Mobile Matrix of Pain

Some app-developers call the Iphone “The Jesus Phone”. Yes, it may be sort of an exaggeration, but when the Iphone launched five years ago, it solved many issues that mobile software had struggled with for decades: an integrated payment system, a point of sales, a user-friendly interface, good hardware specifications, and rapid consumer adoption. But most importantly, it did away with fragmentation. With the Iphone, every device was the same. Previously, there were hundreds of different handsets, all with different hardware, screen resolution, firmware versions, keypad setups etc – in fact thousands of different permutations existed at the same time, each demanding a separate (and properly tested!) version of the software developers. In an instant, developers turned their backs on other devices and focused on the Iphone, shortly thousands of apps appeared and now there are more than a million. Now fragmentation is bringing the old days back, there are already several different versions of the Iphone and the same apps also run on other IOS-devices like the Ipad and Ipad mini. These days app developers have to make and test for different screens, different cameras, different hardware. Still not in the hundreds, but increasingly complex. Now, looking outside the Appleverse, the main competitor Android has a completely different strategy. Instead of making its own hardware, Google (which owns Android) lets third party companies like HTC, Samsung, Sony and many others make handsets for its operating system. While this opens a huge market, it multiplies fragmentation and puts a strain on developers. Wired Magazine calls this the “Matrix of Pain”. That too is sort of an exaggeration. But it is clear that fragmentation is again an increasing problem for mobile software. And it is ironic, to say the least, that multitude in software content works best in a hardware mono-culture.