Making fragmentation work for you | Mobile Devices | Mobile Entertainment

Making fragmentation work for you

Making fragmentation work for you
Daniel Gumble

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Devices / Android / November 14th 2012 at 11:30AM

While device fragmentation is something of a divisive topic among developers, the Intel Developer Blog sees it as an opportunity to be taken advantage of.

Today sees Mobile Entertainment host the first of a series of blog posts sponsored by Intel. Over the coming weeks, the Intel Developer Blog will examine the key issues affecting the industry, starting with the issue of device fragmentation...

One of the topics that came up for discussion at Droidcon the other week was device fragmentation. It always seems to divide developers. There are some that complain that it’s a real challenge having to develop for so many different form factors and Android versions, and that this is the worst thing about being an Android developer. And then there are others who just sigh, roll up their sleeves and get on with it. Device fragmentation is a fact of life, they say, and you might as well rage at the storm as complain about something so intrinsic to the platform; something that is never going to change, no matter how much you gripe about it.

Whatever your view - and it might even change day by day depending on how stressed you are - the fragmentation of Android is one reason it’s become so popular. Android works because it has so many companies innovating on its base, not despite that fact. It offers real choice in the marketplace; users can pick from a wide range of device types and sizes, physical designs and Android implementations. While there are some clear market leaders, much of the market is made up of less popular devices, which together amount to a huge user base developers can tap into.

There’s another view of fragmentation that smart developers can take - it’s an opportunity. It erects natural barriers in the market by making some apps incompatible with some devices. It’s always possible to work around any incompatibilities, but the opportunity comes when some app developers do so and others do not. Those that do can secure a strong competitive advantage, especially when it comes to emerging devices.

One of the big opportunities now is the arrival of Intel Architecture-based Android devices, such as the Orange San Diego and the Motorola RAZR i handsets. Most existing Android apps will work on Intel Architecture devices without modification, but there’s a small proportion of apps - generally those that really push the hardware - that do require some updates to the coding to ensure they work across different hardware platforms.

Here’s the question, though: do you know whether your app works on Intel Architecture, and do you tell your customers about it if so?  If your app works without modification, there’s a quick win to be had by just marketing the fact that it works, so that when users of Intel-based devices come across your app they can download it with confidence. This can be hugely important: users typically have a huge choice of similar apps they can download, and if your app store description reassures them your app has been tested for their architecture, they’re more likely to try it first.

A quick way to check whether your app works is to use an emulator. Intel has published emulator system images that enable you to test your Android apps on a virtual Intel-Architecture-based device, under the Jelly Bean, Ice Cream Sandwich and Gingerbread versions of Android. (Download Intel’s Android emulators here; you need to click on the Tools and Downloads tab.) Deeper testing with a real device is always recommended, but the emulator can give you a quick answer as to whether you’re likely to need to do further development work, or whether you might be able to unlock a whole new market just by promoting your existing compatibility.

What do you think? Have you tried marketing for particular devices? What results have you seen?

•    This blog post is written by Softtalkblog, and is sponsored by the Intel Developer Zone, which helps you to develop, market and sell software and apps for prominent platforms and emerging technologies powered by Intel Architecture.

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