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Is the Android OS Growing Too Quickly?

Android Explosion Poses a Problem for Developers
After getting off to a slow start, Android phones have gone gangbusters. As of last July, there was only one Android-powered device available in the U.S., but that number has since exploded. Now, there are eight Android phones available stateside, with more expected to debut in the coming months. So things must be looking pretty great for the mobile OS from Google, right?

Not necessarily. A few issues have both Google and the developers of Android-friendly applications worried. For the most part, the issue can be reduced to the term "splintering." Right now, those eight phones share three different versions of the Android core: 1.5, 1.6, and 2.0. The phones also have vast hardware differences between them; for instance, some models have keyboards while others don't, and some cameras have flashes while others do not. Then, there are the customized interfaces (or skins), like HTC's Sense on the Hero and Motorola's Blur on the Cliq. These differences make it difficult to build apps, since even basic updates need to be tested against every possible combination of hardware, skin, and Android version. And a smartphone OS lives and dies by its developers.

CNN points to a specific example as told by app developer Froogloid. The company's 'a2b' app is able to turn on the GPS receiver in an Android phone. But during testing on the HTC Hero on Sprint, developers discovered the commands that normally turned on the GPS were instead enabling the option to change the screen unlock pattern. That meant that Froogloid had to go back and write special code, just for the Hero, to allow the app to function as intended.

Even though Apple is notorious for its seemingly arbitrary approval process, the consistency of the iPhone's OS and hardware makes building applications for it easy. This is one of the primary reasons the iPhone has over 100,000 apps in its store, while Android lags far behind with little more than 15,000. And in today's smartphone wars, whoever has the most apps wins. [From: CNN]

Tags: android, google, os, smartphone



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