On Android and “Open”

This past week has been hit time for the Android haters (and iOS lovers) in the world. It started with the news from Google that its newest version of the Android operating system, Honeycomb (or 3.0), will not be released to outside programmers for a while. And today the blogosphere blew up when it was leaked that Google isn’t giving manufacturers early access to new builds unless they agree not to throw a crap theme over top of Android.

Look, everyone in the Android world saw this coming. Google specifically built Honeycomb for tablets and likely rushed it to market, so it was rather expected that they would have problems getting it onto phones. No big deal, right?

And Google is locking down Android because of fragmentation and a lack of updates from manufacturers who throw their own theme or UI on top of Android. Again, no big deal, right?

Apparently it is.  MG Siegler at TechCrunch (here) and John Gruber at Daring Fireball (here) are bashing Android and Google’s openness. Here’s MG:

I just hope we aren’t sitting in the audience at Google I/O this coming May hearing all about the epic battle of “open” versus “closed” once again. It sounds good — until you have to contradict yourself.

And then we’ve got Gruber:

So here’s the Android bait-and-switch laid bare. Android was “open” only until it became popular and handset makers dependent upon it. Now that Google has the handset makers by the balls, Android is no longer open and Google starts asserting control.

Why am I upset? Because these two Apple fanboys change their story all the time, all in an attempt to bash Android at every possible opportunity. Both MG and Gruber have complained recently about the fragmentation with Android, and explained how Apple is better.  MG here:

I hope one day soon you all get to try [Gingerbread, Android 2.3] out. But the likelihood of that is pathetically small. In fact, don’t be surprised if Android 3.0 “Honeycomb” is out before most of you even get a chance to use Gingerbread — maybe even for phones as well as tablets.

With the iPhone, it’s a much different story. The likelihood that you are already running the latest version of the iOS software is much, much higher. In fact, it’s something around 90 percent, if some numbers shared by the CEO of Bump are to be believed.

See the problem? They complain about an issue (fragmentation or a good tablet and phone operating system), but when a solution is put in place, they complain about the solution and tell you why their iPhones/iPads are so much better.

I agree with some of MG and John Gruber’s points. The Android open source project is not as open as a traditional open source project. And I wish it was. Google works on the code internally and then releases it to the world. In essence, it is owned by Google. The difference is that anyone can take that code and extend it.

Make no bones about it – I hate that Google is clamping down on Android. I am a huge open source fan. But, I also hate locked bootloaders (like on my Motorola Droid 2) and crappy themes/UIs that slow Android down and reduce battery life (like MotoBlur or Sense UI).

But don’t believe everything the Apple apologists like MG and Gruber will tell you (sidenote- If Apple is so good, why do you have to explain/interpret their every action to the world? Apple is a business and they will screw you for their bottom line. Just like Google.).

Android is so much more open than the iOS used on the iPhone and iPad. Why is that?

You can do with Android what you want. And you can make it better.

Don’t like the overall look? There are plenty of themes for that (mine is here).

Don’t like the keyboard? There are apps for that (Swype and Swiftkey). Try and replace your keyboard in iOS. I can have a tablet-customized keyboard on my Xoom (picture here) but on your iPad you are stuck using the same one from your iPhone.

Don’t like the email client? There are plenty of apps for that.

Don’t like the text/multimedia messaging client? There are apps for that.

Don’t like the multimedia experience? There are plenty of apps for that.

Don’t like the battery life? There is an app (or two) for that.

Want a better clock? There are plenty of apps for that.

Don’t like the Market/app store? Install another one (or the Amazon one).

Want your phone to look like an iPhone or Windows phone? You can do that (here and here).

Don’t like the notification bar? You can change that or completely get rid of it.

Don’t like the icons? You can change those (and make your own!).

Don’t like the lockscreen? There are plenty of apps for that, and a great one that let’s you customize the lockscreen all you want.

Don’t like the app launcher? There are lots of those.

Don’t like the stock software? There are lots of ROMs for that.

Upset that the phone maker and carrier haven’t updated you phone to the most recent firmware? Odds are there is a community (like xda or CyanogenMod) that has already built one.

Don’t like any of those? You can write your own ANYTHING and install it on your own device (no money required and no pulling your app because Apple changes its policies).

Hell, the issue they are hitting on (Honeycomb for phones) is already null. I’ve already got Honeycomb on my Droid 2.

Want to do any of this on your iPhone or iPad? You are completely at Apple’s mercy (which means you can’t). You can jailbreak your iPhone, but Apple says that is illegal.

Bottom line: I wouldn’t call Android the most open open-source program in the world. But it is way more open than Apple’s iOS, because I can improve my phone (or tablet) in any way I want, and there are open communities that share these improvements.

2 thoughts on “On Android and “Open”

  1. Pingback: Alternatives to Stock Apps | Chris Conundrum

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