The great flexibility of Android comes at a price: companies that opt to develop their own user interfaces have to play catch-up with the fast pace at which new versions of Android are released. This can lead to handsets not older than a few months becoming outdated really fast as carriers and handset manufacturers refuse to create updates that incorporate the improvements of new Android versions. The big bogeyman called fragmentation is a result of this process.
Fragmentation has many faces. For the end user, it means being unable to install and use certain applications and features because of being stuck on an old Android version. For developers, it means that some care has to be taken when creating applications that should work on all versions of Android. While applications written for earlier versions of Android will usually run fine on newer versions, the reverse is not true. Some features added in newer Android versions are of course not available on older versions, such as multi-touch support. Developers are thus forced to create separate code paths for different versions of Android.
But fear not. Although this sounds terrifying, it turns out that the measures that have to be taken are minimal. Most often, you can even completely forget about the whole issue and pretend there's only a single version of Android. As game developers, we're less concerned with differences in APIs and more concerned about hardware capabilities. This is a different form of fragmentation, which is also a problem for platforms such as iOS, albeit not as pronounced. Throughout this book, I will cover the relevant fragmentation issues that might get in your way while you develop your next game for Android.
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