Last Updated: September 3rd, 2011

Welcome to the first of a new series of polls, where every weekend, we'll ask your opinion on a timely Android-related topic. The goal is to see where the populus stands on issues and foster discussion to broaden our view. So without further ado, let's get into our first poll.

The Great Divide

Ever since the SDK was released, there's been discussion on whether Honeycomb would make it to phones or not. Most of the team here firmly said no - but a few of us thought it could. The debate was fueled by the SDK preview release - specifically, as Ars Technica noted, the emulator could scale down to WVGA resolutions. Why make the effort to support phone resolutions if you weren't planning on going there?


Honeycomb SDK at WVGA, courtesy of Ars Technica.

Thankfully, we gained some clarity a few days ago, when a Google company spokesman told PC Magazine that Honeycomb itself wouldn't make it to phones, though some of the improvements would. Phandroid also managed to snag an insider tip that said Gingerbread would be followed by Ice Cream Sandwich (rather than Honeycomb).


So What?

Personally, it's hard for me to decide if the split is going to be an issue for Android or not. On the one hand, having half as many people working on each platform is obviously going to slow progress. On the other hand, Android has finally reached a point where it's pretty damn solid - all the fundamentals are more or less good to go, as are many of the finer points of the OS. From this point on, updates should be evolutionary, rather than revolutionary - a process that requires substantially less manpower.

It's also worth looking at how such a divide has worked for others - namely, Apple. In this case, while both the iPad and iPhone/iPod Touch are based on iOS, there are some major differences between the two. Thus far, it's a system that seems to work well for the company - but by comparison, it's arguable that being split between too many variations played a part in Nokia's downfall.

What Do You Think?

I suppose if I had to make a choice, I'd say there's nothing to worry about. The pace of Android development has slowed, and we've already been dealing with the internal split in manpower - obviously, they've been developing Honeycomb for quite some time.

Now it's your turn - what do you think? Is the tablet/phone split in Android going to be an issue? We'd love for you to sound off via the poll, but even more, we'd love to hear why, via the comments below.

Is the tablet/phone split going to hurt Android?

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Aaron Gingrich
Aaron is a geek who has always had a passion for technology. When not working or writing, he can be found spending time with his family, playing a game, or watching a movie.

  • Joe

    i think it has a lot of potential to hurt android because of the fact that this is not going to help the upgrade problems customers are seeing. there's going to be more awful custom UIs from manufacturers and less updates.

    but the honeycomb os is looking pretty sweet on the Xoom.

  • Silver Fang

    I don't think it will be a problem. Apple seems successful with its iPhone and iPad. There's no reason why Android can't be just as successful. Perhaps some of the features that are initially only on the tablets will eventually find their way to the phones.

    • Aaron Gingrich

      You're definitely right in that Apple has pulled it off, and I don't see why Google can't do the same. Then again, they're totally different companies with entirely different mantras. You never know.

  • Eric

    It's not Google that worries me. Normal Devs won't want to support multiple os's. However, I expect Google to be like apple, the first version is split, and the next few versions will roll everything together. Not saying the UI's need to be the same, but the api's do for the most part.

  • http://twitter.com/benmarvin Ben Marvin

    I think there clearly need to be differences between tablet computing and a phone OS. I mean look at the Galaxy Tab, it's just a giant phone, and Google was right, Eclair and Froyo are phone OS's. They're starting to get it right for tablets with Honeycomb, but some of those features just wouldn't look right on a screen smaller that 4 inches. You would need to use a 2pt font for that Gmail app to be of any use, but then you couldn't even read it.

    • Aaron Gingrich

      I agree, but I was hoping that they'd figure out a way to keep the OS's one in a more basic sense, but split on the surface. I suppose they are still the same in a basic sense, but not as much as I'd hoped.

      I suppose it boils down to how deep the divide is, as far as I'm concerned.

    • Heriberto

      > You would need to use a 2pt font for that Gmail app to be of any use, but then you couldn’t even read it.
      I know what you mean, but what I found really interesting is the "fragments" feature in honeycomb. For example, the scrabble app that they showcased on the tablet all the parts of the app were shown on screen, and on the phone app the menu was shown first and then when you clicked the game, the board fragment showed up. So what I think will happen is that the developers will have to design the fragments and android will take care of showing the appropiate fragments on the phone and on the tablet.

      • three_pineapples


        The whole point of fragments was so that any number could be shown depending on screen size. On phones, one fragment would be shown. On tablets, 2 fragments would be shown. Presumably if it was put on a larger device, more fragments would be shown.

        I think the Os's will merge back together. Infact, i'm not even sure *IF* the statement that honeycomb is not coming to phones is true.

        1) Engadget had an interview with the honeycomb UI designer at CES. He said honeycomb would eventually come to phones

        2) Android rumours have been terrible recently. For example, we had that gingerbread would be 3.0. Then we had Honeycomb will be 3.0. Then we had honeycomb will be 2.4. Then we had "oh wait, honeycomb IS 3.0". Then we had Ice cream will be 2.4 (I mean WTF...like google will start messing up naming schemes). As of today, engadget is reporting that 2.4 will be gingerbread (which is what it was originally reported to be before the ice cream rumour started).

        It's a mess of people making stuff up. Maybe the Google employee is getting confused when talking about honeycomb.

        *I* think that some honeycomb features are being backported to 2.4 Gingerbread, as a stop gap measure because honeycomb isn't ready for phones yet.

        However, I think that eventually honeycomb will be on phones eventually, whether that be honeycomb 3.0, honeycomb 3.1 or Ice cream sandwich 3.1.

        Anyway, we'll see. So far I was right to stick with honeycomb being 3.0, and 2.4 still being gingerbread! (despite rumours, preached as gospel truth, otherwise) Can I keep the streak going? :)

  • Eric

    This saying apple is doing it, they aren't. Both the phone and the tablet os have the same core.

  • Andreas

    Well the article mentions that the honeycomb feautures will not be seen immediately on phones. That just means that the phone Ui will be modified at a second moment, just not immediately.
    But still the api's will be essentially the same.

  • http://www.dxpetti.com DXPetti


    "UPDATE: It turns out there may have been a bit of confusion surrounding Kovacs’ comments at the Google event. Google reached out to clarify, supplying BGR with the following statement: “The version of Honeycomb we’ve shown is optimized for tablet form factors. All of the UI changes are the future of Android. Yesterday’s event focused on tablet form factors, which is where you’ll first see Honeycomb.” "
    OS is not split. Simply hitting tablets first THEN phones

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/jaroslav-stekl/ Jaroslav Stekl

      Look at the Honeycomb UI and then tell me, with a straight face, that it would be usable on phones without any modifications. I think what they meant by that statement was that certain elements of the UI, such as the holographic interface, will be coming to phones.

      • Roland.se

        I´m pretty sure that when they say "All of the UI changes.." they atleast mean all of the meaningful UI changes.

        I´m sure we will see the following on phones;
        -System Bar, for global status and notifications
        -Action Bar, for application control
        -Customizable Home screens
        -Recent Apps, for easy visual multitasking
        -Improved text selection, copy and paste
        -Activity fragments, for greater control of content and design flexibility
        -Redesigned UI widgets

        But maybe not like to shift keys on the keyboard..

  • Andreas

    Also samsung galaxy S got froyo officially months ago, at least in UK... :-) gingerbread is not far away probably

    • Aaron Gingrich

      Yeah, but only the Vibrant in the US has Froyo (officially). That's a few million Galaxy S's without Froyo ;)

      • Corey

        i just got my bell galaxy 2 weeks ago and it came with froyo already installed

  • chris

    Haven't Google all ready said that it will only take a line of code to make apps support tablets and phones?

    If that is the case, I'd of thought both OS's would have been fairly similar. More or less just the home screen and its functionality would be changed depending on the devices screen size.

    But I really have no idea, I'm still very much a newcomer to Android.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/jaroslav-stekl/ Jaroslav Stekl

      Actually, they said it would take a single line of code to enable hardware acceleration. But yeah, it shouldn't be too hard to make apps more tablet-friendly.

      • chris

        Ah, okay. Told you I was a newb :-P

      • Roland.se

        I think the reference might be to
        "Existing applications can seamlessly participate in the new holographic UI theme without code changes, by adding a single attribute in their manifest files."

        Anyways.. tablets supports android 2.3 and previous version without changes. Though if you want to have the application make use of the added screen size (except just scaling up) you need to redesign the application a bit and use the new Activity fragments.

  • kodiak211

    hink everything will be ok if it split!!! the only problem i see is if google keeps updating the OS's at the rate they been. they should slow it down a bite.... there is to many phones running on different OS's slow it down to give the phones time to be outdated before the OS.... and google needs to get a hold of the OS's being put into these phones. there should be no reason a new phone should come out with 1.5 or 1.6 at this point!!!! thats a problem!!!!

    • Aaron Gingrich

      A while back (maybe 7-8 months?) that they were going to slow the update cycle down to about every 6 months.

    • Roland.se

      Why would slowing down be better?

      Would it be better if they went directly from 2.0 to 3.0 without these releases in between? While not moving the release dates for 2.0 and 3.0.

      I´ve had 2.2 since summer and is waiting for 2.3. But I dont think it would be better that 2.3 wasnt released just so that I would have the latest version of the OS..

      I say.. full speed ahead and hope everyone is doing their best to keep up with their devices OS versions.

  • Roland.se

    OS is not split.

    Same platform, same API, but the launch device for HoneyComb is a table (Motorola Zoom) where a UI has been created specifically for tablets. Android 3+ will arrive on phones, but maybe a stock Google experience phone with Android 3.0 wont arrive.

    I expect that we will see an announcement pretty soon related to Google TV using Android 3+ (probably HoneyComb) in its next version.

    Regarding that Phandroid "Exclusive".. If its true I think its GRI17 build is actually another release of Gingerbread branch. Android 2.4? Might be released at MWC.. which would mean that the parts "that aims to bring some of the new elements found in Honeycomb over to phone" means that actually HoneyComb will use some parts from Gingerbread :). That would explain the delay of getting 2.3 on Nexus One, its getting 2.4 instead. 2.3 would then have been an early release of gingerbread to make it in before christmas.

    But thats just me speculating..

    • Noel

      Totally agree with ur take...i wrote abt this on some site a few weeks back. I think the delayed release of Gingerbread to N1 means Google probably working on some upgrades to the current Gingerbread b4 they unleash it to the N1.

  • Zigmar

    I'm not convinced there would be a split. All of new API seems to be generic targeting both phones and tablets. Fragments API for example allows to reuse same elvements for small and large screen device (in addition to handling aspect ration changed during rotation).
    Even if 3.0 will release "for tablets only" because of the the time constrains I believe it is only temporal measure and the next version (3.1?) will have everything from two worlds.

  • Daniel Greer

    Hasn't Google been saying all along that it won't allow Android to become fragmented? Well, from my perspective, this would seem to define OS fragmentation pretty good. It will run on one device but not another. If they wanted to start another OS they should have created it's own nomenclature. This would minimize the potential for confusion about what works with what.

    • Aaron Gingrich

      Saying it is one thing - making it happen is another. Anyone who keeps an eye on the platform distribution chart can attest to that.

      • Roland.se

        But thats not fragmentation.. Not in a meaningful anyways.. If you look at the latest chart and its "fragmentation"

        Android 1.5 3.9%
        Android 1.6 6.3%
        Android 2.1 31.4%
        Android 2.2 57.6%
        Android 2.3 0.8%

        Lets say that they skipped all .x releases.. That would make the chart look like
        Android 1 10.2%
        Android 2 89.8%

        Is that less "fragmentation"? If so.. I say I hope Google brings even more fragmentation..
        The thing is that as a developer I can aim at that "Android 2 89.8%" user base only by writing my application for the version 7 of the API.

  • http://bobertstech.blogspot.com Robert Dunn

    Right now the only problem I see with this is the confusion. What is Android if their are two different OSes? It's like having two different cars that go by the same name. As long as the apps and everything else iare interchangeable between phone and tablet the split shouldn't present a problem. It would be nice if the phone and tablet versions went by the same version number to lower the confusion factor.

  • JCoopernicus

    Androidpolice needs to stop spreading conjecture are fact.
    Google has never said the 3.0 will deprecate phone support. Very few things are pulled from Android on version changes.
    Android will not be dropping 99% of the devices it supports.
    Honeycomb ADDS tablet support. All the visuals assets will trickle down to phones. There isn't a single feature added to android 3.0 is specific to tablets. It's just a different view.
    Fragments are compatible with all screen sizes.
    The preview SKD that was pushed out there was the major changes that will happen, and they did it to give people a head start, not because it's the final SDK or feature set.
    Please stop spreading this garbage about an OS deprecating 99% of it's current device support.
    What's next Ice Cream, won't support ARM chipsets because they're gonna include support for x86?

    • Aaron Gingrich

      Oh, dear. I'm not quite sure where to start. I think my reply is best organized in a list, though:

      1) "Conjecture"? Are you referring to the statement made by an official company spokesperson? Because a statement from an official company spokesperson is where we're getting our facts. Perhaps the person spoke incorrectly; if so, the retraction was issued after this had been prepared, and I didn't know of it until somebody mentioned it in the comments above. Perhaps that's not what you meant by conjecture - if so, please enlighten me.

      2) Deprecate means "express strong disapproval of; deplore," so I'm not quite sure what you mean when you use it here. Based on the sentence that follows, it looks like you might mean it as a more sophisticated word for "drop" - of which I made no mention or suggestion. Once again, if that was not the word you were looking for, please clarify.

      3) I clearly state that some features in Honeycomb will trickle down. I've yet to see anyone, anywhere, report that every visual asset will trickle down, and I think that's an awfully broad, concrete thing to state this early in Honeycomb's public existence (I'd also consider that "spreading garbage.") For the record, while we're on the subject, I was of the opinion that Honeycomb would make it to phones, because that just makes more sense to me.

      4) I'm well aware that the SDK was pushed out to give people a head start. That's why I called it a *preview* SDK.

      5) Once again, I didn't say they were dropping (sorry, "deprecating") phone support. Please go look up the words "split" and "drop," because they're quite different.

      6) Please "stop spreading garbage" about the future of the OS. You're now on record as talking about Ice Cream; all we have on the name of the upcoming OS is a *rumor* that it's Ice Cream Sandwich - not Ice Cream. I went on the words of an official company spokesman; when calling it "Ice Cream," you're going based on a rumor - and doing so incorrectly, at that.

      All that said, thanks for reading, commenting, and (hopefully) voting. I've noticed you comment before (although I don't think what I've seen before was exactly positive, either), and thank you for visiting again. While I appreciate being challenged and questioned, please A) be clear and B) read carefully.

  • JCoopernicus

    Deprecated is referred to in coding when features are dropped/no longer supported. (What everyone seems to think will happen when 3.0 hits AOSP).

    Android is an OS that is device independent. Support is added (and dropped) based on what's happening with technology.
    The main branch of android is developed in a linear fashion. The entire idea of it is that there is no branches or splits of the OS.

    Companies/Individuals/etc branch off and add device specific things to get it to run properly. This is how it has been, and I've yet to see a comment by any top level guy from android say otherwise. So there will be NO splitting of AOSP in the near future, and there has been no indicatin of it either. The name of the API created/used to prevent exactly what people are afraid is named "Fragments". If you can't see the humor of it(these guys have a great sense of humor), well then...what can I say?

    Once again, none of the new features shown so far are "tablet" specific. Please are all focused on the single X-Large screen support, and ignoring everything else that's being added that isn't dependent on a "tablet".

    Reflowing the visuals we've seen in the default launcher (sidenote: the launcher is launcher2.apk...the default launcher from AOSP, guess whats makes it look cool on tablets a couple of XML files!), is trivial at best. The graphics are in HDPI and MPDI format already, all they need is some new .xml files and it's done.

    You know why that rep said "we'll see it down the line"? Because that event was about the new X-Large screen support. They barely mentioned the new streaming support, or the MTP/PTP supports, or DRM support. How many think that none of this is coming to phones either? "Down the line" is PR speak for: Not talking about that at the moment, now look at the big shiny screen!.

    The ice cream comment was tongue in cheek, btw.
    I see all this hogwash on the xda, and it just trips me out more to see it on, what's supposed to be, android sites that know what they're talking about.

    I actually like this site, the last(and only one I think) article I posted on was another editorial piece that had an abysmal lack of understating.

  • ron

    If you check out the youtube video with Goolgle's Matias Duarte, he said "what you see in Honeycomb is the direction of Android" so at somepoint you will see it on cellphones. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LcuDQd8SejM

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      Sure, but it won't be called "Honeycomb." If a feature gets merged in Ice Cream Sandwich or later, that's great, but in the meantime, the fact is: some things are available only in Honeycomb and not on any phone OS.

      • Roland.se

        I cant say that there will be an android device using Android 3.0 (though I´m confident there will be). And it might be first 3.1 where the next time will be phones released with the OS version.. But there wont be any "feature merge" and "some things are available only in Honeycomb and not on any phone OS." is definitely not a FACT.

        Though I´m curios to see if and when Nexus One or Nexus S will be getting 3.0..

  • Andrew

    Odd poll. I don't see any downside. Nor do I see a downside to the eventual third fork for appliances. For me, Android will have truly reached its potential when the little green tin man is running my DirectTV box (and TV), then adjusting my lights by time of day and voice commands, turning up my water heater based on my alarm time, etc...

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      The downside is increased fragmentation. Imagine having to wait for an update to fix a bug when your water heater decides to heat the water up only at 13:37?

      • Roland.se

        And it would be better that my water heater wasnt able at all to be turned on based on my alarm time? Or that my water heater wasnt using Android at all.. Instead using custom linux XY.

        Is my android on my phone worse of due to for example it exists android in cars? Though Android in cars means that Android is more fragmented?

  • Andy

    i personally think its just Android conquering the world lol and no i don't see it affecting things negatively. I believe most apps will work on most systems. 'most' being the keyword :)

    Android in a car stereo anyone?

  • mrw

    Google announced its most recent phone OS update in December. It is now February and they have only released it for a single device. Notably, they haven't been able to get it ready yet for the Nexus One, their first generation developer phone with no carrier baggage. I'd say Google has more fundamental problems than whether the tablet and phone OS versions are currently compatible.

    • Aaron Gingrich

      An editorial on that very topic is nearly complete - it's actually been in draft form for about 2 weeks now. Should be ready to go later this week :)

    • Roland.se

      Yeah.. I´m interested in this question too (being an Nexus One owner).

      My guess is that its happing a lot at the moment 2.3 (maybe a 2.4 also?), 3.0 and they have a little bit at catching up to the "moving target". I think they will skip 2.3 and go for a later version for Nexus One.

  • Noel

    I STRONGLY hope Google doesn't loose sight of the fact that the bulk of the masses aka (Androids army) will utilize more smart devices than Tablets. Yes a lot of us will eventually own tabs but the amount of ppl with Smart Android phones will out number those with tabs in the millions. Therefor since most will depend on their Android smart phones or pocket computers if i may...that means Google should look for ways to incorporate most if not all of the goodies of Honeycomb to their smart computer phones. So i will hope or probably Google is alrdy hard at work on this...that ICE CREAM SANDWICH should be a UNION of some sort between Gingerbread, Honeycomb and other juicy stuff that the guys incharge of Android OS n Google labs have been cooking. The new Goodies on Honeycomb is exactly the direction Google should head for its smartphone devices..which is the bulk of its Android biz. Android on Tablets should just be an extension of Android on ur Smartphones with minor differences between the two. It is a given that more Android phones will be in ppls hands than tabs.. more than two to one or more like three to one, therefore the total Android experience should be at the disposal of ppl with Smart Android phones.

  • rivasdiaz

    My god!!! Just check the APIs!!! Everything in there points to an evolution of the OS, not to a split. The new Fragments are included just to support tablets AND phones in the same application. Maybe there will be no honeycomb phone, but then it will be supported in the next. Android 3.x will run on Phones AND Tablets. Period. There is not a single thing in the release notes of the honeycomb sdk that can be seen as a problem for Android 3.x on phones.

    Maybe you will have different UIs for tablets and phones. I don't expect the same UI for both, but this is not a split of the OS. A lot of phones are sold with diferent UIs, that doesn't mean they are running a fork of Android inside. They all run the same apps. The fragmentation is caused by diferent specs (and API versions of course). The same will happen here. If your app requires a much faster hardware, or the Fragment API, you will need a tablet running Android 3.x, or a high end phone running Android 3.x, that's it.

    • Eric

      "If your app requires a much faster hardware, or the Fragment API, you will need a tablet running Android 3.x, or a high end phone running Android 3.x, that’s it."

      I think google said fragments were compatible (or soon going to be) with versions as far back as Donut