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What is Mobile Fragmentation?

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In the world of mobile today, there is a vast range of mobile features, applications and services that can be found on an equally wide range of mobile devices and platforms. Because of this wide range however, mobile developers are discovering a key issue in mobile, which is Fragmentation. With mobile being such an exciting and promising venture, it pays to know what exactly mobile fragmentation is, and why it is seen as an issue.


For many successful mobile players as well as entrepreneurs and start-ups, mobile fragmentation is a serious challenge. As Richard Wong (Venture Capitalist with Accel Partners, an investor in AdMob, GetJar and SunRun) says “There is an alphabet soup of protocols, standards, and regional differences by country which can be daunting for any entrepreneur.” Mr. Wong goes on to highlight the issue of mobile fragmentation by saying, “Just look at the range of technologies on handset platforms alone, from iPhone to Android to Blackberry.” In both cases, Mr. Wong has established that the issue of mobile fragmentation centres on the wide range of needs and specifications of mobile protocols, and mobile devices used around the world in mobile marketing.


If we look at how far mobile fragmentation goes, then we can better understand the degree to which it can become an issue. As Damith C. Rajapakse, lecturer at National University of Singapore School of Computing says “Mobile fragmentation includes; hardware diversity, including “differences in screen parameters (size, colour depth, orientation, aspect ratio), memory size, processing power, presence of additional hardware (camera, voice recorder), and connectivity options (Bluetooth, IR, GPRS, etc.).” Mobile fragmentation is also caused by “Software diversity: Platform diversity,  such as differences in platform/OS (Symbian, Nokia OS, RIM OS, Apple OS X, etc.),  and differences in multimedia support (e.g., codecs), maximum binary size allowed, etc.

To further indicate the extent of the issue, Mr Rajapakse says that “mobile fragmentation also stems from implementation diversity,  resulting from implementation bugs/quirks and is considered one of the most tiresome type of fragmentations, according to practitioners.” There is also “user-preference diversity, in elements including language, style, etc. environmental diversity, such as diversity in the deployment infrastructure (e.g., branding by carrier, gateway characteristics, restrictions on access to outside the network etc.), locale, local standards.”

What all this means for many developer’s is that when designing an application for instance, they must either focus the application for a single device or platform, or develop the application for the major range of devices and platforms. This poses serious cost inefficiencies and ultimately effects application users, developers, content providers and distributors, network operators and device manufacturers. Despite these seemingly detrimental effects however, there is still a strong debate as to whether mobile fragmentation is indeed ‘detrimental’ or whether it promotes healthy competition for mobile. Only time will tell however, if the developers seeking the “magic bullet” that will allow for ultimate de-fragmentation of mobile, are chasing a mobile innovation or a fantasy.

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