Choosing Supporting Devices For Your Android App

The diversity of Android devices keeps growing and growing, but it doesn’t have to seem an unsolvable problem for app owners. For those who are only planning to launch development – if you don’t make mistakes when choosing, you won’t have to run the risks of redesigns, excessive fixes, or rebuilds owing to platform updates. At first sight this choice seems to be hell of a task, with the endless number of devices of virtually every size and shape. But if we take a further look, the picture will be a little clearer.

However Fragmented Android May Be…

• A variety of API levels and device types has led to what we know as fragmentation of Android. First let’s take a look at the current distribution of Android versions worldwide:

4.1-4.3 ”Jelly Bean” has 62% of the total marketshare; 
4.0 ”Ice Cream Sandwich” has 15.2%; 
4.4 ”KitKat” has 2.5% and will obviously grow; 
2.3 ”Gingerbread” has 19% and is on the decline.

• There is also a motley crew of screen sizes and pixel densities: from the smallest budget Androids with very low display quality and performance, to high-end smartphones, as well as phablets and tablets of different screen size. Sometimes it’s very hard to draw a line between a phablet and a tablet or a smartphone. But a research of your target audience and software requirements will help reduce the perplexity to something more definite.

• A lot actually depends on your software requirements: whether it’s visually rich and requiring good performance, which simply can’t work well with ‘weak’ devices; or the requirements are functional (for example, use of frontal camera, or NFC). A good specification will help define it precisely. You should also be in touch with the latest trends and know what is likely to happen in the future (for example, the complete overhaul of iOS from 6th to 7th versions caused endless optimizations of apps).

Note: you always can check Google’s official stats for the up-to-date information.

… Target Audience Is The Key

• Statistics knows everything. This is your main source of information. If your app targets a particular country, or region/regions, you’ll have to investigate the market, learn more about your audience and structure the information you have. Since the prices of devices range, you must know the average income of your target user, and the devices that are widely used in your target area. Stats may often vary between sources, so try to look for trusted sources that specialize in your target area only. However, you may try and compare stats from different sources. Check the usage of similar apps, if any.

• You must also know the versions of Android that run the smartphones and tablets of your chosen price category. Now as the 2.3 ”Gingerbread” is on the steady decline, it is be most likely that you’ll build for Android 4.x versions.

• If you want to build an app that functionally suits ‘roughly everyone’, which means the widest segments of the market, naturally the answer is going for the most popular devices worldwide, such as Nexus series, Samsung Galaxy series, some HTC and LG models, and so on. Remember that this choice will heavily affect design and development of your app.

• After the deployment, maintenance matters as well: very often owners of Android devices from minor manufacturers report bugs; because as much as devices differ, Android can be also altered specifically for a device manufacturer (the most known is Fire OS, which is a forked Android version, developed for Kindle Fire tablets). In fact, development for Kindle Fire is a separate topic for discussion.

• The last but very important thing: software companies can provide you with a list of devices available for testing, which usually include a diversity of the most popular devices, as well as hardware with different displays and processing powers.

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