Fragmentation has doubled in the past two years. How can Android developers address it?

A visualization of the most common Android devices in use. Image: OpenSignal

Fragmentation, a problem caused by the continued use of outdated operating systems in conjunction with an updated app on a mobile device, remains problematic for many mobile developers. And even though developers frequently update their apps to provide end users with a better experience, fragmentation prevents some mobile devices from running apps properly.

For example, Android fragmentation has been an ongoing problem for many developers and end users alike. Wireless coverage mapping provider OpenSignal pointed out Android fragmentation affected more than 24,000 devices last year, up from nearly 11,900 devices in 2013.

Image source: The Next Web

OpenSignal noted Android fragmentation continues to challenge developers worldwide as well.

"Android devices come in all shapes and sizes, with vastly different performance levels and screen sizes. Furthermore, there are many different versions of Android that are concurrently active at any one time, adding another level of fragmentation," OpenSignal pointed out in a recent report. "What this means is that developing apps that work across the whole range of Android devices can be extremely challenging and time-consuming."

 

Although app developers sometimes struggle with fragmentation, the development team at hedgehog lab, a "technology consultancy" that builds Android, Windows Phone and HTML5 web apps, said it is prepared for fragmentation.

In fact, hedgehog lab CEO Sarat Pediredla told FierceDeveloper that his company uses a six-step process to overcome fragmentation and other app development problems.

How does hedgehog lab approach app development?

Pediredla said hedgehog lab's app development process includes the following steps:

  1. Discovery: During the discovery phase, hedgehog lab will focus on strategic engagement with the client as well as preliminary research to better understand what type of app it will need to create to achieve the client's goals
  2. Plan: After it understands the client's app needs, the hedgehog lab team will estimate how long it will take to create the app, who will be on the project team and the things this team will need to do to succeed
  3. Design: After that, hedgehog lab will explore the app's structural design and create core style guides, prototypes and initial screens
  4. Build and test: The lab uses ongoing assessments to evaluate an app's development and ensure the app meets a client's needs consistently
  5. Launch: In the launch stage, hedgehog lab will prepare app marketing materials and ensure the app becomes generally available
  6. Evaluate and Advise: The hedgehog lab team will work with the client to improve an app, review app analytics and offer advice to the client. This phase also covers hedgehog lab's strategy to deliver updates and a clear roadmap for these updates, Pediredla said.

Pediredla noted each app development project usually involves between one to five developers, depending on the time and resources needed to complete the task.

He also pointed out that each client will work with several members of the hedgehog lab team, including app designers and quality assurance (QA) engineers. With a collaborative approach to the app development process, a client can provide ongoing feedback to a project team. 

In addition, Pediredla stated that hedgehog lab constantly explores state-of-the-art tools it can use to overcome fragmentation and other challenges during the app development cycle.

"Fragmentation and the proliferation of multiple devices also cause huge challenges during the build and test as we need to constantly invest in tools and products that help us test with the latest shiny device out in the market," he said.

How will hedgehog lab approach the app development process moving forward?

Pediredla said hedgehog lab educates its customers about the app development process – something that has helped the company stand out from other app developers since its inception in 2007.

"There [is] a lack of education on the app development process and how long it can take or how expensive it can be," he pointed out. "A lot of customers expect apps to cost no more than websites but don't understand these are native products that need a lot of testing and even one wrong piece of code could completely crash the app."

Meanwhile, the lab continues to leverage best-in-class tools to improve its stack and ensure its clients are fully supported.

Pediredla noted hedgehog lab utilizes many "standard" app development tools like the iOS software development kit (SDK), Android SDK, XCode and Android Studio.

Moreover, he said hedgehog lab leverages advanced technologies to further support its app development process, including:

  • Fabric from Twitter for everything from app analytics to payments
  • Codebeat for code reviews
  • New Relic for back-end system monitoring
  • JIRA for project management
  • Bitbucket for code repositories

To date, hedgehog lab has created dozens of apps for leading brands such as Autodesk and Mitsubishi. The company also boasts five locations worldwide and continues to search for ways to "build the best products that [its] customers will love and rave about."

"We are really excited about the potential for Internet of Things and smart devices and continue to expand our development skills to ensure we stay ahead of the curve and innovate on these platforms," Pediredla said.

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