How Google plans on addressing Android fragmentation

Android 4.4 Kit KatGet ready for another Android OS version … and less fragmentation. Wait, what?

Google – whose Android operating system is famous for openness but also for being incredibly fragmented – has officially released details about its next sweet OS version! And with this version (4.4 aka Kit Kat), Google is tackling that issue of fragmentation head on.

First, a bit of background on the Android ecosystem. Currently, 52.1% of Android users are running some version of Jelly Bean (the most recent major release). Interestingly, that number is up from just last week when it was 48.6%.

Even though Jelly Bean continues to gain users, 19.8% of users are still on Ice Cream Sandwich and a whopping 28.1% are running one of the three versions older than Jelly Bean (mostly on Gingerbread, which still accounts for 26.3% of Android users). This version fragmentation is because it’s up to individual manufactures which version they’ll offer support for, and because of the prominence of lower spec Android devices that can’t run the newer – more powerful – releases.

To address this issue, Google decided to make Kit Kat work on all devices. From TechCrunch:

That presented a technical challenge Google was keen to tackle: How to build KitKat in such a way that it can bring even those older and lower-specced devices up-to-date, to help provide a consistent experience across the entire Android user base. That mean reducing OS resources, and then also modifying Google apps to stay within those boundaries, as well as rethinking how the OS manages available memory to make the most of what is present.

None of this was enough, however, so Google went further to help third-party developers also offer their content to everyone on Android, rather than just those with the top-tier devices. A new API in KitKat allows devs to determine what amount of memory a phone is working with, and serve a different version of the app to each, making it possible for the same application to run on even the earliest Android devices.

Sundar Pichai, Android chief, said that the company expects this one version of Android OS to run across all Android phones by the end of next year. Still, it’s ultimately up to the phone manufactures to adopt the new release so we’ll see if Kit Kat catches on across the board.

In addition to being the one version to rule them all, Kit Kat comes packed with cool features and nice improvements. Read more about them on the uTest Blog.

And if you want to start testing apps running on Kit Kat right away, getting a new Nexus device will be your best shot – the Nexus 5 is the only hardware with Android 4.4 support at the moment.

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