Fragmentation Will Kill Android

We’ve covered the HTC Hero Android 2.1 story extensively in the last month. Finally, Sprint made the information public and started rolling out Android 2.1 update for its outdated handsets. Consumers were annoyed. Sprint and HTC were silent. The blame shifted between the carrier and the manufacturer, while Google suffered tremendously as the fatal flaw – fragmentation – behind Android became even more evident.

Everyone in the mobile industry knows Android’s striking flaw with fragmentation. It’s the cornerstone of what may eventually cause the downfall of the rapidly growing open mobile OS. Gone are the days of addressing the problem. The search giant needs to own up to the issue and fix it. Now!

Google is great at releasing major updates on its own. They are fast and meaningful; however, the company then leaves the roll out process to carriers and manufacturers as they work together to gradually roll out updates. The result? A tedious process that leaves everyone frustrated with a bitter taste for Android. How long can users patiently wait on third-party companies that have nothing to do with Android to get an update? Not to mention, by the time the roll outs finish, Google is usually on the verge of introducing a new version. We may have Android 2.2 Froyo debuting later today at the Google I/O event, but Sprint isn’t done finishing the Android 2.1 update. Naturally, Sprint isn’t the only one. Others are held accountable for the same offense as well.

At that point, what’s the point of even releasing the Android 2.1 update? And if it took that long to get to Android 2.1, imagine how long it will take for manufacturers and carriers to roll out Android 2.2 Froyo? It’s preposterous and unnecessary. Google doesn’t need to give this control to others. As long as the hardware can support the new update, Google should issue it on its own with disregard to custom interfaces. Or make custom interfaces work on the day of the launch and announce a massive update push. That’s the way to solve the problem and avoid frustrating users in massé on Android.

Let’s get on it, Google. Android’s success is at stake. You don’t want openness to be synonymous with lack of coordination. That’s not how open projects succeed.

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