Fragmentation Comes to iOS

*US price not announced. Previous price for iPhone 4S was $649, but other countries (Canada, Australia) have seen a $50 increase over iPhone 4S.
# Only the cellular (3G/4G/LTE) versions of iPads have a GPS chip.
**The iPad Mini has not been announced, all information is tentative and unsubstantiated.

While iOS will never come close to the fragmentation seen in Android with all the different versions and customizations, recent product releases and software updates and Apple’s decision to sell previous generation products at a lower price means things aren’t as streamlined as they used to be. I have prepared a chart based on published information. Any errors/omissions are mine and will be corrected asap.

I have included the iPhone 3GS here as it is one of the devices being upgraded to iOS and was only discontinued a couple of days ago. While the original iPad is not getting an upgrade to iOS 6, I have kept it in for comparison because it’s a recent product – remember it was the latest and only iPad on sale until March 2, 2011.

The iPad Mini has not been announced but numerous leaks have made it virtually certain that there isn’t long to wait. One of the questions here is where it will fit in alongside the new iPod touch, and the iPad 2, which is still on sale but misses out on some key features like Siri and Facetime over cellular. The new iPod touch gets Siri support while costing $100 less and using a similar dual-core A5 chip to the iPad 2. Another issue is that while the new iPad and iPad 2 (WiFi), and the new iPod touch get Siri and turn by turn navigation, they don’t have a GPS chip, which limits the utility of navigation and the location based features in Siri.

While some features are hardware dependent, it is clear that Apple has deliberately chosen to limit certain features on older devices. And iPhone developers will have to modify/develop their apps for two different screen sizes and resolutions. Again, this is nothing compared to the countless number of resolutions seen on Android devices, and unlike Android where app developers have taken their time to support newer versions, all popular apps will be updated very quickly to support the new screen size. However, it represents a fundamental change for Apple from the cohesive and consistent user experience offered across all iPhones so far.

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