On one hand, fragmentation gives app developers a wide audience to build for — far wider than Apple’s iOS. On the other, trying to develop an app that will run on the entire range of Android devices is a nightmare.
How fragmented has Android become? From OpenSignal’s findings:
18,796 distinct Android configurations seen in 2014
11,868 seen in 2013
3,997 seen in 2012
Things are simpler for iOS developers. The same survey found 91% of Apple devices running iOS 7, the current operating system version, and 99% running either iOS 7 or iOS 6. Moreover, iOS devices come in only four sizes. (See graphics below.)
Despite the challenges posed by fragmentation, OpenSignal argues that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.
“Android is now the dominant mobile operating system,” the report concludes, “and this is because of fragmentation, not in spite of it.”