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Understanding the severity of iOS fragmentation

By Jash Unadkat, Technical Content Writer at BrowserStack -

Table of Contents

The term fragmentation is most frequently used in relation to the Android ecosystem. This is because fragmentation is a major issue in Android. On the other hand, the iOS ecosystem isn’t as fragmented when compared to Android. Apple has taken numerous measures to keep fragmentation levels minimal. It also ensures that users upgrade to the latest version as soon as possible by delivering timely and easy updates.

Nonetheless, bear in mind that every iOS user can’t or won’t upgrade to the latest iOS version at the same time.

Additionally, Apple also launched a separate OS for its iPad devices – the iPadOS to provide a dedicated and delightful tablet experience. This move has enabled Apple to free its tablets from certain limitations imposed in iOS.

However, this also translates to new challenges for Apple developers as they now need to test and optimize their mobile and web applications for both iOS and iPadOS users.

The fragmentation issue, albeit less severe, persists for the Apple ecosystem too. This can be driven by the fact that approximately 22% (as of the date of writing this article) of iOS users are not running the latest version of iOS, i.e., iOS 14.2.

A key reason for this is Apple made the latest iOS version (14.2.1) available only for premium handsets like iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 pro max, iPhone mini.

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As of date, iOS usage is widespread across a few popular versions. The table below displays the usage details of various iOS versions to get a sense of fragmentation in the iOS ecosystem.

iOS versionsCumulative Distribution
iOS 14.232.07%
iOS 14.118.73%
iOS 14.010.73%
iOS 13.79.26 %
iOS 13.66%
iOS 12.47.33%


Given the above stats, one can easily conclude how the iOS ecosystem features concerns related to iOS fragmentation.

Additionally, upgrading to the latest iOS version each time doesn’t necessarily deliver the best user experience. There are instances wherein users experience compatibility issues with existing apps when they upgrade to the latest iOS versions. As a reason, some users prefer sticking to the older iOS version. This problem primarily arises due to inadequate testing of applications on the latest iOS or iPad devices.

Fragmentation leads to two major consequences:

  1. Inconsistencies in the user experience due to compatibility issues.
  2. Increased development and testing efforts lead to delay in the delivery of applications.

How to deal with iOS Fragmentation?

iOS users expect their app to provide them with a delightful user experience regardless of whatever iOS version they are using. With tons of applications already available on the App Store, users don’t think twice about uninstalling an app if they are unsatisfied with its performance. This can be proven from the fact that 56% of users uninstall poorly optimized apps within a week of installation.

QA engineers can ensure the stability of iOS apps by optimizing their apps by testing on real Apple devices. Needless to say, there are many variants of Apple devices in use globally. Naturally, it can be challenging for teams to set up, maintain, and upgrade an on-premise device lab that includes all the Apple iPhones and iPads for testing.

Setting up a comprehensive device lab demands enormous investment, which is not a feasible option for small organizations. Teams can address this issue by using a real device cloud for testing. Basically, this infrastructure provides QA engineers with real mobile devices for testing websites and applications in real user conditions.

BrowserStack is a cloud platform that empowers teams with the ideal test infrastructure. Teams can leverage this platform to test both applications as well as websites on desired device-browser-OS combinations. For example, one can test a website on the Chrome browser for iPhone 11.

BrowserStack’s real device cloud offers :

  1. Exhaustive range of Apple devices like iPhones, iPads running on latest and legacy versions of iOS. For example, one can choose to test on a range of iPhones like iPhone 6, iPhone 12, etc.
  2. Tools to debug websites or iOS applications using Safari DevTools, device logs, video recordings, and screenshots for each test.
  3. Secure and encrypted tunnel for Local Testing of websites and applications on local test development servers.
  4. Integrations with popular iOS app automation frameworks like Appium, XCUITest, etc., for executing automated tests on iPads or iPhones.

Unlike Google’s Android, the Apple ecosystem isn’t open-source. This is a driving factor behind Apple’s minimal fragmentation levels. However, developers seeking to develop apps for Apple devices need to ensure that their apps and websites are optimized for all the latest versions and configurations of iOS or iPadOS. This ensures that a larger audience can use these apps.

BrowserStack’s cloud infrastructure facilitates comprehensive testing of websites and applications on Apple devices for developers and QAs. Additionally, its real device cloud is consistently updated with the latest Apple devices (running on the newest iOS versions) and browsers. Thus, optimizing software using this cloud platform becomes intuitive as it assists teams in releasing robust applications at scale with confidence.

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