Common concerns about android surround the issue of platform fragmentation — different vendors and devices each supporting their own, incompatible subset of the Android platform. In comparison, the iPhone seems a straightforward platform with consistent (closed) features. Recent news from Google, however, promises to help bring the android platform back together.
According to Engadget, Google will be concentrating on making more of the system components easily updated. Most importantly, the really useful features — the mid level APIs which control input, screen, interaction, etc — will also be easily updated, which means that there should be far fewer users lagging one or more generations behind:
Notice that we said apps and components, meaning that some core elements of Android — input methods, for instance — should get this treatment. This way, just because Google rolls out an awesome new browser doesn’t mean you need to wait for HTC, Samsung, or whomever made your phone to roll it into a firmware update, and for your carrier to approve it — almost all of the juicy user-facing stuff will happen through the Market.
Moreover, Android has finally reached a stable, useful base. Not that 1.5 and 1.6 weren’t good systems, but many features were still transient. Thus, programming to include support for some of the “new” features requires fairly complex code to check for available options. With core operating system features completed, it will be much easier to target applications to particular features without worrying exactly what version a device is running:
By the time we get to [the next version], the underlying platform — and the API that devs need to target — will be reaching legitimate maturity for the first time, which means we should have far fewer tasty treat-themed code names to worry about over the course of an average year. We like awesome new software as much as the next guy, but Google’s been moving so fast lately that they’ve created a near constant culture of obsolescence anxiety among the hardcore user base — and in turn, that leads to paralysis at the sales counter.
What this means from the standpoint of software development is that much less time will be spent developing basic application features, and more time can be spent working on features and content. As our clients know, some of our infrastructure has undergone 3 revisions in the past year, to keep up with the change from Android 1.1 to 1.5/1.6 to 2.0/2.1. As the Android platform settles down, more stable infrastructure will build up around it, allowing for much simple application deployment. Best of all, several manufacturers (including htc, Samsung and Motorola) have committed to getting the majority of devices onto the 2.0+ versions of Android.
But what about iPhone? In contrast to Android isn’t the iPhone platform positively simple? Not really. With the various iPhone (3(G(S))) and iTouch, and now several variants of the iPad coming out, there are over a dozen different devices to target. Furthermore, Apple is working on yet Another version of the iPhone, which will provide another set of mostly compatible, but still need some work features to worry about. And finally, Apple prefers Burkas to Bras, thus preventing any meaningful adult apps on the iThings.