Android has seemingly come out of nowhere and pushed Palm and RIM aside as companies continue their efforts to dethrone the iPhone as the smartphone to beat. As we’ve said many times before, the differentiating factor for smartphones, going forward, will be software and the iTunes App Store dwarfs all other mobile app stores.
With the Android train now picking up steam, the Android Marketplace is attracting more and more developers, but as developers familiarize themselves with the Android platform, the sheer number of Android devices is starting to become problematic. As opposed to the iPhone platform, where the differences between various iPhone models and the iPod Touch are slight, the variation in Android hardware is significant and problematic for developers who must now spend as much time debugging as they do coding.
A slew of problems have made managing Android apps a “nightmare,” they say, including three versions of the OS (Android 1.5, 1.6 and 2.0), custom firmware on many phones, and hardware differences between different models.
For users, it means apps in the store could be buggy, might not work well depending on their handsets, and could deliver a frustrating experience. Unaware of the increasing back-end complexity, they would then be more likely to leave bad reviews for those apps — a potentially lethal blow for small businesses, say developers.
“Instead of working on updates to our apps, we find we are trying to make each app work for multiple versions of the OS and different hardware capabilities,” says Chris Fagan, co-founder at Froogloid, an Android focused application development company. “We are not complaining about all the growth, but if you are a small or a new Android developer coming in and trying to learn I could see your head exploding. It would be overwhelming,” he says.
And the thing, this issue will only become more pronounced as Android grows in popularity and the number of varying handsets multiplies. The net result is that the intalled base of Android users will, in practice, be a lot smaller seen through the eyes of developers.