Yes, "screen fragmentation" is not a huge issue for us in Android development.
What is a giant, hairy, pisses-you-off-on-a-constant-basis issue for us is device fragmentation.
I can't tell you how many times a feature we're developing works on all our testing devices except one or two. Supporting so many different devices running different Android versions using different hardware and modified differently by various OEMs and telcoms sucks hard.
It has significantly slowed down our development speed compared to iOS.
This is exactly right. It's about device fragmentation; not merely screen size and dimension.
Support all the screen sizes you want. The challenges are within the fragmentation of hardware capabilities and software versions.
With the most popular Android OS version usually being a year or two behind the current version, you find yourself catering to an extremely low common denominator quite often.
Curious why this never gets so much traction in the desktop space. "You make your website work in all browser sizes? Even the really big ones?" ..... "Uhhh, fuck yes we do."
Yeah, it’s not really any different to responsive web design. Not only that, but Android’s density-independent pixels (usually!) map perfectly to CSS pixels, so the comparison is a good one.
I suspect the situation is slightly worse for Android tablets, but as we’ve seen with Android phones, they’ll likely settle on a few common sizes anyway.
And this will get even easier once we hit the wall with pixel density (we may already be there). It seems likely that xxhdpi or xxxhdpi is the limit of what’s needed by humans, so display density doesn’t need to get much higher.
I think Android is shooting itself in the foot here by making things look more complicated than they might be. Take a look at the documentation for screen support.
They split phone sizes (2-10") into four generalized sizes (small, normal, large, xlarge). Then they split screen density into generalized densities (ldpi, mdpi, hdpi, xhdpi) based on 3:4:6:8 ratios. The example on the page lists 5 different layout XML files (the 4 previously mentioned + extra large landscape orientation) for different sizes, and three folders for image assets in different densities.
But, there are tablet layouts for Android 3.2+, which use a completely different system based on size qualifiers where you can provide minimum/maximum pixel sizes for layouts.
Media queries and responsive web design seem very simple in comparison.
With a few Android projects under your belt, you have probably internalized how everything works, and which parts are fringe cases you can ignore. But if you're new to this (or a journalist/analyst), it seems like an absolute mess. Simply rewriting this documentation and providing better tutorials and resources could go very far to clarify the situation.