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Fundamentals of Browser, OS, and Device Fragmentation

Fundamentals of Browser, OS, and Device Fragmentation

August 8, 2022
Dante WuDante Wu
Dante Wu


Internet usage has witnessed tremendous growth in the last few decades. As of April 2022, there were five billion internet users globally, which is 63% of the global population(source). The number of internet users is rising each day, which has increased the demand for websites, apps, and devices. Every functional website has the support of rigorous testing behind it. However, the testing of internet applications is not easy. Functions that work perfectly fine in one browser or app might not be correct for the other. It becomes challenging for the testing teams to resolve these issues. Hence, investing in compatibility testing becomes a necessity.

Check out: Understanding Mobile Compatibility Testing

The percentage of people using the internet through mobile devices reached 92.4% in 2022(source). Everybody’s mobile devices are different. Depending on users' tastes and requirements, they’ll want a unique mobile experience to help make using their device more comfortable. However, this is a problem for businesses that operate mobility solutions and rely on mobile devices to perform mission-critical tasks. User preference might lead to fragmentation, which can be a big issue for organizations. More than 21 operating systems and 9000 different mobile devices are available for users to access the internet. This makes the situation more complex as fragmentation occurs.

Test your mobile apps on real devices in 90+ locations worldwide. Learn more.

What is Fragmentation?

Fragmentation is the diversity of browsers, devices, and platform versions in use at any given point in time. This phenomenon occurs when some mobile users use older versions of an operating system, browser, or device, while others use newer versions. Fragmentation can be a problem for developers who must create different versions of the same application to ensure it works perfectly with various versions of a given OS. It can also be a problem for IT departments because various operating versions have different capabilities, making them harder to manage and secure.

Please check: Cross Browser Testing in 2022 - Top Browsers

How Does Fragmentation Affect Organizations?

The diversity in browsers, operating systems, and devices leads to a lack of interoperability. The differences within device-browser-OS combinations can make it extremely difficult for organizations to deliver a uniform user experience across all combinations. This is mainly because the same batch of code may and often behave differently on various device-browser combinations. Fragmentation leads to inconsistencies in UX, particularly for customers visiting a site from multiple platforms. These inconsistencies may force some customers to bounce and lead to traffic loss and potential revenue.

Don’t Rely on iOS Emulators & Android Simulators. Test on Real Devices.

If the differences between mobile devices and operating system versions are minor, not having consistency among the devices can affect your organization.

The effects of fragmentation include:

  • OS Version-specific Errors and Bugs

When any device is in use, errors and bugs are bound to happen. Upgrading devices to a newer version is one way to fix these bugs, as OS developers can patch out any problems that occur. Some of these bugs can be minor issues, but others can lead to significant performance and security problems.

  • Compatibility Issues

If organizations rely on specific applications to perform essential tasks, organizations must ensure that every device in the infrastructure supports the applications. A device not compatible with a mission-critical app is useless. OS updates can break these applications or make them unusable. For every update organizations roll out, they need to test every app in use to ensure it’s still working.

Read: The increasing need for performance testing in web applications

What are the Different Types of Fragmentation?

1. Browser Fragmentation 

People use various types and versions of browsers, as there are different players in the browser space, such as Chrome, Safari, Microsoft Edge, and Firefox. However, it won't be ideal for developers to optimize their websites just for Chrome and Safari (major players). This is because they will still lose out on potential revenue from customers coming through other browsers, like Samsung Internet and Opera. As each browser family has multiple versions in the market, organizations need to use cross-browser testing to check the compatibility of their applications and devices with various browsers. So that browser fragmentation won't be a problem for them. 

2. Operating System Fragmentation

Operating system fragmentation is often associated with Android, Google's mobile OS. This type of fragmentation is not as much of an issue with iOS devices. Android fragmentation refers to the fact that many different Android OS versions are available and operational in the digital world. As 74.6% of the world's smart devices run on Android, the bugs and security issues caused by the Android fragmentation are considered the main weaknesses of the OS.

Read: Capturing App Launch Metrics on Android

Generally, manufacturers are responsible for providing updates tailored to the particular versions of Android offered on their devices. Every manufacturer may not provide updates consistently. The lack of updates to devices can lead to Android fragmentation. Additionally, some Android versions may be heavily modified and not even respond to updates created for other versions. This can also be a reason for the occurrence of Android fragmentation. Android's open-source nature has led to manufacturers skinning their Android versions. This refers to the manufacturer's unique modification of the OS created for a particular device. Therefore, mobile devices may have vast visual and functional differences despite running on the same OS, thus, resulting in fragmentation.

Android fragmentation is one of the main concerns for developers and testers. With the help of Android app testing methods, testers or developers creating Android apps must ensure that they appeal to and function for a majority of users, which translates to its optimization for various devices and OS versions.

3. Device Fragmentation

Nowadays, people use different types of devices to access the internet. Mobile devices, desktops, and tablets are the main devices used by people. Device fragmentation is caused due to the lack of required hardware or API to support the new changes in the apps or websites. Device fragmentation is made worse when the wireless carrier, rather than the device manufacturer, decides when to deploy operating system updates. If the system is not updated on time, the performance of the devices will take a hit. To avoid device fragmentation, organizations need to test their devices in real-time.

Check out: Performing Cross Browser Testing - It’s More than Just Chrome and Firefox

How Can Organizations Shortlist Devices, Browsers, or OS for Testing Fragmentation?

1. Identify where your users are from

Organizations can use tools like Google Analytics to gather information about their users. They need to find information related to user location and device. This information will help them to understand the traffic spread and users’ choice of device.

2. Prepare a list of device-browser combinations covering the following aspects:

  • Device-browser combinations with high test-fail rates and low conversion rates
  • Relevant devices and browsers depending on the selected geographies
  • Flagship devices with high potential usage in the future
  • Type of tests for each device (sanity, regression, integration, etc.)

With the help of the two steps mentioned above, organizations can shortlist the devices, browsers, or OS to be tested.

The HeadSpin Platform can help you easily shortlist devices, browsers, and OS that need to be tested according to your organization’s requirements. With real devices deployed in 90+ locations, the platform will enable you to check the performance of different devices in various geographies.

Different Types of Testing Methods Used to Test Fragmentation

1. Cross-browser Testing

Cross-browser testing mainly focuses on ensuring that the basic features of websites are compatible with different operating systems, devices, browsers, and browser-OS combinations. Many browsers are present in the market, but the popular ones, like Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Safari, capture the highest market share. Cross-browser testing plays a critical role in testing fragmentation, as it will help the testers to identify the performance of applications and websites on various browsers.

Cross-browser testing is a costly and time-consuming QA process for businesses. HeadSpin offers a cross-browser testing solution indispensable to enterprises across the world. HeadSpin solutions come with all necessary features, including automated testing in real-time across thousands of combinations of devices, OS, and browsers.

2. Compatibility Testing

Compatibility is an ever-prevailing issue in the software industry. Compatibility testing is a type of testing to check whether the software is capable of running on different hardware, operating systems, applications, network environments, or mobile devices. With the help of this testing, testers can analyze the bugs or errors in the application or website due to fragmentation. 

With HeadSpin’s global device infrastructure, you can run compatibility testing for your apps and websites on the global device cloud of Android, iOS, and desktop browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge/IE, and Opera.


Generally, when organizations first think about creating an app, they think about apps accessed through smartphones. However, today, end users not only access applications through their smartphones but also their tablets, smart home appliances, and smart wearables, including smartwatches. Additionally, they may use Android or iOS apps in their vehicles. When it comes to building an app, developers need to consider all the devices on which users want the app.

Ensuring the consistent quality of apps across devices and platforms is not only becoming increasingly crucial but also more complex. The growing number of device models, differences in firmware and OS versions, customizations set up by carriers and manufacturers, and dependency on remote services and other apps are adding to the complexity. Delivering consistent quality across customer touchpoints is a determining factor of overall customer experience and building customer loyalty, thereby increasing retention rates. So, organizations need to look out for fragmentations in OS, browsers, and devices while testing.

Whatever your need at the time, HeadSpin offers the solution to ensure your website's/application's compatibility with various web browsers. We provide solutions that help you scale your business without any issues.

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1. What is crowdsourced testing?

Ans: The crowdsourced testing uses a dispersed, temporary workforce of multiple individual testers. This on-demand community of testers can help test mobile applications more quickly and effectively than an in-house team. However, crowd testers cannot replace in-house QA teams in all aspects. In-house testers have far more product knowledge and alignment with company values and goals.

2. What are the main effects of Android fragmentation?


  • Inconsistency: With multiple Android versions circulating, there is no possibility that all operational Android devices will be upgraded to the current version. This may reduce the number of potential users an app can target. A large number of Android versions in the market also make it challenging to optimize the app for every single version.
  • Development and testing difficulties: Various device-Android version combinations create technical complexities for developers and testers. Every app developer and tester must consider the increasing number of devices and Android OS versions when developing or testing an app/software. Optimizing an app/software for all Android devices is an exhausting process for developers. QA experts also have to test the app on many real device-Android combinations, which is very difficult and expensive.
  • Bad for BYOD: When enterprise mobility is implemented with BYOD, using Android versions can be problematic. Fragmentation in Android means that the companies will have to deal with various security issues due to the difference between Android versions. This makes app management and security management complicated and tedious.

3. Is open source the main reason for Android fragmentation?

Ans: Yes. With Android being open source, manufacturers have the freedom to customize the Android versions. By doing this, manufacturers develop unique modifications to specific versions of Android. This may create a lot of visual and functional differences in the same version of Android, thus, leading to Android fragmentation.

4. What is responsive web design?

Ans: Responsive web design (RWD) is a web development approach that generates changes to the appearance of a website/app, depending on the screen size and orientation of the device being used to view it.

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Fragmentations across Browsers, OS, and Devices

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Fundamentals of Browser, OS, and Device Fragmentation

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