The “F” Word: OpenSignal’s 2014 Android Fragmentation Report

OpenSignal Pie Chart

I’m a big fan of OpenSignal. Beyond giving me direction on where to take my summer vacation, they’ve got an incredibly useful website which will quickly and easily let you know which carrier has the most towers and strongest signal where you live.

The team recently published their annual and unfortunately-titled Android Fragmentation Report. Using the “f” word is really the only bad thing about it—Apple fanboy sites like The Next Web are shamelessly spinning this as a shortcoming of the Android ecosystem, and I don’t necessarily think that’s the case. Ultimately it’s just a data set, beautifully visualized to provide a bit of insight into the world’s most popular OS.

Let’s have a closer look…

Disclosure

Before reading any further you should know that most of OpenSignal’s data was gathered from the installed base of their Android app—between 682,000 and almost 10 million users, depending on the specific metric used. If you want even more insightful results next year you can download their app right here.

Devices

OpenSignal Android Devices

Here they are, 18,796 unique Android devices. On the OpenSignal website you can roll over each of the blocks for a pop-up of the device name. What this graphic tells me is that (1) Samsung’s Galaxy S III is still hugely popular, and (2) there’s a ton of choice when it comes to choosing an Android device. How can that be a bad thing?

Brands

OpenSignal Android Brands

No surprises here… Samsung has a commanding 43% market share of all Android devices (down from 47% last year). OpenSignal made an interesting choice to break out “Google” (presumably Nexus) devices from the manufacturers who make them; it seems that they’re less popular than I would have thought.

And does “SEMC” really stand for Sony Ericsson? That would be weird.

Screens

OpenSignal Android Screens

OpenSignal does their best to visualize available screen sizes for Android devices—presumably a darker frame indicates a more popular size. A ranked list would have been more instructive, at least for me.

Versions vs. GDP

OpenSignal Android APIs vs. GDP

In addition to the pie chart you saw at the top of this post, divvying up the various versions of Android by installed base, OpenSignal did something I thought was pretty cool. Using data from Google and Wikipedia they measured the APIs for various versions of Android against the per capita Gross Domestic Product in different parts of the world, here split into two brackets—under $20K and above. As you’d expect, cheaper devices are more popular in poorer countries. Cheaper devices are most often underpowered, and underpowered devices usually ship with older versions of Android. Makes sense.

Sensors (?!!)

OpenSignal Android Sensors

Now what’s this about? And why only Galaxy S devices?

It turns out that this graphic is a clever bit of subterfuge, an obfuscated plug for a new OpenSignal app that promises to turn supported devices into mobile weather stations. I guess Samsung flagships have more applicable sensors than other devices… At any rate, it’s an ambitious idea—and if you don’t have the appropriate sensors on your Android device you can order a Bluetooth dongle from a third party.

The “D” Word

A big thanks to OpenSignal for this incredibly insightful (and 100% free) report. Again, these downloaded graphics don’t really do it justice—the web version of their report is much more interactive. If I could humbly submit a suggestion for next year, maybe use “diversity” in place of “fragmentation”…?