(round two) I'm sure I'm not about to say anything that hasn't already been said before but here goes.
1. When you buy a PC, you are deciding at the point of purchase what level of PC you wish to buy. If you are a gamer, you buy a gaming machine that's capable of running those games at full capacity. You can buy a less spec'd machine and still play those games though you might discover parts of game play that aren't necessarily ideal. Or you could choose to buy a netbook that can't even play those games. That's the decision you make when you research and buy your PC. We are ok with that in the world of the PC. We understand that not all PCs are made equal and that, based on our purchase decision, we end up with a machine that is (or isn't) capable of a number of things.
2. Android is proving to be no different. There are a number of highly spec'd Android devices out that are capable of running "everything" and plenty of lesser spec'd devices that are ideal for things like email and sharing. As a consumer, you make the choice. Beyond that, it's entirely possible for you to buy or get for free a top notch device even a few months after it's release. The number of new handsets in the Android world mean our options are plentiful. Beyond that, as a consumer, you don't normally have to struggle with app incompatibilities now that the Play Store allows developers to filter their apps so they only show up for those devices that they are compatible with in the first place.
3. Further, I've tested a good number of Android devices recently and one thing I've noticed on all of them is that this oft regurgitated notion of incompatible apps is much less of an issue in reality than it is in pontification. It's simply assumed that with a higher number of devices, the compatibility of apps will take a hit as developers struggle to make their app work on all three-thousand-bagillion devices (doesn't that sound like an impressive amount of work?) Yes, developers tweak their apps to better target a large number of devices, but lucky for you, many times they target those devices that best represent the landscape as a whole. In my testing, I can't even tell you of an app that I've loaded and found later to be incompatible with the device I'm using. It RARELY happens if ever!
And if you are still running a device that is more than two years old, expecting it to hold suit with the latest and greatest devices, then I'm sorry to say that right now, it's incumbent upon you to update your hardware IF it's important to you to be able to keep up. All hardware gets outdated eventually. So if it's important, that's what it takes to keep in the game. Maybe someday the improvements to hardware will slow to the point where most handsets are similarly spec'd for a reasonable cost at which time maybe holding onto devices for longer than 2 years will be more realistic, but sad to say we aren't there yet. What is important to you? Guide your purchase decision based on that.
4. The coverage of this study seems to merely mention the custom ROMs that make up 39% of the total number of devices found in this report. First it's important to point out that this doesn't mean that 39% of their user base is running custom ROMs but rather 39% of the DEVICES reported represent these one-of ROM builds. Also, people need to understand something about the ROM community. Those who ROM (including myself) take a device into their own hands when doing so. It's part of the nature of rooting and ROMing your device. When doing so, personally, I feel like any downsides that accompany MY choice to do that (ie app incompatibility) are MY problem, not yours. So developers, don't worry about that percentage of folks who choose to take their device into their own hands. You will never be able to keep up with this infinitely growing list of custom ROMs, and as far as I'm concerned, its ok if MY choice to do so results in my own inability to run your app. It's me, not you. We are outliers in the grand scheme of things, and to revolve this kind of "fragmentation" discussion around including those who ROM just seems kind of unfair to me. Who tracks the Jailbreak community in iOS coverage? You just don't see it. Cause its an outlier and really doesn't represent the majority of the user base.
5. One final #^%&^# in memory of the first draft of this post that was infinitely better written than the one you just read. I'll put my hat into the ring for G+ to gain an auto-save/drafts functionality to help idiots like me from erasing my post before I have a chance to share it.