Android Fragmentation: Can't We All Just Get Along?
In the case of the multiple versions of Android, the answer, apparently, is no.
This may be the single biggest pain in the ass about Android: the complete fragmentation of the operating system, with multiple versions deployed, some of which have custom UIs on top, most of which have different capabilities.
Google has released a new pie chart showing just how bad it is, and it's bad. 38% of Android users are running 1.5, 31.6% are running 1.6, and 27.3% are running 2.1. 1.1, 2.0 and 2.0.1 all have minor chunks as well.
From a consumer standpoint, this fragmentation is causing complaints and frustration among users that have yet to get tasty features available on later versions (hit any carrier's forum to read the whining).
From a developer standpoint, it certainly can't be easy to build apps for all versions. Google itself screwed the pooch on this one: at launch, the much-hyped Google Buzz for mobile only worked on handsets running 2.0. In fact, the voice shortcuts, Buzz icon shortcuts and buzz.google.com STILL only work on 2.0 and later.
Of course, the fragmentation isn't necessarily Google's fault: it's an open source OS, and manufacturers and carriers are responsible for coding, then pushing, updates to users' phones (not so easy, as the recent bricking of Droids demonstrated). But it's no small task, particularly when you've designed a heavy UI like Motorola Blur that sits on top of Android .
Perhaps the only saving grace on this is that most users new to Android aren't aware of what they're missing. But with the rates of adoption and customer demand growing, it's only a matter of time before they do. And the whining is just gonna get louder.