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Cellphones Google Open Source Operating Systems

Will Android Flavors Spoil the Platform? 405

rsmiller510 writes "Open source operating systems have a lot of upsides, but when you give cell phone makers and providers the power to customize the phones to whatever degree they like, it could end up confusing consumers and watering down the Android label."
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Will Android Flavors Spoil the Platform?

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  • Re:pfft (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @11:06AM (#33587324)

    The problem is not the fact that there's choice, but that there are distributions that lock you in and give you no choice (which is most of them). The Android distributions available, currently, are not very good and are actually very poor representations of Android as a platform. If we had a choice of device as well as a choice of Android distribution without the lock-in, then it would be a Good Thing.

  • by mark72005 ( 1233572 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @11:26AM (#33587702)
    Right now there are a few Motorola devices that are still on 1.6, and the expected release for 2.x keeps sliding and sliding.

    Many of Motorola's phones are marketed as "1.6, upgradeable to 2.x", but in truth there seem to be hardware issues that make this complicated, and it remains to be seen if 2.x will ever actually be distributed to owners of the lower selling phones.

    We've already seen Motorola cancel the upgrade for non-US phones of the same models, to "ensure the best user experience".

    Point being, advertised capability is not necessarily capability.
  • by iONiUM ( 530420 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @11:26AM (#33587718) Journal

    Sorry to say, but you (and me) are not exactly the primary buyer of these phones anymore. It's "normal" (i.e. non-geek) people. When they see some phones on AT&T running android and offering features XYZ, and some others on Verizon running android and offering features ABC, there is going to be some serious confusion. Is it the phone? Is it the carrier? Is it android? They don't care, they just want the best stuff.

    This is part of the reason why android also keeps being shunned (in articles) for business: there's no single model like RIM has. For consumers, if you buy an iPhone, you know exactly what you get. When you buy android, it's not exactly certain.

    All that said, I personally prefer android, but that's probably because of customization and choice, which is exactly what you stated :).

  • Re:yeah it sucks (Score:3, Informative)

    by mark72005 ( 1233572 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @11:28AM (#33587758)
    Talk to the owners of Motorola's older android phones, many of whom are still getting the run-around on an upgrade.
  • by Wyatt Earp ( 1029 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @11:51AM (#33588158)

    The issues on the iPhone you linked to are for a model that is over two years old. I had a 3G until two weeks ago, with iOS 4 it could get slow at times launching certain apps but it wasn't a big enough issue to warrant reverting back to iOS 3.x and it's not a big enough issue that my fiancee complains about it.

    It's not like there are any iPhone 3Gs sitting on shelves across the planet with the slow ass iOS 4 while a iPhone 4 is sitting next to it for sale. The fragmentation chart you linked to comparing iOS to Android is flawed in that the 3.x flavor fragmentation isn't because of Apple, its because users just don't update their phones. The Android fragmentation is the fault of the vendors, so apples and oranges for that argument.

    So really its 44.54 iOS 3.x, 34.05 iOS 4.x and 21.42 running jailbroken or iOS 2.x and are never going to patch anyway or get apps anyway so who cares? At least in early August

    The Android issue being discussed here is fragmentation of current phone models. Apple is shipping iOS 3.x for iPads and iOS 4.x for iPhones and iPods, so mobile wise Apple is shipping one flavor of the iOS, 4.x

  • Re:its a valid point (Score:3, Informative)

    by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot@nOSpam.worf.net> on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @12:04PM (#33588412)

    What I'm dying to know is where you got the idea that it was imposed, and why you think it's a bad idea for chargers to have a common plug.

    Because it still has compatibility problems. Phones have had USB mini ports for years now, yet they always seem to make things so the chargers are incompatible with each other. Some use the ID pin to determine if it's a charger (so they can drop >500mA to charge faster). Some use special resistors on the D+/D- lines to determine charge current compatibility (Apple - 100mA, 500mA, 1A, 2A) (this is because the ID pin is only valid on USB mini and USB micro connectors). Others use the USB charging spec requiring D+/D- lines shorted together so they can detect chargers (but they can't identify what kind of charger - so they draw as much as the charger can supply - which could be problematic for cheap chargers).

    A proper USB device cannot draw more than 100mA without enumeration, and there are plenty of devices out there that can't supply more than 100mA. USB charge spec also specifies this until the battery is charged up enough that you can run the main CPU to perform a charger identification and/or enumeration so you can ramp up current to 500mA (enumerated), or whatever your designed current draw is with your charger.

    Forcing everyone to use USB micro connectors has the same problems already seen with USB mini - incompatible chargers, chargers that won't charge other devices, etc. It's such a mess that pretty much the only way to do it universally is to have "smart chargers" where they enumerate the device and choose a "charging" configuration. Then at least there can be negotiations in charge rates so the charger and device can choose the best supported charge rate.

  • by VeryVito ( 807017 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @12:29PM (#33588832) Homepage

    As a developer for both Android and iOS (and a few other mobile) platforms, I can say this is already an issue with Android (from a dev's perspective, at least). While "choice" always sounds good for consumers, the only real choices are usually pre-made by carriers and handset manufacturers, leaving the consumer with little more choice than they had with previous generations of phones (Motorola's RAZR had a pretty good Wheel of Fortune game "app," too).

    Although the Android emulator is fine for quick checks, a viable Android product must be tested on a growing number of handsets and other products, making R&D for a new app MUCH more time consuming and costly than that of its iPhone counterpart (Even if you only wanted to support a single device, choosing to support only the latest iPhone 4, for instance, still gives one a much larger target audience than choosing only to support the latest Samsung Galaxy model on a particular carrier).

    And supporting a commercial Android app is a larger undertaking too -- more like that of traditional PC development, in which one might expect to deal with a variety of hardware or setting possibilities, but nothing like traditional mobile or game console development -- in which one can expect some level of uniformity among systems.

    In other words, iPhone developers can much more easily and affordably offer quality apps at lower prices than their Android counterparts. I'm not saying it's impossible to offer the same quality of user experience across the board, but it is without question a larger undertaking for Android development. And eventually, this WILL affect consumers, too -- either by limiting the size of their pool of quality apps, or by increasing the cost of these same apps.

  • by Thail ( 1124331 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @01:01PM (#33589312)
    The issue with multi-platform Android phones is demonstrated with the new Motorola Charm device. If any of you browse android apps, and like to read comments before downloading you have no doubt come across comments such as: "Won't work on my Charm", or "Crashes on my Motorola Charm". The issue with devices such as this entry level android phone is that they set the bar so much lower than your standard android handset. In this case the Charm has only a 600 MHz Processor and no stand alone GPU. Combine this with the bloated moto-blur software package that Motorola installs by default on it's Android handsets, and the user experience is going to be affected. The only viable solution that I can think of is to ensure that the Android market can pull the phone's user agent and software version, then only list apps that are usable on that system. Of course developers will need to test and flag which system combinations their software will run on, and they're already complaining about having to do this (and it's not a requirement yet).
  • Re:PSA (Score:3, Informative)

    by HereIAmJH ( 1319621 ) <HereIAmJH.hdtrvs@org> on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @03:33PM (#33591736)

    It appears they care about the Droid series, but nothing else. Don't assume Motorola will live up to their commitments.

    Is it Motorola holding up the upgrade or is it the carrier? I have a Motorola Droid, and there were unofficial 2.2 Droid upgrades months before Verizon rolled out theirs at the first of September.

    I have a friend with a Sprint phone (I think HTC) that is still waiting for 2.2, though not expecting to get it. His phone has run like crap since the 1.6 to 2.1 upgrade earlier this year.

    All in all, these updates are a new experience for me. My Droid is the first phone I have ever upgraded. I tend to hang on to the same phone for 3 or 4 years, and I'm not sure I like doing updates. I get better battery life and have a kernel that supports wireless tethering, but that's about the only real improvement I've found with 2.2. And it sure is frustrating when they roll out updates over a holiday weekend. I depend on my phone and the first upgrade failed and required some manual intervention, which is currently causing a subsequent upgrade to fail.

  • by natehoy ( 1608657 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @04:45PM (#33592596) Journal

    You know, I'm no Apple apologist or even a fan, but you'd think if they wanted to do this they'd have done it in the last few versions of the iPhone. Instead, they've improved the hardware and added more features to get their cash cows mooing happily and buying the very latest version of overpriced (IMHO!) Apple sexiness.

    To be fair to Apple, my Blackberry hasn't had an OS update in well over a year now - the highest my Blackberry will support is 4.5, and there are no plans whatsoever to allow my 2-year-old 8310 to run OS5 or 6. It's a dead end as far as Blackberry is concerned.

    Meanwhile, my iPod Touch Generation 2 (contest prize) is happily running iOS 4.1, which was released this month. Yes, I paid the iOS 3 $10 tithe, but iOS 4 was free. At least Apple gave me the opportunity to upgrade the OS.

    Apple and Blackberry have obviously added new features and gewgaws and whatnot to their product lines (personally, I'm drooling over the Torch, and I'm SO ready to drop my EDGE-only unit for something with 3G, tethering on EDGE is excruciatingly slow when trying to solve a work problem).

    But despite my obvious Blackberry fanboi-ism, I will give Apple credit where credit is due - if you're willing to put up with "last generation" hardware, they are at least putting some effort into keeping it running fairly well, and by and large either not charging for it or charging very reasonable prices when they do charge. An iPhone-totin' friend of mine bought an iPhone 4 for himself and his old 3GS shifted to his wife and her 3G shifted to their kid. All three phones run iOS 4 and (other than obvious hardware limitations) can perform the same functions.

    Blackberry? Not so much. You might get one or two "point release" OS upgrades in the first year or so, then you're expected to buy new hardware if you want new features, even software features.

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