Aug 10

Battle of the philosophies

Any right-thinking person has to believe that competition is good. As Apple and Google go about thrashing one another, we all reap the benefits. And right up front, I do have to admit (gasp) that I’ve now tried a few Android phones, and in my superficial test drive they felt pretty good.

However, the philosophies behind the platforms remain night and day. To some, this means nothing — legitimately, they may only care about the phone in their hand. To others, it means a lot — because it affects the way they the platform is managed and perceived around the world.

Apple, as many point out, is into the control thing. This is exactly why so many people love their iPhones. Apple guarantees the experience by crafting both the OS and the hardware, and polices the App Store to at least attempt some quality control. The dark side of Apple’s approach is the perception that they are stifling freedom. (225,000 apps be damned.)

The world of Android is very different. Google supplies the OS while a legion of manufacturers compete with one another to make the hardware. This guarantees choice. But the dark side is the potential for fragmentation, where certain phones run certain versions of Android, some are missing features, upgrades can be delayed or unavailable, etc.

In fact, it’s hard to classify this as “potential” anymore. In the short time Android phones have been among us, fragmentation is already rearing its ugly head. PC Magazine just observed that the rollout of Android 2.2 was a mess. To paraphrase:

• The first Android 2.2 (Froyo) upgrades to Droid failed to deliver Flash. An upgrade to the upgrade will shortly fix that.
• The overseas Droid (called Milestone) gets Froyo in late Q4, but only in Europe and Korea. Froyo is “under evaluation” for Canada, Latin America and Mexico.
• Motorola phones with pre-2.1 versions of Android won’t get Froyo anytime soon.
• The Motorola Cliq, Cliq XT and Backflip are waiting for Android 2.1, but the Devour won’t get it.
• Owners of the Droid Incredible are still waiting for their upgrade.
• The brand-spanking-new Dell Streak was delivered with Android 1.6 and won’t get an upgrade till the end of the year.
• Samsung Galaxy phones are expected to get Froyo, but no one knows when.
• The only company to “ace” the Froyo launch was … Google. Nexus One users got their upgrades back at the end of June.

Like I said, none of this matters if you love the phone in your hand and could care less about the guy sitting next to you. But if you’re a fan of simplicity — or even democracy — it’s hard not to be turned off by the fragmentation of Android.

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  • Paul


    Good points. Even Windows never had separate versions for each individual manufacturer. Though I am an Android user myself I have had a hard time recommending it to any techno-phobes. Only now with Froyo do I think the software is up to par with the Iphone.

    However given that they are selling a lot of Androids, I think people are just going for the phone that they like. Not the phone they might possibly get after a few upgrades.

  • daniel

    lost me on the democracy comment but overall right on…this is also why we choose/chose macs over the years…a unified and more controlled integration between hardware and software results in better user experience…consumers are coming to realize that in the PC market and my anectdotal evidence shows they already see that in the phone market…friends with Androids always tell me they got it because of carrier issue or to be ‘different’

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  • Ian

    What’s not being mentioned is that Android is a so called open source system. Now that Google does not offer their own “hardware” the carriers are telling the hardware device makers what features and modifications should be implemented in the OS. In other words business as usual. By the way an OS that does not cost a dime. What in the world is Google really thinking or planning?

    They normal customer (the so-called real user) does not even know they are buying an Android-base cell phone. Look at how the same device is called something different by each carrier. They enter a shop and say they want a phone like everyone else has. The carrier’s reps show the flavor of the month and how it has a touch screen – viola another sucker is sent out into the cold.

    I believed that most android owners do not know what they have or even care; fragmentation or otherwise. And after years of dealing with crappy devices why should they.

    Also please do not believed that the average iPhone owner is any different. iTunes is the magic sauce. A one stop/one shop place where the “real user” is confronted with his options. He does not even have to think. That coupled with Apples ads (print and televised) is why the iTune store is doing really well.

    It would behoove us all who read this blog and others like it that the “real world user” does not even know this blog and others like it even exists.
    So much for democracy.