In the old days, developers only had to make apps for the iPhone and the Mac. The situation is trickier these days with multiple versions of software and devices, including the new iPad Pro.
by Shara Tibken@sharatibken / November 12, 2015
Apple, known for keeping its products simple and elegant, may be getting away from the simple part, at least when it comes to developers.
It wasn’t so long ago that Apple co-founder Steve Jobs liked to point out Google’s Android “fragmentation” problem, with developers forced to make multiple versions of their apps to support the varying Android devices. It turns out Apple may have a fragmentation problem of its own, thanks to a product lineup that’s a lot more complicated these days.
Along with three iPhone screen sizes and features specific to each generation of its iconic smartphone, Apple now offers different size tablets, a smartwatch with its own software, a streaming-media player that supports apps, and nearly a dozen Macintosh computer models. Starting this week, the Cupertino, California-based company adds a third tablet size with the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, which offers an optional stylus and a detachable keyboard. The lineup is a big change from the days of Jobs when Apple offered a much more streamlined group of devices and stuck with a standard iPhone screen size for the first five generations of the smartphone.
The new multitude of products — as well as the four different software systems running them: iOS for iPhones and iPads, Mac OS X for desktop and laptop computers, tvOS for Apple TV and watchOS for the Apple Watch — forces developers to pick and choose which apps to create first. The iPhone, which makes up about two-thirds of Apple’s sales, captures the most developer attention. But the increasing fragmentation of products and platforms means you may not find your favorite app on the new iPad Pro or the Apple Watch, or at least not a version of the app that can fully take advantage of the gadget’s unique capabilities.
If it sounds familiar, it’s a problem Google has dealt with since the early days of Android. Device makers released phones and tablets in myriad screen sizes, and developers weren’t sure which version of the operating system to build apps for. That led to early growing pains for products such as Android-powered tablets. Fragmentation continues to be an issue. Only a quarter of Android devices run the year-old release of the software called Lollipop. But Google has worked to mitigate the issue by pushing for apps that work well across the various versions of Android.