87% of developers dislike Android fragmentation

A new survey shows just how much of an issue ‘fragmentation’ is for the Android platform.

In some respects, Google’s mobile operating system is too big for its own good. Because of the dozens of Android handsets on the market today, there is a lack of uniformity over hardware specifications, software functionality, technical specs, and overall performance.

This leads to a whole lot of confusion not only for developers but for end users as well. Users with a low-end, Android 2.1-powered phone are able to search through the exact same Android Market as someone with a dual-core, dual-camera smartphone with Android 2.3.

If a developer creates an app that needs to use a front-facing camera, that app won’t be weeded out for users who don’t have a front-facing camera. And many times, the hardware differences aren’t that obvious. A developer may test his app on a Droid that works perfectly, only to find out later that his app causes Nexus S phones to crash.

In the new survey, conducted by Baird Research, 87% of Android developers said they were concerned with fragmentation. And 57% said it was a “meaningful” or “huge” problem.

“Generally, developers seem to prefer a unified, single store experience like Apple’s App Store,” the research firm concluded.

Netflix is one of the largest companies to say that fragmentation is the main reason it won’t develop an app for Android. The reason iPhone users can stream Netflix movies but Android users can’t is because of this lack of uniformity.

Google is looking to put a clamp on this in the future. It has previously said Android 3.0 will be a reboot for the platform. While it’s just a tablet OS for now, it will likely be coming to phones down the road, and when it does there will be much more stringent guidelines on what a manufacturer needs to do to get certified for Android.