One of the biggest problems facing the open-source Android world has been fragmentation. Apple’s iOS has the distinct advantage (or disadvantage, depending on how you look at it) of being one piece of software on one piece of hardware. Android developers have to deal with multiple versions of the OS on an increasingly innumerable number of handsets, and in increasingly different form factors. Fragmentation is seen by many as the ultimate cause for the eventual demise of OSs like Android, but Google has released a feature that is trying to combat the issue of fragmentation head-on.
According to Cnet, Google released a Fragment API in February that enabled better cross-compatibility with different versions of Android and different form factors. However, that API was geared towards application developed in Honeycomb (3.0). Now, Google is implementing a static library that uses the same Fragments API to allow developers on older versions of Android to create tablet-ready applications. While this doesn’t solve the fragmentation problem outright, it’s one step in the right direction.
Google’s fragmentation problems are a direct result of carriers delaying or blocking Google updates to their proprietary versions of Android. The open source OS is modified at virtually every carrier/manufacturer, so they become the gatekeepers of the update path. Google has already released Honeycomb to the masses, but only the Motorola Xoom have taken advantage of it, while Gingerbread (2.3) has only been officially shipped on the Nexus S. While everyone plays catch-up, developers are stuck between a rock and a hard place trying to develop for as many different platform as possible. According to many, this leads to lower quality applications, and will always lag behind tighter platforms like iOS.