The fragmented nature of the Android market means that nearly half of all Android users will be unable to run Facebook’s new “Home” experience. At launch, only 6 Android phone models will be set to run the new feature.
Facebook Home will not run on Android 2.3 Gingerbread or lower, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed today in a question-and-answer session following Home’s unveiling. Initially released in February of 2011, Gingerbread is still the Android version for roughly 40 percent of the Android install base, according to Google’s most recent figures. Roughly seven percent of Android devices run an older version of the OS.
While the more than 50% of Android devices that run either 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, or versions 4.1 and 4.2 Jelly Bean should be able to run Facebook Home eventually, the launcher will initially be limited to six devices: the HTC One and One X, Samsung’s Galaxy S III, S4, and Note II, and the just revealed HTC First, which is said to be optimized for the Facebook Home experience.
The launcher will also not be available for Android tablets until well after the launch. Facebook does say it is working on Home for tablets.
Google’s Android is available to a wide swath of manufacturers, unlike Apple’s iOS where the Cupertino firm controls both hardware and software. Some Android device manufacturers are diligent in updating devices to recent versions of Android, but there are also a large number who are not, resulting in the fact that many devices are now running a two-year old version of the operating system.
Android fragmentation has proved to be a significant pain in the butt for developers, as it has required them to program their apps while accounting for a list of OS versions, along with a large array of hardware capabilities. Google has tried to encourage manufacturers to update their devices, but even Google-owned Motorola has found it hard to keep up with the update schedules.