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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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  • by symbolset ( 646467 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @10:00AM (#33587228) Journal

    Since the competitors don't have choice and can't get it they have to argue that "choice is bad". If you like choice though - if you prefer a less expensive phone or one with all the bells and whistles, or larger or smaller or whatever, Android is an obvious choice. If you like to choose the phone network based on pricing or features, quality of network, or how badly they restrict the phone's features to maximize your bill, again Android is a clear winner. If a single great design that's wholly integrated and secured by a single vendor is your preference, iPhone is a grand choice - and that's great! You get to choose that too.

    Lack of choice as a feature though is in general a tough sell.

    • by RyuuzakiTetsuya ( 195424 ) <taiki@noSPAm.cox.net> on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @10:04AM (#33587294)

      This is the old fragmentation debate.

      Choice isn't a bad thing. Too much choice is. What can Android 1.6 offer me that 2.2 can't? It's a little ridiculous. Why should cheaper phones be stuck on 1.6 when they're fully capable of running 2.2?

      • by mark72005 ( 1233572 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @10:26AM (#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 ichthus ( 72442 )

          Yep, I'm a Cliq XT owner too. I bought it with the understanding (as promised by the T-Mobile goon that sold it to me) that 2.1 was a month away. That was in May. Still waiting...

          • PSA (Score:4, Insightful)

            by mark72005 ( 1233572 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @10:56AM (#33588248)
            All this has completely soured me on Motorola.

            I advise everyone to stay far, far away from their Android offerings. After this burn, I'm not buying anything from them again.

            The phone was so locked down to start with, I should have done my homework and realized this was a trap.

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

            Run, don't walk, from Motorola.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by HereIAmJH ( 1319621 )

              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

          • by ichthus ( 72442 )
            ...and, if and when the update finally happens, it will already be obsolete. I guess this is what I get for buying Moto's lower-tier phone -- they seem quite capable of keeping the Droid up to date.

            Luckily, there seems to be a solution forthcoming [slashdot.org] as long as a new ROM becomes available.
      • "What can Android 1.6 offer me that 2.2 can't?"

        Reliability, that's what. Not that 1.6 is inherently more reliable than 2.2. It is that 1.6 has been fully verified by the manufacturer to run reliably on their hardware. There is a cost to doing such verification so for some phones, especially ones toward the end of life, verifying them for 2.2 will not happen. This is a large part of the reason why a new Android OS release isn't instantly available for your phone when Google releases to the general market.
        • by GooberToo ( 74388 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @12:38PM (#33589906)

          Not that 1.6 is inherently more reliable than 2.2.

          Actually, its a fact that all devices prior to Android 2.x have a fundamental OS flaw and are inherently less reliable. Android 2.2 adds limited JIT capability to the platform, fixes various life cycle problems which still existed at the start of the 2.x series (which is one of the reasons why 2.x is fundamentally broken), and goes a long way toward improvement memory management.

          In a nutshell, all devices running Android prior to 2.01 have fatal life cycle, memory and resource management flaws.

          In fact, one of the reasons why task killers briefly became popular on Android is exactly because of these horrible OS flaws; which I previously blamed on applications. Task killers are not only no longer needed, but they don't even work on Android 2.2 and later. The fact of the matter is, while many of the problems I blamed on applications were in fact application problems, many were not or were a compounding of application and OS bugs/flaws.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        Choice isn't a bad thing. Too much choice is.

        Right. Which is why the huge plethora of choices available in DOS-(and later Windows-)based PCs resulted in the DOS/Windows PC offerings failing to succeed in the market against the more focussed offerings from Apple, resulting in DOS/Windows becoming a niche market while there is an Apple computer on almost every desk in most enterprises.

    • by spiffmastercow ( 1001386 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @10:04AM (#33587296)
      Yeah, but let's not forget the crapware that used to (still does?) ship with pre-build computers. You end up spending hours just getting rid of the crap Dell, HP, or eMachines decided should belong on your computer, all because they each wanted to have a custom install. I'm sure many users would have gladly paid even more to just get a vanilla copy of Windows.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        And if you go to a Verizon store and look at the current Android offerings, you can see the crappware is already becoming a problem. The original Motorola Droid looks vanilla compared to the Droid X, 2, etc.

        • the non-Droid phones from Motorola also include the bloatware suite "Motoblur", which you can't disable or remove.
      • by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @10:27AM (#33587730)

        you can remove pc crapware. we really do own complete control (even bios) over our pc's.

        do you really think you can totally re-program a phone from open source code?


        when you buy a phone and it comes with icons and features you want to remove and can't, how is this OPEN again?

        its not open. its open on some areas but not in the ones we need. when ATT comments out the software sources menu option, this is a prime example of what we are complaining about!

        locking boot code is also evil and yet allowed by the android system or architecture.

        really bad move, google. google just bad much worse deals than apple did with the carriers. apple DEFINED what was ok and what was not. google said 'hey as long as we can insert ads, we don't really CARE what you do mr. vendor.'

        very different models in how to reign in your carrier. google had as much control as apple did but chose not to flex their powerful muscles. they made bad judgement call when they let the carriers run wild with THEIR codebase.

        • by Cheeko ( 165493 )

          You could argue that Google is allowing this while they build up critical mass. You would hope that once google is firmly entrenched in the market they would start to dictate what defines the Android brand better.

          Play nice with the carriers until they have to play nice with you or risk losing their Android users.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by tgd ( 2822 )

            Google doesn't give two shits about being open.

            Google cares about ad revenue. They needed an "open" OS because they couldn't force other phones to always funnel things their way. Verizon needs an "open" phone, because THEY want to ensure they can control it (rather than the phone vendor or user)

            Best to remember that, when thinking about Google and Android.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            You could argue that Google is allowing this while they build up critical mass. You would hope that once google is firmly entrenched in the market they would start to dictate what defines the Android brand better.

            Play nice with the carriers until they have to play nice with you or risk losing their Android users.

            That's BS, the carriers would just keep on using their outdated versions with a new theme slapped on (plenty of precedents with PalmOS and WinCE not changing for years.) Face it, Google caved and gave in to the carriers going as far as compromising their stance on net neutrality for a lucrative Verizon deal. It's a missed opportunity and let's just hope they didn't slam the door that Jobs forced open with the iPhone.

        • by mlingojones ( 919531 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @11:54AM (#33589208) Homepage
          Android *is* open. Open for the carriers.

          The users, not so much.
      • Since I use Linux, I simply buy a box full of "parts" from Tiger Direct and spend an evening putting together another computer. I did this for my in-laws and bought an OEM copy of WinXP. Set them right up with a powerful box for very little money. I have made only one support visit in the last 6 months or so. I guess things are working out well for them.
        • That really has little to do with being a Linux user.. I have never actually bought a "computer", but only the parts to build it.. But I'd say today it's probably cheaper to buy the whole bundle. I still refuse to do so, but on the grounds that I lose control of what parts go into my computer.
      • Not that I like the practice, but they do get paid to include those apps. Which theoretically lowers the price you pay. Not sure if it really does, but the profit margin on Dell computers, at least the cheap ones, is practically non-existent. I'm not sure what it is, but I've heard about $20. In total they recently made $17m on $3.2b in sales, so it's probably something miniscule like that.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by richdun ( 672214 )

      If you like choice though - if you prefer a less expensive phone or one with all the bells and whistles, or larger or smaller or whatever, Android is an obvious choice. If you like to choose the phone network based on pricing or features, quality of network, or how badly they restrict the phone's features to maximize your bill, again Android is a clear winner.

      Yet none of these things (hardware and network) have anything to do with Android (software).

      Regardless of what us the technically inclined think, mo

    • by FyRE666 ( 263011 ) * on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @10:41AM (#33587984) Homepage

      As a developer this is exactly the reason I've moved to iPhone development, and away from Java on mobile devices. Nokia, Samsung etc ruined it for themselves by introducing conflicting extensions and quirks to their platforms, along with expensive certification schemes in partnership with the carriers that made distribution as a small company or sole developer prohibitively expensive and time consuming. Apple smoothed this out no end with its single store and platform.

      I'm no fanboy of Apple, or anyone else, but increased fragmentation, and the "embrace and extend" attitudes of phone manufacturers could well end up frustrating Android developers in much the same way.

  • Yes... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @10:02AM (#33587260)
    ... in the same way that all the flavors of GNU/Linux have spoiled that platform.
    • You compare apples to oranges here. When I need a phone, I first look out for the phone itself then the service provider. Others may look at the carrier first. Can you say Android has done miserably so far? No!

      On the other hand, when I am looking for a computer system, I look at the applications available, ease of use then the support. In this department, Linux is still wanting.

      Google should stay the course with its Android licensing regime. It gives us choice...much deeper than anything otherwise. Just rec

    • How is it spoiled? There are a few mainstream distros that everyone knows about, and people interested in running GNU/Linux usually choose one of those, and are not intimidated by the choice. The rest of the distros are either special purpose, novelty, or the product of small communities; most new users never hear of them anyway. What is the problem, exactly? Why blame choice for the lack of success on the desktop, when there are so many other reasons (poor cooperation from hardware makers, intense anti
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      you don't see the point.

      the point is that with 'gnu linux' you really CAN own your own pc and do anything you want.

      cell phones are NOT the same no matter how much the vendors want you to think so.

      each phone has its own way to do things, upgrade, change, etc. its as fragmented as it can be!

      if you're in the middle of it, you probably won't see it. as a non-owner (but looking, every so often) I do have to say that the market is quite insane and unless you invest a LOT of time researching it (boring...) you e

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by alvinrod ( 889928 )
      It wouldn't say spoiled completely, but it seems like the recent surge in desktop-Linux mindshare is mostly an effect of Ubuntu becoming popular. Most consumers don't want a whole lot of choice, they just want something that works. If they can have several choices of things that work, even better, but the Linux community was so fragmented across different distributions for a while that there really weren't any working solutions for a lot of folks.

      What's going to spoil the Android market is carriers addin
    • Re:Yes... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @10:49AM (#33588132)
      ... in the same way that all the flavors of GNU/Linux have spoiled that platform.

      I would not be surprised at all if the sheer profusion of dists have scared off a lot of people unsure even where to start.

  • pfft (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pojut ( 1027544 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @10:02AM (#33587262) Homepage

    I love the fact that there is such a wide variety of Android phones. Different features are important to different people, and being able to choose between different phones gives them the opportunity to buy one that caters towards whatever the find most important (good screen, good keypad, good camera, etc.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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.

    • 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

      • by Pojut ( 1027544 )

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

        Absolutely! I can't stand leaving gadgets stock, I always HAVE to do SOMETHING to them. Android is the perfect platform for just such a thing :-)

    • having a wide variety is good.

      we don't have that.

      if we want THIS hardware and THAT software, can we really do that?


      this is a misleading argument. you cannot just install any 'distro' to YOUR phone. carries are sort of hoping you think that way and plunk down money with that misunderstanding but its just not true.

      fragmentation WITH FREEDOM is great. we don't have the necessary ingredient to make fragmentation work for us; it works entirely against us as its locked to this and that hardware model!

      • by Pojut ( 1027544 )

        ...it takes a few minutes of research to find out what hardware features and which Android version a phone uses. That's all.

        If you have enough knowledge to want a specific Android distro, you certainly have eough knowledge to do a little research before spending hundreds of dollars.

  • its a valid point (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @10:07AM (#33587330)

    I'm not a smartphone owner, not yet. I don't have a company paying my way for me and I'm not about to foot a $100/mo bill on my own. not yet and not with the current level of phones.

    a few weeks after you buy a 'smartphone' some other model makes yours a POS. well, almost. how can anyone buy in that kind of market and retain sanity?

    vendors are destroying the 'beauty' of the system. apple (I hate apple, btw) had it almost right when it controlled the carriers. the carriers are little children that run wild if not controlled. apple controlled them; android simply let them run even MORE wild.

    google fucked this up. and I think its too late now, the market is SO fragmented its actually damaged. fanboys won't agree but who cares what they think; its the rest of us middle-guys who simply want something stable and something SUPPORTABLE for a few years. the throw-away model every few months is not do-able for me, for this pricepoint.

    if there is ever a 3rd choice, I hope they learn from the 2 that 'came before'. apple model is too extreme but actually so is the android model. a middle ground needs to be there, really; and is not. we have the walled garden and the wild wild west where vendors can fark up YOUR phone and mostly get away with it.

    I'm still on the sidelines and not willing to fund this insanity until it levels out.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Who has a throwaway phone they have to replace every few months? The Motorola Droid came out almost a year ago, and it's as usable as it was then. Hell, it even supports 2.2 of the OS. Who fucks up anyone's phone? Mine doesn't get an update I don't tell it to. Apple was just as hamstrung by the Vendors as the Vendors were by Apple. For one, look at the terrible press the Iphone/ATT got over the oversaturation of the networks in places like NY.

      Oh, by the way, I pay about 70 USD/month for my phone, hav
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        $70 is still very close to the general $100 point.

        plus, many carriers are FORCING this $30/mo '4g' fee just, well, because THEY CAN.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by socsoc ( 1116769 )

      a few weeks after you buy a 'smartphone' some other model makes yours a POS.

      I agree with your points and I think the quote above illustrates the Android fragmentation problem. My 3GS is still going strong and I'd likely buy an Android device, if that phone could sustain itself with updates for awhile, like NexusOne has done. Instead, they'll just come up with an an X and a 2 version...

    • by slapout ( 93640 )

      "a few weeks after you buy a 'smartphone' some other model makes yours a POS"

      That happens with all computer hardware

    • by Lifyre ( 960576 )

      My only requirement when buying an Android phone was a reasonable expectation I'd be able to get root and load whatever android flavor I wanted. I have a low end phone (Eris) that still makes me happy almost a year on. Sure there are faster, prettier, and more expensive phones. Mine is still quite fast thanks to 2.2 (which actually extends the useable life of old phones, likely why many companies aren't upgrading to it) and does the job significantly better today than it did when I bought the phone. I c

    • The Carriers' lock down, the hardware mfr's lock down (Motorola) and permanent crapware are the reasons I am now leaning towards an iPhone 3GS.

      At least I can JailBreak the 3GS and do what I want.

      If I could get an Android that I could control with a good camera, I would jump.

      Unfortunately the Carriers want to treat all their users the same way: like idiot users.

    • apple had it almost right when it controlled the carriers. the carriers are little children that run wild if not controlled. apple controlled them

      Apple was like a little kid who thinks he's telling the elephant he's riding where to go. AT&T showed them pretty quickly how much control they had regarding tethering, bandwidth, etc.

    • Hm. Yeah, not really seeing it. I've been using the same apps on my EVO 4G that co-workers and friends are using on their Droid, Droid Eris, Droid 2, Galaxy S series phones, Hero, Cliq, etc. Oops wait a sec, my turn on Wordfeud with a friend on a Droid X.

    • if there is ever a 3rd choice, I hope they learn from the 2 that 'came before'. apple model is too extreme but actually so is the android model. a middle ground needs to be there, really; and is not. we have the walled garden and the wild wild west where vendors can fark up YOUR phone and mostly get away with it.

      My suggestion: Palm pre with WebOS. You can wait a bit until the new phone comes out (should be a few month, according to rumors). It's like Apple in the way that it is a standard package, not to be changed by the vendors, but it is not a closed garden. As a bonus, Palm/HP have the most homebrew-friendly attitude, so you do not have to worry about each version upgrade ruining your patches.
      And it's a beautiful OS, with not neat stuff coming in the next version (WebOS 2.0).

    • The insanity will never level out. Buy what works for you and be happy about it. My car is over six years old, paid for and reliable. I am happy about that. I did just get a new HTC Aria paid for by my company. I am really happy about that! For my "own nickle" I would not get such an advanced phone. Texting and talking is really all I need. E-mail supports the company during off-hours and the rest is just a perk.
  • by dyingtolive ( 1393037 ) <brad@arnett.notforhire@org> on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @10:08AM (#33587358)
    Terrible news everyone. Android enables the ability to extend usability and functionality beyond what the native platform supports! It's not a one size fits all shoehorn! What a failure! God, I need to sell my stock quick!!1

    You know. I've never bought a car thinking it had any features in it other than the ones I knew it had. How about instead of treating consumers like they're the awkward creepy man-child that greets customers at Wal-Mart, we just expect people to have enough interest in the product to do their research and read the fucking box and reviews to find out what the device is even capable of? I mean, are there any reasons other than because the expectation of personal responsibility is dead?
    • by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @10:12AM (#33587448)

      it also enables the CARRIER or vendor to 'comment out' stuff that we would want and adding crap to our screens that we do NOT want. and often you cannot change this, as its not really a 'portable pc' as people want to think. its still in a lock-down mode when it comes to your ability to do things with ALL 'google phones'.

      google did not control the carriers. they made a huge mistake in this design aspect.

      this is the problem.

      • Maybe. I look at it a different way. I see now what you meant in your other comment about it being the Wild West, but it's more that it's a double edged sword. Case in point: Verizon didn't feel I should be able to wifi-tether my phone without paying a nominal charge. An upgrade to a rooted version of 2.2 (which was not nearly as hard as you might believe, and as far as I can tell, does not void my warranty as I can flash back) and a free app available from Google themselves, and that ability is right
      • First of all Android is not a Google OS, it is an Open Handset Alliance OS. Google is one member company of 73. Google adds value just as any carrier or design and manufacturer adds value.

        Secondly, every phone you buy - at least in the US - is locked down, so your argument is that their Achilles heal is that - in one respect only - they are not better than the others.

        Thirdly, it is locked down by default, but nothing is stopping you from unlocking it or paying someone to unlock it for you.

        Finally, it
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gandhi_2 ( 1108023 )

      The problem is that carriers do not want you to have a general-purpose computer on their networks. They want to be able to sell you each. individual. application. The last thing they want is the end-user installing software, so they take steps to disable functionality. They want you to have a pseudo-smartphone, it looks neat, costs a lot, racks up the data charges...but isn't a general-purpose computer.

      This is at odds with what we all thought Android promised us: a real OS for our tiny computers that would

      • This is at odds with what we all thought Android promised us: a real OS for our tiny computers that would let us treat the carrier like any other ISP.

        That's what you get with the Nokia N900. It's a fully-featured installation of Debian Linux, but few on Slashdot got excited about it because it wasn't sexy and polished like the iPhone. These days, freedom, openness and hackability definitely takes a backseat to style on this erstwhile "news for nerds" site.

      • "The last thing they want is the end-user installing software, so they take steps to disable functionality. They want you to have a pseudo-smartphone, it looks neat, costs a lot, racks up the data charges...but isn't a general-purpose computer.

        This is at odds with what we all thought Android promised us: a real OS for our tiny computers that would let us treat the carrier like any other ISP."

        A less sinister reason could be that they don't want masses of rogue smartphone programs run by people who can't comp

  • by calderra ( 1034658 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @10:09AM (#33587368)
    Yes, all these Android flavors spoil the platform, but not in the way most people are pointing to. Personally, I think the problem is that stock droid sucks. Stock droid sucks especially hard considering I can only get Droid X (I accept no substitute) bundled with a ton of Verizon bloatware that keeps running no matter how often I shut it down and I'm sure it's broadcasting my location information and lots of stuff. And the default launcher is slow, fairly ugly, and not entirely stable. LauncherPro is everything the stock launcher should be, but it bugs me constantly with pop-ups about paid features. If stock droid would learn more from the droid community, the droid brand would be faring better. Spending $200 on a phone just to hear "everything on your phone sucks- download these dozen programs to patch it up"... sucks.
    • by Pojut ( 1027544 )

      Spending $200 on a phone just to hear "everything on your phone sucks- download these dozen programs to patch it up"... sucks.

      How is that any different than having to jailbreak an iPhone?

  • I Agree (Score:5, Insightful)

    by whisper_jeff ( 680366 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @10:10AM (#33587388)
    I know I'll get modded to hell but I think that Android is in danger of suffering to forking into different carrier-specific versions. I believe that people _will_ hear about cool features that an Android phone offers, buy an Android phone and find out, too late, that it's available on _other_ Android phones, not the one they bought. This will start to result in negative user experiences down the road.

    The plus side of it (being fair here) is it is really driving competition and making the different forks of Android as well as iOS better because of it. It's forcing manufacturers to drive to improve, which is good for the consumer but, for people who want Android to win, it will soon become a discussion of specific forks of Android because there will no longer be one unified version.

    Heck, I find myself looking at Android phones thinking "if I were to switch from my iPhone, which one would I be interested in getting?" (I won't be switching - I like my iPhone - but I like to contemplate which version of Android interests me to keep my options open and all that.) That, to me, is a clear sign that the differentiation is real and something people need to keep in mind.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      TechCrunch had a really good post [techcrunch.com] a few days ago about carriers exploiting the openness of Android. Worth a read.

      • Carriers love it. Someone else is coding their OS - they don't have to spend that development time on an OS now, they can concentrate on packing in bloatware and adware, more revenue-centric stuff.
    • by rsborg ( 111459 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @10:28AM (#33587740) Homepage
      It's not the 90's and 00's of Linux, but the Unix wars of the 1980's where proprietary Unixes battled it out for the workstation market. The corporate greed of Unix vendors (as opposed to the ideological Linux battles after-wards) allowed a Microsoft to flourish and eventually control the high end market.

      Despite Google being the unifying factor, the carriers are even more greedy and less capable than the Unix vendors of old, and meanwhile Apple remains ascendant and proprietary.

      Inconsistent user interfaces diminish network effects and will suppress Android adoption... then there are abominations like the Verizon vCast store [androidpolice.com].

    • by socsoc ( 1116769 )

      You're spot on and it's similar to what Bluetooth went through. Oh your car has Bluetooth? So does my phone. Why can't it stream to your speakers? What's A2DP? It streams to my headphones wirelessly, what's the difference, they're both Bluetooth?

      it'll turn into two people that both have new android phones with different features and can't understand why

    • by Mascot ( 120795 )

      As long as most people can say "I love HTC phones," and not realize they are in fact talking about a brand that sells phones with a handful of different operating systems, Android isn't going to be a label to dilute.

      And that's how most of my acquaintances are. They'll tell me how happy they are with a new phone, not having any idea what OS it runs. It's just too new a concept for them.

      If they see a cool feature on a friend's phone, they'll buy _that model_, they won't figure out what OS it runs and start lo

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        If they see a cool feature on a friend's phone, they'll buy _that model_, they won't figure out what OS it runs and start looking for phones with that OS expecting it to have that particular feature.

        That's the problem because that's exactly what will drive the vendors to proprietary extensions. You might say that's just more choice for the consumer but the real problem of fragmentation is for the developer. They have to make sure their app/game works across all different versions, different hardware, submit it to different carrier specific stores, etc.

    • I believe that people _will_ hear about cool features that an Android phone offers, buy an Android phone and find out, too late, that it's available on _other_ Android phones, not the one they bought.

      This is rapidly becoming a problem with other smartphones as well, so it's just par for the course. It's sad when marketeers can collude with each other to provide the illusion of choice, when the reality is they all offer the same crappy deal except for killer feature x. I was most annoyed for instance, to find that BlackBerry Enterprise Server was not a feature of all BlackBerrys. Some carriers disable this functionality and charge extra for it, even though I'm administering the BES! They just assume that

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kaiser423 ( 828989 )
      Currently, the carriers have almost no chance of surpassing stock, vanilla, latest and greatest Android released by Google in feature set. They're just not that good at software, and not nimble enough to beat the big G right now.

      Essentially, I think that the carriers ARE trying the "embrace and extend" business model to fragment and force lock into them for certain features. But the problem is that they're having problems with the "extend" part, because everytime they try to extend, they see that Google
  • Android is not a consumer brand, therefore its flavors can't raise or sink the brand. The whole premise is flawed.

  • Good for consumers (in theory), horrible for developers, which is probably why most developers favor the iOS platform.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @10:19AM (#33587584)

    Not much more I can say. After developing for a year and a half by myself, it has gotten unmanageable. I can make an app that is polished and slick for the Droid, but the ratings get dragged down by other devices that it apparently doesn't run slick on.

    As a single person I can't possibly manage all of the QA and customer service that all of these devices demand. It was fun while it lasted. Never developed for the iPhone but I can see how it might be a better experience.

  • Leave Android Alone! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MrTripps ( 1306469 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @10:21AM (#33587608)
    The customizations many vendors tack on to Android suck (for the most part). Just leave Android alone and it works fine.
  • No (Score:2, Insightful)

    I personally find that the Android phones that are out now all have horrendously ugly interfaces; HTC comes to mind first. They need to have one, and only one, GUI for the interface. Anything more than that and the only way you can tell it's Android is by looking at the "taskbar" items at the top of the interface.
  • by Nyder ( 754090 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @10:25AM (#33587688) Journal

    I have to say this, damn people.

    Look at all the different cars we can buy, food, shoes, clothes.

    Books, music, movies, etc...

    Do I really need to go on?

    This article is just flamebate, to cause peeps to get angry.

    Anyways, didn't we have an article that like 70% of the Android Devices were 2.0 and up?

    And I bummed my G1 is running 1.6? No. The phone works fine and does what I want it to. Keep my calender info, call people, receive calls, and i like to read ebooks on it.

    If I want Android 2.2, I can either use a custom rom, or i can buy a new phone.

    Just like everything fucking thing else.

    I'm going to add this. I'm glad we have all these choices. It's good for us. Now quit thinking you need to defend what you buy, because that sort of thinking is stupid.

  • by Gadget_Guy ( 627405 ) * on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @10:28AM (#33587756)

    From TFA:

    Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of open-source tools, and Android has the potential to offer all the advantages of an open platform, but it also gives the handset and cellphone providers the power to customize and add endlessly to their phones.

    So just what is the advantage of an open platform if OEMs are not allowed to customize it? I see Android like the Linux kernel on which it is built. The Linux kernel powers all manner of desktops, phones and other devices with a wide variety of user interfaces. Similarly, Android is a building block to make a phone user interface. It allows manufacturers to make an HTC phone, or a Motorola phone (etc).

    And what is the alternative? Lock down the OS so OEMs can't replace applications with their own choices? Isn't that the practice that causes everyone to complain about Microsoft? Just imagine that the default browser in Android was Internet Explorer. Would anyone here complain about manufacturers replacing it with anything else on their model of phone? No? Then it seems a bit rich to complain about any other customization of the platform.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      So just what is the advantage of an open platform if OEMs are not allowed to customize it?

      They can make it work better with their hardware or network. The danger is changing it in ways that makes it incompatible with applications that run fine on other phones.

  • They miss the point (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sunking2 ( 521698 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @10:40AM (#33587966)
    All it takes is a few vendors to drop the ball with bad implementations, or go out of business dropping support to create a bad association with Android. That's the real issue. Bad PR goes a lot further than good. At some point someone will put out a really terrible version that will in some respect hurt the label.
  • The choice has to be a choice of applications, and it has to be applied by user.
    Operating system, working environment, primary configuration features have to be stable, uniform and consistent. As anyone that deals with end users knows, lack of consistency will invariably create confusion, leading to negative perceptions and all that is related to that.

    Take an example of Windows. A clean Windows installation (at least as of XP) is a decent system, simple enough with most controls and configuration items in f

  • The Real War (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @11:13AM (#33588574)

    I strongly agree with this article [eliainsider.com].

    The war we should be paying attention to is not iPhone vs Android vs. WM7 vs Blackberry - it's us against the carriers. The carriers need to be dumb pipes, with device makers dictating what interfaces and software get used.

    But Google went whole hog the other way, letting carriers run amok after a promising start where it seemed like they would maintain a firm hand. Now it's at the point where a new Android phone will have Bing as the only search engine it's possible to use!!

    I'm a mobile developer and at times have considered Android development, but cannot in good conscious support a model that I feel screws the market over so badly. The whole open vs. closed argument is a farce, when for 99% of the population the iPhone is just as open as Android, and only the most technical can distinguish the difference.

    In fact, I feel so strongly about the issue of carriers taking over the smartphone world, that if I ever do move to support a second platform it will probably be WM7!!! And believe me, in the not so distant past I would never have wanted to support Microsoft because of misgivings about them. But I feel it's important to support any company that is willing to try and dictate control over the carriers, and I believe Microsoft had said they planned to fix the UI for WM7 and not let carriers modify it.

    If you do buy Android, try to buy phones that the carriers have not worked over.

  • by VeryVito ( 807017 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @11:29AM (#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 daemonenwind ( 178848 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @12:40PM (#33589934)

    First, Steve Jobs complains that Android is fragmented and offers too many versions.
    No one else had said it before.

    Then a bunch of second-rate tech websites echo it.
    Then it gets reposted here and a bunch of 7-figure IDs and Anonymous Cowards post "me too" stuff.

    Do I have to spell out a marketing-company forged FUD campaign? Has it been so long since IBM vs. Microsoft? Do we really need to re-learn what this looks like?

    If a carrier abuses the phones, leave the carrier.
    If a phone comes out neutered, don't buy it.

    Having a codebase that moves rapidly forward is a simple fact of computing since broadband got big. Calling it a weakness is pure bullshit, especially when the competition moves (at most) at the rate of about a significant change once per year.

    • by twbecker ( 315312 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @12:51PM (#33590124)

      Yeah, because there's plenty of carriers out there you can give your business to, especially ones that don't come with shitty customized software.....oh wait. No one is saying Android itself as an OS nor the pace at which it's developed is a weakness. What people are saying is that it's bullshit when you have to replace a device that's less than a year old just to take advantage of new features. You can't trust carriers to guarantee an upgrade path at all, let alone a timely one.

  • by ChaosDiscord ( 4913 ) * on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @01:56PM (#33591164) Homepage Journal

    There appear to be two types of people: people very concerned about Android's fragmentation and its inevitable demise and people who actually own Android based phones. Thank you for your concern, but we're doing fine, thanks. We're busy enjoying the ability to install software from third parties without going through the Android Market, the ability to choose easy to root phones, the ability to choose phones we can easily replace the core operating system on, and more.

    On a related note, us Linux users are also somehow surviving in the face of dozens of distributions.

  • by LostMyBeaver ( 1226054 ) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @02:39AM (#33597186)
    Apple's model for the telephone market is almost definitely better for application developers. An application developer can buy 3 models of phones (and iPad if you care about that thing), test on each and be sure that everything works. The fact that iOS is such a closed platform is fantastic and makes it so that we developers can be more confident of what we ship to the public. It also means that we can optimize code to run well on all the phones which run that operating system.

    Android on the other hand is more like the next step of Symbian... with slightly better design and control. Symbian was a heap of shit for developers. The API was a nightmare, content delivery worked only sometimes. Their package management system was a tinker toy. Additionally, their memory model was designed with a 25 year old PDA in mind, and their argument for it was that it needs to work with GCC 2.91. They implemented an ad-hoc exception model with a "clean-up stack" which was a lame excuse for auto-pointers as 2.91 didn't have good template support.

    Android on the other hand has a relatively simple development model and it seems as if application development (so long as native code isn't important) is really quite easy. You can code in their Java like language (I do this to help with the law suit to differentiate and call it something else) and make an app and get it running quickly. Unfortunately, it runs on about a billion different processors (there are tons of ARMs out there) with a gazillion (quite cool that word is in the spell checker) graphics subsystems out there (nVidia, frame buffer, TI, etc...) and there are a multitude of different types of touch screens (single touch, multi touch, hi-resolution, low resolution, no-touch, just joypad, high latency, low latency). There are a pile of audio subsystems, I won't even begin to cover the massive number of those, it's mind boggling.

    Writing simple cook book and business apps for Andoid is a charm. Takes far less time than on iOS, almost as little time as on Windows Phone 7 (which is WAY EASY) and can be tested more or less in an emulator without any problems. The only issue is the touch screen input which can be averted by making the buttons all a little bigger.

    Anything requiring high response rates, fancy input methods, real-time audio, etc... is a nightmare on the platform. It's even worse than on Windows. There are just too many methods of input.

    Android is a pretty neat touch screen platform that allows absolutely any manufacturer out there to make a full blown smart phone for almost nothing. Chinese vendors are already pumping these things out by the truckload and it's only a matter of time before it's possible to buy full smartphones for $50 or less.

    You can buy an after market iPhone screen and touch panel from China for $20 (free shipping). And they are pretty good replacements. This means that they can get them for less than half that. Cheap system on a chip ARM processors can be bought for less the same. It's entirely possible that you can get ALL the parts required to make a full Android phone in China for probably $30. The specs will be pathetic, but will improve rapidly over time. The result, an Android phone containing the bare minimum memory required to run the phone, the bare minimum CPU required to run a telephone call, the bare minimum audio quality required to hear the other person, probably not even enough specs to download an application.

    Of course, noone would buy these phones right? Well, probably not more than 100,000 of each model (which is the target Nokia sets for their mid-range smart phones). Remember there are a shit load of Asian people buy Chinese knockoffs of all these things. And what's best is, these aren't even knock offs. Thanks to the open source nature of Android, it's 100% legitimate to make these things. Of course, no westerners would buy these things. Umm... or would they. DealExtreme.com will sell tens of thousands of these. They'll be sold all over the Mediterranean and Caribbean islands to tourists everywhere at huge profit margins because they'll be shipped in boxes that look just like the ones from the big vendors.

    In fact, Android has created a huge "Buyer Beware" market for phones. It is possible to ship Android phones labeled "Google Android" with a huge range of specifications. Pretty much so long as the phone CAN run Android... it can be marked as Android. And people will quickly lose trust in the name.

    On the other hand, if a user is looking for a smart phone and is willing to pay for one with good specifications (such as those from HTC), they can get a great phone. There's no guarantee the apps they buy from the Android Marketplace will run well with their screen resolution or processor speed or sound hardware, but what ships on the phone will run well. And there's a 50/50 chance that the apps they buy for it will work too.

    The best thing that can be done with Android phones is to avoid calling them "Android Phones" as the features you'll get with them will be great. In fact, they will almost always ship with tons more toys on them than iPhone does. They will be the ultimate devices for people with relatively fixed needs. They will just be a "buyer beware" device for people who think they're getting the Apple platform without paying Apple for it.

    iOS reaches a market of people who are willing to pay a lot for a phone which comes with a little and then keep paying more for each additional feature they want. It's for people who like gadgets and bells and whistles and will pay for programs that make farting sounds. It's for people who are willing to pay to make ring tones. What I find to be the most hilarious thing is... the people who bought an iPhone 3GS, then bought and iPad and then an iPhone 4. Come on, really? Did you really need the iPhone 4 if you have the iPad? What did you do with the iPad when you got the iPhone 4 which is actually the exact same thing as the iPad but fits in your pocket and can be used for phone calls?

    And iPhone is however ideal for people who DO want to get all kinds of stuff to put on their phones and are willing to pay for it. It's for people who like knowing everything they buy WILL work on the phone since the app store specifically doesn't list apps for your phone if they don't work with them (of course some vendors screw up, but it gets fixed quick). It's for people who like buying from an organization which makes everything themselves.

    Android is for people who need a phone. Think that the touch screen thing is cool and want to have a toy as well as a phone. It is for businesses who write their software in-house and want it deployed across all the phones and will standardize on several models of phones and test their software on each. It is for nerds and geeks who are able to make educated purchases regarding software and deal with compatibility related issues.

    There are many other scenarios as well, but frankly, both phones and platforms reach different markets. I don't imagine I'll be using an Android phone anything soon as I spend too many hours in a week making code work on the stuff I make. I don't want to do the same with my phone. And I like the app store and the $0.99 toys I can buy there :)

The trouble with computers is that they do what you tell them, not what you want. -- D. Cohen