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iOS Fragmentation is (Still) Very Real

[fa icon="calendar"] 23-Oct-2013 11:16:48 / by Entropy Team

Entropy Team

We're all very well acquainted with the over-used adage of "Android Fragmentation" - a situation that continues to push Developers and Content Owners alike toward iOS as a primary (and certainly first) deployment channel. But while it is much less nefarious, iOS has some fragmentation problems of its own, a situation exacerbated rather than corrected following Tuesday's introduction of the iPad Air and new iPad Mini.

The issue is not one of addition - the move to a full retina iPad Mini and introduction of the new iPad Air should have improved the situation for Developers - but rather, the problem is one of subtraction.

Or lack of it, to be precise. 

By leaving the iPad 2 (a non-retina A5 processor device) and iPhone 4S in the iOS product line - rather than silently and swiftly killing them off as many had expected - Developers must continue to support up to 8 different device specifications (4 for iPad and 4 for iPhone/iPod). Just to illustrate this, let's look closely at what must be considered for a new App deployment. 

First off, if you are planning to take advantage of the A7 processor (with its significant increase in performance, graphics support, and now motion-sensing via the M7 co-processor), your App will be alienating a number of key devices - including the iPhone 4S, standard iPad Mini, and perhaps most worrying - the iPad 2. As reported earlier in the week, the iPad 2 continues to represent the highest usage of any iPad model - so neglecting the long-forgotten grandfather of the iPad line can be a serious detriment to App adoption.  

And we haven't even begun to talk iOS 7 experience on these older devices. For example, ever try iOS 7 on an iPad 2? Yeah.

Then there's the case of the 4S - the final piece in the layout puzzle for iPhone App development. Sure there is little reason to develop new Apps for a non-retina iPhone (the 3GS now slowly circling the drain of total usage) but most new Apps are still required to support two screen sizes - the 1136x640 iPhone 5 and iPod Touch family and the (still chugging along) 960x640 resolution of the 4S. It's not as significant a headache to Android development (with Smartphone and Tablet screens varying as widely shoe sizes), but it still represents substantial preparation and QA - from initial design through to user acceptance testing. 

Indeed, the challenge is not just one of screen size and resolution variance amongst iOS devices - when designing pixel-perfect elements and preparing for App submission, a disparate number of icon sizes, design elements, and colour temperatures must also be considered and catered for

 

An example of just a few of the design considerations across the iOS device family An example of just a few of the design considerations across the iOS device family

While not the minefield of device design and functionality considerations the Android platform presents to Developers - it's important to point out that until Apple finally retires the now outlier screen size of the iPhone 4S, the non-retina A5 iPad 2 and standard iPad Mini - effectively moving the iOS device family firmly into an A7/retina standard (running iOS 7), Developers will still need to make hard decisions and compromises. Not to mention a heck of a lot of assets!

Sure iOS is better controlled, better administered, and vastly better updated than it's Android counterpart. But fragmentation still exisits.

For now, at least.  

Entropy Team

Written by Entropy Team