A perfect picture of Android fragmentation

A common discussion among app developers involves the pros and cons of developing for both iOS and Android. Among the biggest hurdles in developing for Android is device fragmentation. This is both a software problem (which version of Android is in place) and a hardware problem.

Yesterday, John Gruber linked to a brilliant post showing 7 different Android devices, each running a compass app. The post was also linked in Benedict Evans’ excellent post on Android fragmentation and the cloud.

To sum it up, the compass results were literally all over the place, not something you’d want to see in a compass, especially if you are lost. Gruber ran a similar test using iOS devices. Click here to see his unsurprising results. Steady as a rock, in perfect sync.

This is not about favoritism. This is about the downside of uncontrolled fragmentation.



  • John V.

    “To sum it up, the compass results were literally all over the place, not something you’d want to see in a compass, especially if you are lost.”

    Oh yeah, especially if I get lost, I’ll just open the Compass app and walk North.

    I won’t use Maps or anything.

    • Anthony Visceglia

      Except Maps will not work without a data connection. So you better hope you get lost only in the colored areas on carrier coverage maps.

    • John V.

      Now when I think about it, I better use the iOS Compass than the iOS Maps, actually.

      • Jim

        You should probably just stop thinking.

  • GadgetGav

    Kind of an ironic choice of demo… Has everyone already forgotten the bug in iOS7 that screwed up the compass and bubble level apps on hardware that had been working just fine in iOS6..?

    • http://www.laugh-eat.com/ kyron

      how drastic was the off-ness of the iOS level? i recall it being minor.

      the difference in the screenshots of the android sensors was dramatic — especially the narrative which states of the vendors were faking using other sensors.

      thats fragmentation…would love to hear this site’s biggest poster boy for fandroidism defend why it isnt.

  • Stephen Swift

    “Steady as a rock, in perfect sync.”

    Um, no. The readings ranged between 272 degrees and 298. That’s a 26 degree spread.

    • EVula

      The devices weren’t all physically aligned, so them showing slightly different readings isn’t a problem.

      That said, the two smaller left devices show the same 282° reading, but aren’t aligned. There is a little bit of variance there (and there are a couple of possible reasons for that)… but it’s nowhere near as bad as jumping from 47° to 178° to 358°. Two devices that are next to each other should not read as 178° and 58°.

  • Moeskido

    I like how the developer got attacked for wanting to make sure the consumer experience was as good as possible.

  • buzbuz

    Notice the difference in spacing between the devices in Gruber’s example, vs. the spacing between devices in the Android example.