Android Fragmentation (August 2015)

Fragmentation is both a strength and weakness of the Android ecosystem, a headache for developers that also provides the basis for Android’s global reach. Android devices come in all shapes and sizes, with vastly different performance levels and screen sizes. Furthermore, there are many different versions of Android that are concurrently active at any one time, adding another level of fragmentation. What this means is that developing apps that work across the whole range of Android devices can be extremely challenging and time-consuming.

This year we see a continuation of the trends seen in previous reports; more devices and more differentiation between the devices out there. One big thing we've noticed this year is the increased fragmentation of brands, with over 1000 brands seen this year that we did not see in 2012 when we first published this report. Samsung, still the market leader, have seen their share of the global Android device market fall from 43% to 37.8% (although the market itself continues to grow). The great strength of the Android ecosystem from a consumer perspective has always been the ability to pick a device that is perfectly tailored to your specifications, as there are so many devices to pick from. This trend has only continued, with more Android devices and brands seen this year than ever before.

Device Fragmentation

We have seen 24,093 distinct devices download our app in the past few months. In our report last year we saw 18,796. In 2013 we saw 11,868.

This is the best way of visualizing the sheer variety of Android devices that have downloaded the OpenSignal app over the past couple of months. This graph shows the challenge that faces Android developers; over 24,000 distinct devices can immediately use their app, making optimization a real challenge. In two years Android Fragmentation has more than doubled from the 11,868 we saw back in 2013.

Brand Fragmentation

Samsung have a 37.8% share of the Android market.

Similar to the first graph, this shows the market divided in terms of manufacturer, with Samsung once again proving dominant. In 2012 we saw Samsung having a 47.5% market share, and this difference can be explained by the rise in competing OEMs, with the above graphic showing 1,294 distinct brands.

Android Operating System Fragmentation

The Android operating system remains highly fragmented.

Device fragmentation is not the only challenge that developers face when building for Android; the operating system itself is extremely fragmented. We have, however, seen a slight reduction in fragmentation over the past year, with the market share of the dominant API version (in this case KitKat) having risen over the past 12 months.

Comparison with iOS

Android fragmentation of all kinds is usually illustrated in comparison with iOS. These two pie charts clearly show the difference in API fragmentation between the two competing operating systems.

Screen Size Fragmentation

Key to the success of any app is getting the UI right and Android presents two particular challenges to developers in this regard. Firstly, brands have a tendency to produce their own variants on the system UI (Samsung’s Touchwhizz and the HTC Sense being two such examples) which can change the look of various default elements. Secondly, no other smartphone/tablet platform boasts such a proliferation of different screen sizes. One big change to the graphic this year is the inclusion of the enormous Slate 21 - which absolutely dwarfs all other Android devices we have seen this year (and all iOS devices also).

To see how average screen size (as well as CPU, RAM and NFC Prevalence) has changed over the past few years see the accompanying blog post to this report.

Designing and coding layouts that work well across all these screens is hugely challenging for any developer. The iOS ecosystem shown in the graphic below makes for a good comparison with Android, as it is much easier to design for the considerably smaller number of dimensions.

Brand Proliferation

This graphic shows the huge expansion in the number of device brands in the last few years, with 1,294 distinct brands responsible for the 682,000 devices we surveyed for this report. The number of brands seen in our sample has almost sextupled since 2012.

Sensor Prevalence

One of the trends we noted last year was the rise of sensors in mobile devices, something which has enabled the development of the mobile sensor network - which includes our own meteorological sensor network WeatherSignal (download the app for Android and iOS and get involved!). The decline of the humidity sensor can be explained by its inclusion in the Galaxy S4, but not in the S5. Interestingly the prevalence of barometers in mobile phones has not dramatically changed over the past few years, remaining almost constant.

Android Market Leaders by Country

This map shows the leading manufacturer for each country where we have significant data and is based on all devices that have downloaded the OpenSignal app in 2015. As is to be expected, Samsung are the dominant manufacturer in many countries around the world, with notable exceptions in Mexico, India and China.

Notes on Methodology

The Device Fragmentation Graphic shows the 24,076 distinct device types that were present in the last 682,000 unique devices to download our app. The reason we chose 682,000 is because we wanted to make a fair comparison with the fragmentation reports from 2014, 2013 and 2012, which were also based on a sample of 682,000 devices.

The Brand Fragmentation Graphic is based on the same 682,000 devices as the device fragmentation graphic.

The API Level Fragmentation Graphic is based on data made publicly available by Google.

iOS API pie chart is based on data made publicly available by Apple.

The Android Screen Size Graphic is based on information from almost 10 million OpenSignal users. In this graphic we are showing physical screen size, not size in pixels. Changes in resolution at the same screen size (for example as between the iPad 3 and iPad 2) present fewer difficulties for developers than changes in physical size. We derive the screen size by dividing the number of pixels of height and width by the pixel density (points per inch - ppi). Ideally we would use separate values for X-density and Y-density as screens are sometimes manufactured with different ppi in different directions, however Android only gives access to one variable. Also worth noting: with rooted devices users are able to “alter” the pixel density - in reality the physical characteristics of the screen stay the same, but the Android OS thinks it’s running on a larger device.

The Brand Proliferation Graph includes only brands that contribute at least 5 devices to the sample of 682,000 (in order to weed out innaccurate data - some devices incorrectly report their manufacturer)

The Market Leaders Map is based on all data from the 3.1 Million devices that have downloaded the OpenSignal app in 2015.

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