Mobile // Mobile Devices
Commentary
6/13/2012
09:56 AM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
Commentary
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

What iOS 6 Says About Mobile Fragmentation

Some of the best features of iOS 6 won't work on older iOS hardware. The same issue is true for other mobile platforms and new software. Is fragmentation inevitable?

The latest version of Apple's mobile platform offers some great new features--but not to everyone. Owners of older Apple hardware will not be able to enjoy all the new powers included in iOS 6. Many are crying foul, accusing Apple of fragmenting its platform. Let's take a look at how accurate these claims are, and how they stack up to the competition.

The core new features of iOS 6 are FaceTime over cellular networks, 3-D map fly-overs, and expanded Siri capabilities. The iPhone 4S and iPad with Retina Display--Apple's most recent mobile hardware--are compatible with all the core features.

Things get messy when you look at older iOS devices. For example, the iPhone 4 (which is about two years old, but still available for sale) gets none of these three features. Neither does the iPhone 3GS (which, unbelievably, is also still for sale). The iPad 2 gets the 3-D fly-overs, but not cellular FaceTime and not Siri.

Part of the reasoning for this breakdown, says Apple, is that the A5 processor chip in the iPhone 4S and iPad with Retina Display are required for some of the features, such as the 3-D fly-overs.

The original iPad, which is just over two years old, doesn't get iOS 6 at all.

Presumably the iPhone 5, which is expected to arrive later this year, will have access to all the new features in iOS 6.

[ Even with all the cool new stuff in iOS 6, Apple disappointed some. Read iOS 6: 5 Features We Didn't Get. ]

Lest anyone forget, Apple has always reserved some of the best features for its newest hardware. The strategy has paid off well. Owners of Apple devices upgrade often to the newest hardware specifically to get those features. For example, the iPhone 4 didn't get Siri with iOS 5, but the iPhone 4S did. The result? Sales of the iPhone 4S are superior to that of the iPhone 4, despite the more attractive contract pricing of the iPhone 4. Same goes for the original iPad versus the iPad 2. The iPad 2 gained access to FaceTime (thanks to a user-facing camera), but the original iPad can't take advantage of Apple's video chatting feature. Result? Apple sold a boatload of iPad 2s.

"Fragmentation" of Apple's iOS devices is at least partly by design. The same is not necessarily true of other platforms.

Take Android, for example. Because Android can be so heavily customized for different devices and form factors, the app and feature experience across the platform as a whole is varied and uneven. Different screen shapes and sizes, myriad different processors and graphics chips, and gobs of different OS versions have certainly let to schism. Fragmentation in the Android universe, however, is not necessarily by design or with purpose. It simply is. The speed at which the hardware capabilities improve in mere months makes it unavoidable.

Microsoft has done a decent job of keeping Windows Phone from becoming too fragmented. For example, most of the devices that originally shipped with Windows Phone 7 were allowed to upgrade to Windows Phone 7.5 with all the features intact. That changed with Windows Phone Tango, however. Tango allows Windows Phone to run on less-expensive hardware. The chief component downgrade is RAM, which can be as low as 256 MB in Tango. Guess what? Devices with only 256 MB of RAM can't access all the features of Windows Phone 7 due to this memory limitation.

We can say pretty much the same thing about the different features available to different BlackBerry OS and BlackBerry smartphones.

The bottom line here is, fragmentation will always be a part of the mobile landscape. Not every device is going to gain access to every new feature or update. It's something the industry--and consumers--have to simply come to terms with and accept.

At this year's InformationWeek 500 Conference C-level execs will gather to discuss how they're rewriting the old IT rulebook and accelerating business execution. At the St. Regis Monarch Beach, Dana Point, Calif., Sept. 9-11.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
theNewDanger
50%
50%
theNewDanger,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/29/2012 | 6:29:04 PM
re: What iOS 6 Says About Mobile Fragmentation
Keep up? With what? The bad work you produced thinking you were teaching a lesson? getdafucouttahere SMH

What makes an operating system? Is it what it allows you to do and how? That it can turn a screen off and on? That a phone call can be made? That you can get email? For the most part, those are all made possible by built-in apps. Those built-in apps are a clearly defined set of software that are NATIVE to the operating system. You should probably locate the definition of operating system before reading on. Siri is part of that set of software NATIVE to the operating system ... as long as that operating system is running on an iPhone 4S lol. If parts of a operating system function DIFFERENTLY or NOT AT ALL on a different hardware model (iPhone 4 or less), then yes, it is fragmentation. That is the nature of fragmentation i.e. older iPhone models can only run SOME of iOS 5, as will be the case with iOS 6. Android's clusterfluck of fragmentation is so much more perverse that it makes iOS seem like there aren't any issues at all in iSheepland. Face it, fragmentation is universal. It's not even worth defending against.
jalguire
50%
50%
jalguire,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/14/2012 | 5:33:31 AM
re: What iOS 6 Says About Mobile Fragmentation
Dudeman44,

You are only partially correct regarding iOS6 on older iPads. It definitely looks like planned obsolescence for the first gen iPad, but you are not correct about the first gen iPad's fitness to run iOS6 based on it's memory spec.. Apple's website shows that the iPhone 3GS will run iOS6. If the 3GS can run iOS6, then the first gen iPad should technically also be able to run it. The 3GS has a slower non-A4 processor (833 MHz running at 600 MHz) and the same video processor (PowerVR SGX535), and RAM (256 MB). So if the 3GS can run iOS6 (which it will per Apple) then the first gen iPad is technically capable as well. That Apple chose not to include the older iPad, but allow the 3GS is an insult.
mhill616
50%
50%
mhill616,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/14/2012 | 3:54:51 AM
re: What iOS 6 Says About Mobile Fragmentation
I bought a new Huawei X1 Android smartphone only 3 months ago and it came with Froyo, a two year old OS, three major OS revisions behind and it can't be updated to newer OSes let alone the current ICS (or most apps or web pages because it has such low RAM and slow CPU).

Now that is fragmentation.

In contrast my old iPhone 3GS which is now 3 years old and which can still be bought today does indeed run the latest iOS even if you lose a bit of functionality. However, not having a front-facing camera makes lack of FaceTime a completely justifiable issue as does lack of modern CPU and GPU for other features.

I should also mention my iPhone 3GS is a FAR better phone than this brand new Huawei X1 even if the former is 3 years older.

This explains why iPhones still have 25% share of mobile web browsing compared to all Android devices put together only capturing 16% according to NetMarketshare. (iOS as a whole has 63% mobile web share compared to Android's 16%). It also helps to explain why iOS developers have captured 84% of mobile gaming revenue and make 6x more income than Android developers.

Most Android phone purchases are evidently cheap, fragmented disasters Like my X1 that are unable to run the latest apps or even browse the web successfully.
ANON1252035144238
50%
50%
ANON1252035144238,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/14/2012 | 2:05:20 AM
re: What iOS 6 Says About Mobile Fragmentation
Dude I don't think youmknowmwhatnyou are talking about.

But then a fool will show himself when he speaks.
GreatThingYouGotGoingThere
50%
50%
GreatThingYouGotGoingThere,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/13/2012 | 9:07:29 PM
re: What iOS 6 Says About Mobile Fragmentation
I'm not really holding my breath. I have an "older" droid and..... let's see... It let's me send a text message instead of answering a phone.... it has turn by turn navigation.... eh, seems to work fine. Really ICS just makes a single programming interface for tablets vs phones so I think it's really the de-fragmenter. Anyways, since I'm interested in having a real discussion, where is 1% coming from? Seems like there are around 250 distinct android devices (not counting minor sub-model tweaks) and there are more than 3(which is over 1%) with ICS. Additionally, the last stats I saw from google (http://developer.android.com/r... say just under 7% of total devices in terms of numbers. Where are your numbers coming from? I'm interested in comparing.
Dudeman44
50%
50%
Dudeman44,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/13/2012 | 8:34:18 PM
re: What iOS 6 Says About Mobile Fragmentation
Again, another perfect example of not understanding what fragmentation is. The topic is OPERATING SYSTEM, not individual apps. The original iPad has no camera, yet it CAN run IOS 5.0, which supports cameras. So, Apple chose not to support SIRI on iPhone 4, maybe because it's beta, or who knows what it is, the point is, there is no fragmentation in the OS, since it WILL run on every current handset or iPad you can buy new today. Try to keep up...
Dudeman44
50%
50%
Dudeman44,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/13/2012 | 8:30:15 PM
re: What iOS 6 Says About Mobile Fragmentation
Maybe you need to read my post again and note at the end where I said, that less than 1% of the CURRRENT ( read, has nothing to do with previous generations of hardware ) can run the current OS. And, by the way, since 80% of Droids are still on version 2.2, what does that tell you about the potential that any of the current Droids that don't have ICR will EVER be able to run ICR, regardless of what the roadblock is, so don't hold your breath. Yes - THAT is FRAGMENTATION!
ebernet
50%
50%
ebernet,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/13/2012 | 6:09:30 PM
re: What iOS 6 Says About Mobile Fragmentation
This is a developer conference, not a user conference. True, many of Apple's native apps will not run/get features on older hardware. But fragmentation applies to availability of APIs to developers, and the need to code differently for different devices. Here, there is no fragmentationGă¬. The APIs are available back to the 3GS. Only the original iPad will suffer dramatically - for all else, all new applications that need iOS 6 will run on all these devices.

Contrast this with Android, where a developer can't use new features in the API if they want to target older devices, regardless of the capabilities of the device hardware wise to run them...
GreatThingYouGotGoingThere
50%
50%
GreatThingYouGotGoingThere,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/13/2012 | 6:01:54 PM
re: What iOS 6 Says About Mobile Fragmentation
Wait, let me see if I understand this. When Apple hardware gets old and can't run something newer, it's "planned obsolescence", but when android hardware gets old that's "fragmentation"? The reality is that most new androids phones could run ICS but that doesn't mean that the handset manufacturers or carriers are going to update it as soon as it gets announced. You may be mistaking "doesn't currently run" from "can't run". iOS is a fine operating system but the zealotry is incredibly stupid.
Dewm
50%
50%
Dewm,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/13/2012 | 5:27:14 PM
re: What iOS 6 Says About Mobile Fragmentation
To be fair here, this is not un-expected. Devices get out dated, the requirements to run new software on old hardware plateau the device.

This is only more prevalent on Android because the technology for those devices moves so fast, hardware is outdated quickly.

I agree that more android manufacturers need to design their devices to last for longer updates, but in no way does fragmentation count as a reason why one platform is better than another.

Dudeman44 above made a good point, in reference to the windows/iPad example. A android phone that launched 4 years ago was running android 1.6 (HTC Hero for example). It now can only run android 2.1 or lower now. Is it because the maker or carrier doesn't want to bother with it? No. Is it because the phone sucks and and should be used as an over sized paperweight? No. It's because the phone cannot handle the processing power/capabilities of the new software.Android is more pronounced because of all the choices in hardware you can buy. A feature that one phone can do, might not be available on another. So, the phone that can not use that feature is now "fragmented" because it can't do it.
The 7% of devices running the latest android OS is definately abysmal. But, again your talking about the entire Android ecosystem. Your basically saying that the cheap devices that were made to only run android 2.0 are the same as the commercial high end devices that run 4.0.3 now. You can't expect some device used by a warehouse somewhere running android is the same as the new nexus in my pocket. That's two different worlds, two different applications of the product, but yet they are the same?

The same applies to the old iPhone and iPad. The software is simply not supported by the hardware anymore. Apple did a very good job though of only limiting the "fragmentation" to only 2 or 3 devices. Kudos there.

But you cannot claim Android, iOS or Windows Phone to be better or worse based on this "issue". It will always be there no matter what device you buy.

The article has many good points and I think it does a pretty good job of explaining why fragmentation exists. But I also think that it shows Apple only really cares about profit margins and keeping the shareholders happy, which is important, but this should not be a technology companies ultimate goal. Innovation and new technology should. Unfortunately, the only new technology to come out in the WWDC was the new Passbook feature, which I find really cool by the way.
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
Building A Mobile Business Mindset
Building A Mobile Business Mindset
Among 688 respondents, 46% have deployed mobile apps, with an additional 24% planning to in the next year. Soon all apps will look like mobile apps ľ and it's past time for those with no plans to get cracking.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Government Tech Digest Oct. 27, 2014
To meet obligations -- and avoid accusations of cover-up and incompetence -- federal agencies must get serious about digitizing records.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
A roundup of the top stories and community news at InformationWeek.com.
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.