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Android is fragmented at the hardware level [UPDATED]

Why so many different configurations?

Yesterday, all the excitement surrounded the Google Nexus S for those who even knew about it. For others, it was another instance to reflect on Android. John Gruber, resident genius and blogger at Daring Fireball, made note that there are multiple keypad layouts at the bottom of Android smartphones (see here). Gruber comments, “This is the sort of thing that epitomizes the difference between iOS and Android. Design is about making decisions.” He was linking back to a gentleman by the name of Ben Gracewood, who initially pointed out the layout difference between Samsung’s Galaxy S smartphone line (T-Mobile’s Vibrant, AT&T’s Captivate, Verizon’s Fascinate, and Sprint’s Epic 4G) and the Nexus S, which is also a Galaxy S smartphone at heart. He writes, “Lots of people call me an Android hater. I have my reasons. Chief among them is Google’s utter disrespect for consistency and user experience.”

Readers have since taken the liberty to comment on that post, including Andrew Wood, who created a composite image showing all the different configurations on more popular Android smartphones (see here). The story here does not end at the fact that people are starting to notice, it is becoming apparent that Google's Android OS is fragmented in more ways than one. From the fact that software role outs are relegated to back pages on Google blogs to the fact that hardware manufacturers are given the ability to change something as important to the end user as the location of the search button. Either way, Google needs to decide at some point how important this operating system is to them and start policing some of these glaring missteps in user interface design.

UPDATE: It is possible that Google is not to blame for this disparity, but once again, the end user comes to a point where Google must take responsibility for its operating system. Taking the stance of "here is the code, do what you will with it" is not acceptable for a company that wanted to create a personal technology device, especially when half the reason there is software fragmentation is due to the fact that the carriers and manufacturers can't decide on what crapware to use on the phones.