Google’s Android operating system has long suffered from a problem called “fragmentation.”
Unlike with the Apple iPhone, it’s up to smartphone manufacturers and not Google itself to push out updates to customers. So there’s no guarantee that any given phone will get the operating system upgrades.
There’s also a ton of different hardware, some of which does a better job supporting certain features. Contrast this with Apple’s very few different hardware choices.
All this makes life a nightmare for anybody making Android apps: There’s no guarantee that an app that works on my phone will work on yours, or vice versa. Multiply that times the many millions of Android devices out there, and it’s a minefield of apps that may or may not work for huge segments of your potential audience.
As Recode’s Ina Fried first reported, $55 billion business software company Salesforce has had enough of fragmentation.
Later this year, Salesforce’s Android app is nixing official support for all devices except for certain recent Samsung Galaxy and Google Nexus phones, as confirmed in an official support page. Salesforce had no additional comment, except to point at that same support article.
“Due to the wide array of available Android devices, we are targeting our support to a select number of Android devices to continue improving our overall Salesforce1 for Android user experience,” Salesforce writes in that article.
That’s probably not great news to the many Salesforce customers who use Android, but don’t necessarily own Samsung or Nexus phones.
But, logically, it’s a major end-run around the fragmentation problem. If Salesforce’s Android developers know exactly the phones they’re dealing with, they can guarantee that their app will work exactly as they intended it.
Apple isn’t immune from the fragmentation problem, as reflected in the fact that Salesforce is similarly discontinuing support for devices including the iPhone 5 and 5c. But Apple also has a much stronger track record for getting people to upgrade to new devices and the most current operating systems, meaning iPhone developers have fewer headaches when developing for the Apple App Store.
All in all, it’s not a flattering look for Google, which has tried very hard to tamp down on fragmentation.