Google Android fragmentation has skyrocketed over the past year and developers must now contend with 18,796 different configurations of the operating system, according to research from OpenSignal.
OpenSignal detected the configurations while tracking all Android handsets running its app, which number in the hundreds of thousands.
The research revealed a massive spike in fragmentation levels. Open Signal reported: “Compared to last year, fragmentation has risen by around 60 percent with 11,868 devices seen last year compared to 18,796 this year.”
The research showed only a fifth of the detected Android devices were running on a version of Google’s KitKat 4.4 Android version.
Jelly Bean was the most prevalent version with OpenSignal reporting the 4.1, 4.2 and 4.3 Jelly Bean variants held 26.5 percent, 19.8 percent and 7.9 percent shares respectively. The statistics match Google’s official Android figures which were released earlier in August.
Samsung was listed as the most popular smartphone make with OpenSignal reporting 12 of the 13 most popular devices as coming from the Korean firm, helping give it a 43 percent share of the market. Despite its dominance the figure marks a decrease on Samsung’s 47.5 percent 2013 share.
OpenSignal said the fragmentation statistics will likely hamper developer interest in the platform and help continue Apple iOS’s run as the platform of choice for app makers.
“Fragmentation is both a strength and weakness of the Android ecosystem, a headache for developers that also provides the basis for Android’s global reach. Android devices come in all shapes and sizes, with vastly different performance levels and screen sizes,” read OpenSignal’s report.
“Furthermore, there are many different versions of Android that are concurrently active at any one time, adding another level of fragmentation. What this means is that developing apps that work across the whole range of Android devices can be extremely challenging and time consuming.”
The fragmentation is also troubling from a security perspective. Industry experts have bemoaned fragmentation within the Android ecosystem for years, claiming it makes patching and protecting users from future attacks more costly and difficult.
Hackers have taken advantage of the security holes and have developed numerous advanced attack tools that are bespoke designed to target Android users. Kaspersky Labs reported that Koler “Police” ransomware infected more than 200,000 Android devices before being shut down in July.