As with any operating system, fragmentation will occur over time, and Android is no different. As more devices become available with different shapes and sizes, along with more competitive entry-level price points, and not forgetting the higher end devices with prices that follow. Furthermore, the many different versions of Android that are in use at one time adds further to the level of fragmentation; which can cause more frustration for app developers.
Fragmentation is both a strength and weakness of the Android ecosystem. When comparisons are made between Android and iOS the issue of different API levels, and the vastly different devices running them, is often emphasised.
One of the most notable statistics is the number of unique Android devices seen this year (11,868 unique devices) which is up 7,871 unique devices from last year (3,997 unique devices). While we’re discussing statistics, 47.5% of the 682,000 devices surveyed were manufactured by Samsung, with 8 versions of the mobile operating system being used, and 37.9% of devices running Jelly Bean (Android version 4.1+)
OpenSignal also states that fragmentation may have its advantages for Google and developers. This is mainly due to the ability to produce cheaper devices, which helped Android to conquer the mobile operating system market. While these cheaper devices may not run the latest version of Android, they still provide an opportunity for developers to reach a notably larger audience.
There are more rather interesting infographics over at OpenSignal’s Fragmentation Report 2013.