Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Let’s Talk About Fragmentation

I came across this article by way of Jim Dalrymple. I don’t mean to single out Michael Mulvey, but this kind of post gets under my nose; chiefly, I suspect, because of these two diagrams (via iDownloadBlog):

The different display resolutions of iOS on the left, and Android on the right.

Using this to illustrate fragmentation is pretty silly, given that we’ve been building websites which work at virtually any display resolution from really tiny to really huge. Granted, there are different requirements for the design of UIs for mobile apps, but a good designer is able to define how things should look at varying display resolutions. There are tools for this built into both Android and iOS. It’s more difficult, granted, but I think this is among the smallest of issues for designing on Android. As Mulvey himself points out:

The iconography lacks sophistication, the typography is derivative and there’s an overall lack of cohesion to the experience of the operating system. Android clearly feels like a system built and designed by engineers, not designers.

Then there is genuine fragmentation on Android, by way of the wide variety of versions in active use. According to Google’s stats, there are seven different API versions in widespread use — eight, if you count Honeycomb’s 0.1% share. A full 24% of users accessing the Play Store as of December 2013 were using Gingerbread, a version of the OS which is three years old. That’s the real fragmentation issue: developers must build for ancient versions of the OS. iOS developers have the luxury of developing for the most recent version without having to worry about older versions of the OS..