Most of the time that fragmentation is discussed it is in direct reference to different versions of Android running on different handsets. The cause of this fragmentation is usually identified as the sundry skins that manufacturers develop in order to differentiate their devices from others and create brand awareness and loyalty. Though critics and users have often called for stock Android to be at least an option on Android handsets (if not the standard), manufacturers like Motorola, HTC, and Samsung have continued to create more and more invasive and intricate skins on the devices they offer to consumers. Though a lack of updates is certainly reason enough for users to be upset, a more important issue may be the very different experiences that are presented to consumers because of these skins.
If the average consumer were to pick up the HTC Sensation and then pick up the DROID Bionic, they might be inclined to believe that the phones run totally different operating systems. And in a sense (no pun intended), they do. A phone made by HTC and running Sense offers a completely different experience than a Motorola phone running Blur (or “Android with Motorola Enhancements” as Motorola inclined to call it these days) or a Samsung phone running TouchWiz.
These manufacturer skins have altered Android so much that something as simple as unlocking your screen is a fundamentally different experience on different Android phones. On a stock device like the Nexus S I simply slide the lock tab to unlock the screen, but on a TouchWiz device I push the lock screen away or complete a puzzle, on a Sense device I slide down the lock bar or slide the lock ring upward, and on a Motorola device I slide the lock tab which also varies in location from device to device. In other words, the first screen that a consumer sees in a store when looking at an Android phone can be completely different from the Android phone next to it.