Fragmentation feels like a dirty word these days, but let’s face it: not all Android devices are running the same version of the operating system. And it seems like it gets a little worse every day as Google keeps pushing out updates and it’s up to manufacturers to determine if and when to push out updates for their products.
Case in point: As promised, Asus has started rolling out an Android 3.2 software update for the Eee Pad Transformer. Users are reporting that they’re already getting notifications about the update. And as expected, there aren’t a lot of huge changes in the new tablet software. There’s better support for apps written for smartphones with lower resolution displays, and there’s support for multitouch gestures when using the optional Transformer keyboard dock.
But at the same time, Acer is still rolling out Google Android 3.1 for its 10 inch tablet, the Acer Iconia Tab A500. Acer started offering the update earlier this month, but German customers are just getting the new software today. It’s not clear when the company will offer an Android 3.2 update
Honestly, there’s not much difference between Android 3.1 and 3.2 as far as most users are concerned. Apps written for one version of the operating system will likely work on the other. But that’s not always the case when it comes to operating system updates. Many apps written for Google Android 3.0 and up won’t run on Android 2.3. And many apps written for Android 2.1 and up won’t run on phones using Android 1.6.
That’s not a huge surprise. I wouldn’t expect a Windows 7 app to work on Windows 3.1, after all. The difference is that those two operating systems were released nearly 20 years apart. The pace of change in the Android world is much faster, and there’s no guarantee that if you buy a tablet today you’ll be running the latest software next month.
Fortunately there’s an active community of hackers that does a pretty good job of offering the latest software for Android phones and tablets even when the manufacturer doesn’t — so there’s not a huge risk of your device becoming completely obsolete. You just might have to be willing to void the warranty to keep running bleeding edge software.