Mobile Device Fragmentation: It’s Only Going to Get Worse

As a mobile developer, you know you need to consider multiple devices when developing your app. But do you know just how many devices you need to support in order to reach a majority of consumers?

The Proliferation of Mobile Devices
Mobile DevicesAccording to a recent study by Flurry, that number is more than 150 devices if you’re trying to reach 80% of the active mobile market. And that number increases to more than 330 if you’re trying to reach 90% of active mobile users.

In January 2013, Flurry detected app sessions running on 2,130 different devices. This included over 500 different models with 175,000 active users or more. With so many devices already in the market, the challenge is only going to get worse as companies release new smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices. And new operating systems such as Microsoft’s Windows 8 accelerate that trend even more.

Devotion to iOS remains high. Flurry found that Apple devices averaged about 14 times as many active users than devices running Android, BlackBerry, or Windows platforms. If you break the numbers down by manufacturer, Apple devices have four times as many users than Amazon and seven times as many users than Samsung.

App sessions tended to be more concentrated on specific devices. Flurry detected that 80% of sessions were run on 72 different models. This is likely due to a number of factors, including apps that were targeted to models with the largest active user bases. Once again, iOS led the way as the platform with the most active app sessions, followed by Android.

Challenges Breed Opportunities
With so many devices to keep track of, what’s an app developer to do? Fragmentation already causes problems for smaller app shops. Indie developers struggle to keep their apps optimized for a wide range of devices. And even larger companies have to devote more time, money, and resources to make sure their apps are optimized to fill the needs of a larger audience.

Will smaller app developer shops decrease in number as fragmentation continues? That’s what Flurry predicts. But don’t count the smaller developers out just yet.

First, there’s still plenty of money to make by developing apps for devices that reach the most users: Apple and Android. Other platforms may eventually take some of that market share, but that’s still several years down the line. In the meantime, developers can make money by developing apps for these platforms while the making is good.

Secondly, enterprises are outsourcing their development efforts more frequently to smaller app development firms. According to research from Vanson Bourne, more than 62% of larger companies plan to build mobile apps from the ground up with an established vendor instead of trying to build them in-house. The most common reason they cite is a lack of necessary skills and resources.

How are you attacking the fragmentation issue? Are you concentrating your efforts on a core number of devices? Are you sticking to one platform? Share your thoughts in the comments below.'

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