OnQ Blog

Android is “Open,” But Should You Care?

Apr 5, 2012

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The Android operating system generated a lot of excitement in its infancy. Much was based on the fact that Android was and still is “open”—meaning an individual or smartphone manufacturer could take the code and make changes to it -- otherwise known as “open source.”

But there’s a growing fear that Android offers too much freedom. Can that be a bad thing?

Yes and no.

Much of the concern is focused on the user interface. Many smartphone manufactures change the default UI in hopes of differentiating themselves. Therefore, there’s no standard Android experience across devices. That’s why a lot of Android reviews are dedicated to the pros and cons of different user interfaces.

Support is also a concern. When Google issues updates to the core version of Android, manufacturers have the freedom to implement Google’s new features into their code…or not. Some manufacturers install it more swiftly than others, and some choose to never issue updates.

But there’s another freedom that open source software enables—the freedom to charge ahead. By making Android open source, Google has given manufacturers the ability to independently add new features. They can create new code themselves instead of waiting for Google. That’s why over the past few years, Android handsets have been able to claim so many “firsts:”

This freedom to introduce technology has made the pace at which Android manufactures can innovate extremely rapid. NY Times technology writer David Pogue summed up the environment as follows:

You know the old techie joke, right? If you don’t like the Android phones on the market, just wait a minute...There are dozens of Android phones, and newer, better ones appear every few months.”

So is freedom a bad thing?

 

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