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The scale of Android fragmentation as visualised by OpenSignal

The scale of Android fragmentation in 2014 as visualised by OpenSignal

Google unveiled a cloud-based testing service for Android apps it hopes will help combat fragmentation in the growing Android ecosystem.

The service, unveiled at Google’s annual I/O conference this week and based on Appurify’s technology – an acquisition it announced at the conference last year, allows developers to run their applications on simulated versions of thousands of different Android devices.

The company said much like other app testing services the Cloud Test Lab can record what happens just before an app crashes, and provides a crash log to help users debug their apps after having tested them on tons of different devices with a wide range of specs and capabilities.

“From nearly every brand, model and version of physical devices your users might be using, to an unlimited supply of virtual devices in every language, orientation and network condition around the world. You can get rid of that device closet—ours is bigger,” the company said.

“Out of the box, without any user-written tests, robot app crawlers know just what to look out for and will find crashes in your app for you. Augment this with user-written instrumentation tests to make sure that your most important user flows work perfectly.”

There has always been fragmentation in the Android world, and while it’s considered by some users to be one of the benefits of playing in Google’s ecosystem it’s also a major headache for app developers because building crash-proof apps for a range of devices can be quite time-consuming; not getting that right can as a result cause users grief (just check out a few reviews on the Google Play store).

With a wide range of low-cost Android devices flowing in from China, coupled with other large incumbents like Samsung, LG and Sony contributing to the heterogeneity themselves, fragmentation only seems to be increasing (OpenSignal has put together an impressive report detailing the scale of Android fragmentation – and how it compares with the iOS ecosystem). These testing services will also be critical for Google developers as the company looks to target the Internet of Things with a new OS and doubles down on Chromebooks, which are both based on Android.

@BizCloud
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