requiring background data to be enabled and all......I thought there was an option to select how long between checking for mail. Oddly enough, after looking at it again, it doesn't seem to be fetching mail, the last email it shows that I received is on Sept. 8th, but k-9 has emails that are as new as today, shouldn't the gmail app show the exact same messages if it works like imap?

Do you have syncing turned on for mail in your account settings?

tomjol said,

Do you have syncing turned on for mail in your account settings?

If I go to gmail -> accounts -> account settings -> data delivery both Background data and Data enabled are checked. Oddly enough, using the Power Control widget that comes with my phone, it shows Data Sync is disabled...

After toggling the data sync icon on my Power Control widget, it seems to be working again.....now to test how quick it is compared to k-9 in receiving mail.

EDIT: Got the notification from K-9 (disabled in the gmail app right now) and upon going straight to the gmail app it was indeed there as well. Might switch back to the gmail app now then....only reason I used k-9 was because I thought the gmail app only synced every x minutes, thanks everyone for your input.

evo_spook said,
Fragmentation will be impossible to stop.

True, but it could be reduced significantly if phones are simply shipped with the core OS. The problem and time delays occur when phone companies want to load it up with their own bloat. If google could somehow operate alongside the phone companies to have most phones updated within say 1/2 weeks of a release then that would be much more acceptable. However I can't see this happening

evo_spook said,
Fragmentation will be impossible to stop.


They should cut out the hardware manufacturers and ship updates straight to the consumer.

Hollow.Droid said,

True, but it could be reduced significantly if phones are simply shipped with the core OS. The problem and time delays occur when phone companies want to load it up with their own bloat. If google could somehow operate alongside the phone companies to have most phones updated within say 1/2 weeks of a release then that would be much more acceptable. However I can't see this happening

It wouldn't really help because the application itself is constantly being update and require newer version of Android even if it's available in the market.

Bengal34 said,


They should cut out the hardware manufacturers and ship updates straight to the consumer.

Impossible. HTC, Motorola, Samsung, LG, etc. all ship differently modified version of Android.

Do you think Ubuntu, Fedora, openSUSE, Debian, Mandriva, etc all get the same updates simply because they are Linux?

Hollow.Droid said,
True, but it could be reduced significantly if phones are simply shipped with the core OS.
It would also largely defeat one of the main points of Android and that is to provide an open system to manufacturers (and consumers) so it can be customised. The best you can hope for is that manufacturers will allow you to disable their features but you'd still end up waiting for firmware updates from them.

I don't really think its a bad thing either. It promotes competition amongst androids hardware partners as well as innovation. Unfortunately this leads to some delays but as the Android OS becomes more stabilized and competition fiercer hopefully companies like HTC and Samsung will be forced to keep up with updates in order to maintain customer loyalty. As soon as manufacturers can't customise the OS to some degree then the market becomes dull and the only thing that will really separate them will be marketing material since half the companies are using pretty comparably specced hardware in their devices anyway.

You could go the MS route and say you can't customise the OS but you can have a HUB which seems to more or less be like an application which should be easier to maintain, but as above, thats sort of against the Android philosophy.

For what it's worth, I just ordered a HTC Desire HD and one of the big selling points for me is the inclusion of Sense. It looks like a pretty nice UI to me.

Duality said,
No 2.1 support? Bah Thats what I get for being an early adopter - heh.

Remember Google Navigation being for 2.0 only and they got released for 1.6. Hoping something similar will happen.

(Spork) said,

why you still on 2.1 ?

Some phones (like the Droid X) haven't updated to 2.1 yet, officially that is. Granted 2.2 is suppose to be pushed out tomorrow (and the way Motorola did it, you can force check for updates once it releases and get the update instead of having to wait for Motorola to push the update to you), but there are modern phones that are not on 2.2 yet.

(Spork) said,

why you still on 2.1 ?

I have a HTC Hero - only got 2.1 a couple of months ago, won't be getting 2.2. HTC can't sell the new phones if they upgrade their old ones I assume.

(Spork) said,

why you still on 2.1 ?


Galaxy S in my case, froyo's supposed to be out officially by the end of this month though.

Duality said,

I have a HTC Hero - only got 2.1 a couple of months ago, won't be getting 2.2. HTC can't sell the new phones if they upgrade their old ones I assume.


There are plenty of 2.2 ROM's out - works very good too.

(Spork) said,

why you still on 2.1 ?

Not every Android phone has 2.2, and many will never have it. Blah blah blah, hacking community this, hacking community that. If you don't have drivers, you can't run new versions.

Don't fall into this idiotically perpetuated myth that every Android handheld will always be running the latest version of Android thanks to hackers. It isn't true, and it never will be.

The Hero struggles to run Froyo. The G1 has to take all kinds of twists and turns to barely run a kind of FrankenFroyo. The Moment will never run Froyo. This is probably why the poster lamented being an "early adopter": all of last year's phones have had all official support dropped, and not all of them have driver source available.

The Android community is not the Linux community. Android is not the open you think it is.

The hacking community has managed to accomplish this so far. I'm running Android 2.2 on my MyTouch3G (v1) and so do many people using the first ever Android device, the G1. These are both very limited devices with very low resources compared to all the phones out there and if those can run Android 2.2 just fine, then most new phones should be able to run 3.0 (when it comes out). So the point of my comment is that it is currently possible to have every Android device to run Android 2.2 (even the HTC HD2 with Windows Mobile 6.5 can run Android 2.2) so please don't bash the hacking community.

I have one (non-dictionary) word for you: CyanogenMod (http://www.cyanogenmod.com). When I got my phone, I didn't know absolutely anything about Android (much less about rooting, putting custom roms, etc) and I had CyanogenMod 4 running on my phone before I had all the stickers off yet. It's not so hard and there's tons of great instructions and help to get you going and get the most out of your device.

1) http://www.cyanogenmod.com

Go here to learn about best Android distribution on Earth (and Mars as well I hear

2) http://wiki.cyanogenmod.com

Once your panties are wet, go here and READ THOROUGHLY. If you are unsure about anything (your phone's exact model, what is a radio and which one do I have, and what the hell is DangerSPL/DeathSPL... quick tip: SPL is only relevant on the G1), then go to 3) and FIRST search THEN ask.

3) http://www.xda-developers.com

THE place to get help, tips, tutorials as well as the latest and greates ROM's, apps, ways to speed up your rusty old G1/MyTouch, etc. This is not just for Android by the way. If I'm not mistaken, they were primarily a Windows Mobile oriented community until Android started taking over the world.

4) http://forums.xda-developers.com

The forums, where you either get a nice, coherent answer to your question, a link that answers your question or (rarely but happens as is the case with most forums) get called an idiot or n00b. Start off by lurking around and asking questions; most members are very helpful and most will guide you to the right place to get the information you're looking for. Just do everyone a favor and register, put your phone model and everything you know about it in your signature and most importanly use the dreaded Search button before asking questions (as most are already answered multiple times).

Joshie said,

Not every Android phone has 2.2, and many will never have it. Blah blah blah, hacking community this, hacking community that. If you don't have drivers, you can't run new versions.

Don't fall into this idiotically perpetuated myth that every Android handheld will always be running the latest version of Android thanks to hackers. It isn't true, and it never will be.

The Hero struggles to run Froyo. The G1 has to take all kinds of twists and turns to barely run a kind of FrankenFroyo. The Moment will never run Froyo. This is probably why the poster lamented being an "early adopter": all of last year's phones have had all official support dropped, and not all of them have driver source available.

The Android community is not the Linux community. Android is not the open you think it is.

I thank you for your very detailed, common knowledge essay about the glory that is Cyanogenmod. I feel I should tell you I own the Samsung Moment.

...

Yeah, that silence you hear is the absolutely nothing you can think of to say at this point. That's because Cyanogenmod doesn't work on every Android device (oh horrors!), the Moment being one. Nobody understands the absurd possibilities the Android platform presents better than an M900 user. Samsung is a major player in the handheld market, and the Galaxy S series will make it far more mainstream than HTC (not sure about Moto). This is a company that is extremely possessive of its intellectual property, and is not eager to share its driver sourcecode.

The Samsung Moment will never run Froyo, and most of the Moment hacking community has moved on to the Epic 4G or the EVO. Despite the newest Samsung devices being plastered all over XDA, the Moment gets zero love from your heroic hacking community of legend. Sure, the Moment is more powerful than the Hero, and has already been overclocked above 1GHz. Doesn't change the fact that Eclair is the most it will ever see.

Ever.

And any--ANY--current or future Android device could possibly see a similar fate, especially as the market floods and XDA/PPCgeeks resources thin out. Masturbate all you want to your superior open community. It will lose to proprietary platforms, just like every single consumer market in the history of technology.

Duality said,

I have a HTC Hero - only got 2.1 a couple of months ago, won't be getting 2.2. HTC can't sell the new phones if they upgrade their old ones I assume.

Froyo is very much out for both the GSM and CDMA Hero. This updated Gmail app works perfectly fine on it.

Joshie said,
I thank you for your very detailed, common knowledge essay about the glory that is Cyanogenmod. I feel I should tell you I own the Samsung Moment.

I hate to be so rude about this, but you're just going to have to deal with it. If you were interested in further phone life support, you would have gone with HTC as they have such an active development community and have had such since the days of Windows Mobile 5 and the HTC Apache.

Joshie said,
The Hero struggles to run Froyo.

Yeah, thhis makes it quite clear to me that you're either just a sore Moment user or you've simply never seen Froyo running on the Hero, because I happen to own a Hero that runs CM6, and let me tell you, it's ridiculously fast and smooth.

And no, as annoyed with your purchase as I'm sure you are, Android is still very much open-source. Hardware manufacturers restricting drivers has absolutely NOTHING to do with Android being open sourced or not. I could put Android on my bloody wrist-watch if I wanted to, so long as I had the drivers. But if my wristwatch manufacturer doesn't release the drivers for the watch, does that mean Android is to blame? Ridiculous example, I know, but it's just a response in kind.

LiquidSolstice said,

Yeah, thhis makes it quite clear to me that you're either just a sore Moment user or you've simply never seen Froyo running on the Hero, because I happen to own a Hero that runs CM6, and let me tell you, it's ridiculously fast and smooth.

And no, as annoyed with your purchase as I'm sure you are, Android is still very much open-source. Hardware manufacturers restricting drivers has absolutely NOTHING to do with Android being open sourced or not. I could put Android on my bloody wrist-watch if I wanted to, so long as I had the drivers. But if my wristwatch manufacturer doesn't release the drivers for the watch, does that mean Android is to blame? Ridiculous example, I know, but it's just a response in kind.

Who said my issue was Android's own code? Everyone knows Android itself is open. But like you just said, you need drivers to make it work on hardware. The whole point of my post (if you actually read it) was that any device is at risk of becoming obsolete and impossible to upgrade if the vendor doesn't open up their drivers, and Samsung is one of those vendors.

Samsung is MUCH larger than HTC, and tech enthusiasts who care about rooting phones are NOT, in any way/shape/form, an even remotely significant sector of the smartphone userbase (sorry). Samsung is a far more recognizable name, globally, with their fingers in far more markets than HTC. If Samsung takes Android seriously, they WILL become the dominant OEM for the OS. If you seriously believe that HTC will outpace Samsung in marketshare, you are, and I hate to be so rude about this, delusional.

My post said that vendors can close up their drivers, and you agreed that drivers are the only limiting factor in putting Android on a device. So why, OH WHY, do you disagree with my conclusion that IT DOESN'T MATTER how open Android is, and NOT every device can be supported forever by a hacking community?

I swear, you seem to be disagreeing with an imaginary version of my post that your eyes saw but I never wrote.

Until the improvements require new API features enabled in the latest OS update.

This method allows for a faster turnaround on bug fixes and improvements, but I don't really see how it does that much for the actual fragmentation.

Elliott said,
Until the improvements require new API features enabled in the latest OS update.

This method allows for a faster turnaround on bug fixes and improvements, but I don't really see how it does that much for the actual fragmentation.

Google have stated that Android is largely complete in system terms, they will be focusing on usability in the coming future.

Subject Delta said,
Google have stated that Android is largely complete in system terms, they will be focusing on usability in the coming future.
That sounds like a pretty short-sighted stance to me. There's always room for improvement, especially when it comes to developer APIs. Fragmentation is more of a technical problem for the developer, but in the end it adversely affects the user (since they can't use the new software with the cool new features).