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How Android can make Fragmentation a Non-Issue

The big F word. Not the swear, although to Android users like myself, sometime uttering the word fragmentation does seem like a swear when we look at iPhone or Windows Phone users. The reality of the Android world is that it's fragmented. Not much can stop that now. Some will argue this is a good thing (I'm still trying to understand that opinion) and most say it's a bad thing, the reality is, it's going to be a problem as long as manufactures like Samsung or HTC continue to give their customers the shaft.

Some may wonder what I mean, considering HTC doesn't seem to have the same software update problems that Samsung or Motorola seem to have. This post isn't to point fingers and call companies out, it's meant to show how the major Android players can make the fragmentation issue a thing of the past with their phones. It takes one simple strategy. Respect your customers after they buy your product. Here's what I mean by that.

I hate to do it, but look at Apple. Right now they sell three different iPhone models. The iPhone 3GS, the iPhone 4, and the iPhone 4S. What version of software do they all run? iOS 5.1. The same software on 3 different phones. Looks the same, works the same, and functions the same. With the exception of Siri, the software running on all the phones is identical. Now I'll use HTC with Sprint as an example. They sold the HTC EVO 4G, the HTC 3D and the HTC EVO 4G LTE is about to launch. What versions of Android are they running? Android 2.3 with Sense 1.0, Android 2.3 with Sense 3.0 and Android 4.0 with Sense 4.0. That doesn't make any sense.The EVO 4G and the EVO 3D are running the exact same version of Android, but the user experience is totally different because it's running a different version of HTC's custom Android skin Sense.

So how do Android manufacturers fix this problem? It's really simple actually. Make the software the same across their flagship lines and then keep it the same from year to year. Then, when each OEM holds their big press conference and shows off their new flagship device and release the same software update for last year's phone. By doing this, the OEMs actually give themselves more power in the long run. They create their own product news cycles, they become a more consumer friendly entity and they make Google's update timeline only matter for the Nexus line, not their own.

So far none of the OEMs seems to realize that if they exercise more control over their product, no matter how much they skin, Sense, or Touchwiz it up, people won't care because they will know that a proper update schedule exists for their device. So far the only one who gets this is Amazon and Barnes and Noble with their Android based e-reader products. They control when those products get updated, they control the total customization of the software and they get to control if the updates Google is making to Android as a whole even matter to their product line.

The big question remains, would the OEMs be able to strong-arm the carriers, especially in the US, into allowing this kind of setup? My initial guess is no. But if it only applies to the flagship line of phones and not the Samsung Conquer 4G's of the world, my guess is that the carriers and OEMs can come to some sort of arrangement. Then again I tend to be more optimistic about these things than most.

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