Third-party Android application developers can now use Google's Fragments API, part of Honeycomb or Android 3.0, without sacrificing backwards compatibility with existing Android smartphones. Google is trying to mitigate some of the fragmentation issues plaguing its mobile Linux platform by expanding its Fragments API to allow developers to create mobile apps that scale across a variety of screen sizes, namely tablets and smartphones.
Prior to the tablet-optimized Android 3.0 or Honeycomb release, the Android Fragment APIs were not natively backwards compatible with previous versions of the Android operating system.
The Android ecosystem remains highly fractured as several different older versions of Android remain in heavy use due to hardware legacy issues and staggered updates that aren't uniformly rolled out.
Right now about 57.6 percent of Android devices are running version 2.2, followed by 2.1 at 31.4 percent. About 6.3 percent are still on Android 1.6, according to the Android Developers site.
Google recently announced that the static library for older versions of Android is now available via SDK Updater under "Android Compatibility package."
"Today we've released a static library that exposes the same Fragments API (as well as the new LoaderManager and a few other classes) so that applications compatible with Android 1.6 or later can use fragments to create tablet-compatible user interfaces," Xavier Ducrohet, Google's Android SDK tech lead, wrote in a blog post.
This means developers won't have to build two separate applications to support both Honeycomb tablets and existing Android smartphones, which could help boost the inventory of mobile apps available for Android. It also means that it will be easier for tablet-optimized apps to run on the devices that don't currently have Honeycomb, such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab and upcoming HTC Flyer.
News of Google's extended API comes at a time when the Android OS is maturing -- Android is increasing market share in the mobile operating system race, most recently edging out rivals iOs and the BlackBerry OS for the month of January, according to Nielsen Wire.
What's more, there's lots of money to be made in the tablet app sector. "Tablet devices alone will generate $8.1 billion in global app sales in 2015, up from $300 million in 2010. This is a huge number, but.... it's only a fraction of the total spend on apps when you factor in the cost to develop the apps and reinvent the processes behind the apps," writes Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps.