The F-word (the other one) doesn’t scare all Android developers

April 3, 2012
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android fragmentation boogie monster

Android fragmentation is a huge problem. Or at least, that’s what we all think after listening to technology experts, web developers, game developers, and simple technology geeks, all talking about fragmentation as if were a nuclear war or a shattering earthquake.

Pretty much every discussion and debate regarding Android’s strong and weak points right now starts with what most people think is the operating system’s first downside, fragmentation. But is fragmentation such a dramatic issue in reality, at least from the app developers’ point of view? Isn’t Android’s own F-word just a nuisance that gets blown to enormous proportions due to exaggerations and opinions based on second-hand experience or no experience at all?

Todd Hooper, a well-known and recognized developer and entrepreneur, posted a very interesting article on TheNextWeb yesterday, surprisingly stating that Android fragmentation is not a very dramatic issue. Zipline Games’ CEO told TNW’s readers the story behind the making and developing of Wolf Toss, a very popular mobile game, currently doing very well, both on Apple’s Appstore  and on Google’s Play Store.

Why fragmentation is not such a huge problem for developers

Todd Hooper starts his “confessions” by admitting that he was, at first, terrified about offering Android support, due to all the horror stories he heard about fragmentation. The scenario seemed to be confirmed by reality immediately after Wolf Toss’ Android release, when many users complained about bugs and resolution issues.

However, what initially looked like a problem caused by Android’s very diverse, complex, and “fragmented” world, turned out to be an issue simply caused by… insufficient QA (quality assurance) testing.

There were indeed a bunch of device-specific bugs, but the vast majority of issues were, in fact, caused by “classic software engineering” flaws. After fixing bugs that really had nothing to do with the fragmentation of Android or the diversity of Android devices, the guys at Zipline Games reached the conclusion that they simply didn’t pay enough attention to these gadgets.

Just to pause Todd Hooper’s confession for a moment, and to shortly give my two cents on the issue, I think that this is, in fact, one of the issues that most mobile development companies encounter right now. The Android world is clearly very vast and extremely diverse, but you don’t need to test each device separately in order to make a game run on it smoothly. What you have to do, though, is target a specific set of devices, each of these being similar or identical in most terms with a bunch of other gadgets. More specifically, you don’t have to test an app on two, three, or ten smartphones that run stock Gingerbread and sport the same exact screen, you only have to test it (and thoroughly, if I might add) on one of them.

That being said, I would like to end this article with a quote from Todd Hooper’s post, which, I feel, perfectly summarizes the “issue”: “The idea that Android fragmentation is an insurmountable issue for developers is overblown (…) A little extra complexity for Android is worth your time as a developer.” Or, in other words, Android is tougher than iOS in terms of offering support for apps, but in the long-haul, it pays off to take some time for more thorough testing.

What do you guys think, is Todd Hooper right and has fragmentation been simply blown out of proportions lately? Hit us with a comment below and tell us your opinion!

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