Does Android “fragmentation” actually affect end users?

Ever since 2009, I’ve been hearing a lot in tech blog posts and the media about “Android fragmentation.” No actual Android user I know in real life has complained about it, though. I’ve also noticed that criticisms about so-called Android fragmentation tend to be quite vague.

From Android fragmentation is real:

For Joe Average, this created an ultra-confusing marketplace where operating system versions changed every few months. It also meant that compatibility issues were inevitable.

What compatibility issues? Examples?

From Ask Maggie: On waiting for a Verizon iPhone 5:

But one of the problems that Android has is that it’s very fragmented. Even at the smartphone level, different devices run different versions of the Android OS and that means that not every app runs every device.

What apps? Examples?

On my MyTouch 3G (the original), I’ve used just about every version of Android there is. 1.5, 1.6, 2.0, 2.1, 2.2. Some rooted. Some OTA from T-Mobile. I’ve experienced no problems as an end user in terms of applications having compatibility issues. Some of the more graphics-intensive apps don’t run well on my 528 MHz processor with 192 MB of RAM, but that’s regardless of what version of Android I have—my phone just isn’t that powerful, so Angry Birds will just not run well on it. That has nothing to do with “fragmentation.”

Some people who want to make a big deal about Android fragmentation will point to an interview with one of the Angry Birds makers (Peter Veterbacka) in which he says

Android is growing, but it’s also growing complexity at the same time. Device fragmentation not the issue, but rather the fragmentation of the ecosystem. So many different shops, so many different models. The carriers messing with the experience again. Open but not really open, a very Google centric ecosystem.

but they seem to ignore that when asked directly about Android fragmentation being an issue, he says

Fragmentation on the device side is not a huge problem, but Steve is absolutely right when he says that there are more challenges for developers when working with Android. But that’s fine, developers will figure out how to work any given ecosystem and as long as it doesn’t cause physical pain, it’s ok;-) Nobody else will be able to build what Apple has built, there just isn’t that kind of market power out there.

That doesn’t mean that model is superior, it’s just important to understand that Apple is Apple and Google is Google. Different. And developers need to understand that. Different business models for different ecosystems. And wouldn’t forget about Nokia and MeeGo either, new leadership always tends to shake things up and create opportunity. And HP-Palm. And RIM. And even Microsoft. It’s a fragmented world.

If you actually own and use an Android device as your primary phone, how (with specific examples) have you found so-called “fragmentation” affecting you? Which applications do not work on your version of Android that would work on another version? Why do you think people don’t make as big a deal about “Windows fragmentation” (Windows 98, 2000, XP, Vista, 7) or “Mac fragmentation” (Panther, Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard)? Am I crazy for thinking Android fragmentation is a non-issue?

Google Voice number porting comes too late

Recently, Google announced the ability of its Google Voice users to port their existing mobile number to GV. This sounds great in theory, as it is what many Google Voice users have been clammering for for a year and a half. When Google Voice was new (invite-only but fully launched and then available to everyone eventually), porting your existing cell number to GV made sense—why would you want to tell everybody a new number they'd have to call in order to reach you?

There was no porting ability for a long time, though. So what have we Google Voice users done in the meantime? Well, we basically did what cell phone users had done for years before number porting even existed. We just told people our new Google Voice number. If people called on my old number, they'd still reach me. But every time I called them, my caller ID would show my Google Voice number. And if someone asked for my phone number, I'd give her my Google Voice number. Eventually, my number is my Google Voice number. At this point, everyone I know has my Google Voice number. Porting my old number would be pointless. And I suspect a lot of Google Voice users are in the same position.

There are also other added complications, even if you haven't been a long-time Google Voice user. In Google Voice Porting Equals LSD Trip Gone Awry, David Kravets talks about the difficulties of trying to port a number from Sprint to Google Voice:

Eventually, I pulled it off. I kept my same Sprint account under the same service agreement signed in July. The only change to my service agreement was that I was given a replacement phone number, which is exactly what I wanted. Unfortunately, the price I paid to accomplish this was higher than the $200 I saved in early termination fees. But since my goal was to avoid giving a new phone number to all of my contacts, that didn’t seem like throwing money down the drain the way getting socked with a termination fee does.
See, Google Voice to a cell phone user is useless without a new cell phone number. It's not like porting a cell phone number from one carrier to another. Once you have a new cell phone, what do you need your old cell phone for? You have a new phone. But Google Voice is not a new cell phone. You still need your old cell phone when you port your number, which means you need a new number for Google Voice to dial to. In other words, let's say my existing cell phone number is 202-333-3333, and I want to port that to Google Voice. As soon as I do that, 202-333-3333 won't ring my cell phone any more. My cell phone will have no number. So I have to get a new number from my cell phone company, which would be, for the sake of this example, 202-555-5555. So now people can call 202-333-3333 to reach 202-555-5555, whereas before they would call 202-333-3333 to reach 202-333-3333. Not sure I get the advantage here, especially given the hassle of trying to get your carrier to understand you're porting a number but still want to stay with the provider.

Oh, and Google will charge you $20 to port the number as well.

I love Google Voice. I'm a big fan, and I try all the time to convince people to use it. This number porting business, though—at least the way and time it is now implemented—is totally useless. My advice is to just get a new number that directs to your cell phone. When people call you on your old number, just call them back on your new one. When you meet new people who ask for your number, give them your new number. Both the old number and new number will reach you. Eventually, though, people will know only your new Google Voice number.

The flip side of “choice feminism”

At the end of Susan Brownmiller’s brilliant deconstruction of femininity (in her book Femininity), she has an “I’m only human” moment in which she says she knows all that’s problematic about femininity and still puts on make-up and conforms to some norms of femininity. Third-wave feminism and beyond has constantly struggled with this, since many women who want some of the benefits of feminism do not want to be “liberated” in other ways. Or even many of the women who do want to be liberated still admit to their guilty pleasures of desires to be a sex object, desires for traditionally masculine men, or fulfillment in domesticity and motherhood.

In Sex and the City, Charlotte defends her choice of quitting her job to be a housewife (not yet a mother, so not a stay-at-home parent) with the repeated “I choose my choice! I choose my choice!” This line of thinking comes up often in defense of stripping or pornography (“Yes, men objectify me, but I feel empowered by it”) or stay-at-home motherhood (“I love the fact I can have a career, but it’s important that I can choose to stay at home if I want to”).

Some fringe radical feminists (mainly ones I see on extreme feminist blogs—almost never in published and reputable radical feminist books) think “choice feminists” are deluded or brainwashed and not yet liberated. There is some truth to that. It’s nevertheless a simplistic assessment of what’s going on. Aren’t we all brainwashed? Aren’t we all unliberated? Who really has an objective experience of reality in a total cultural vacuum? If a woman is genuinely finds a richer, older, and taller man attractive, can you force her to find something else attractive? I happen to believe attraction is malleable to a degree, but only to a degree.

What I think we have to do is point out what’s problematic (and why it is), and then just live our lives accepting whom we’ve already become while slowly working to make the world a better place. I find both “You are not acceptable the way you are and need to pretend to be something purer” as equally depressing and troubling as “I am what I am and just can’t be better than that.” It’s only in living in that tension that we can get to real progress.

More importantly, there is a flip side to “choice feminism,” which is usually framed with the assumption that whatever a woman chooses is a legitimately feminist choice simply because she is a woman. What right do feminists have to demand men change to be less sexist if women’s own actions serve to reinforce that sexism with impunity?

You can see this played out in a very interesting blog entry and its comments: how to draw female comic characters (according to Wizard)…

Some commenters are infuriated, as the original blogger is, at the sexism in viewing women heroes as only sex objects (and then in ridiculous poses) whereas men can be actually powerful in a useful way and then sexual only accidentally or secondarily, if at all. Other commenters are angry at the sexism outrage, claiming that comics are only fantasy and not meant to be realistic and that feminists should lighten up. Then you get the “see what a thick skin I have, guys?” women who say they are strong (i.e., not complaining victims) women who aren’t easily offended and see no problem here (“Can’t we all just get along? See I’m one of you guys… I have a sense of humor”). Frankly, all of these extreme responses trouble me.

I understand the illustrations (and the illustrators’ approaches in general) are sexist. I get the critiques. I also don’t think it’s the end of the world. It is, in fact, heterosexual men who drive the comic book industry, and so that type of sexism is unsurprising. So if het men do, in fact, find skinny women with big breasts bent into impossible poses attractive in their fantasies, are their fantasies not also legitimate? If women do not have established ways to free other women from their “unliberated” fantasies and turn-ons, how can they tell unliberated men not to be turned on by what they’re genuinely turned on by?

I don’t subscribe to the whole “boys will be boys” philosophy. I’m a firm believer in personal change, in the freedom to transcend gender boundaries. Nevertheless, you don’t change desire as easily as you change your clock during daylight losing time.

More importantly, what are het men supposed to change their fantasies to? Are there healthy (non-sexist) ways to lust after women? Is lust fantasy in comic books not allowed? Instead of taking away, castigating, or censuring the lopsided women-as-sex-objects, men-as-actors motif in comic books, maybe we should just round out the balance a little more. It’s okay to have the sultry superheroine, the sexy superheroine, the skinny superheroine. And let’s also add in the non-sultry, the non-sexy, the non-skinny. Let’s throw in some more diversity of poses. Let’s start representing more superhero men as sexy in some way.

The funny thing, too, is that at least for two of the artists featured, I actually think they’re kind of classy (Kevin Maguire, Adam Hughes) cheesecake compared to what’s popular now (balloon breasts twice the size of the woman’s head) in comic books. I would, of course, love to see more appreciation for Terry Moore, Colleen Doran, Jaime Hernandez, Dave Sim, Milo Manara, and others who portray women in a variety of body types and personalities (and those are not even necessarily feminist artists).

But if some het guys are honestly turned on by cheesecake comic books, either constructively work to help them develop what you consider more healthy but equally lustful fantasies, or start putting more of your own fantasies in there. Criticism is only the first step.

P.S. If comments show a total ignorance about feminism, they will be deleted immediately. You’ve got the rest of the internet to bash feminism on. Read Feminism 101 for more details.