Is Android the Future of Smartphones?

Rory Cellan-Jones has blogged about Google’s Android catching up with Apple in the year 2011, and the projection that it’s going to surpass the iOS app store's number of downloads – which stands at 18 billion now – in the next few years.

Android is already controlling around half of the smartphone market. There are mixed feelings from developers about the economics of the Android market, but there’s one aspect that’s noticeable amidst the confusion: App developers are willing to take risks because of the sheer size and growth pace of the Android market. It is the openness of the Android technology that stands out.

Android Robot

Android and Openness

I’d expressed my thoughts about openness earlier, with a feeling that a lack of it is generally detrimental to the world. However, I’ve learnt there's a positive about it too. Apple’s marketplace is much better organized and allows only approved apps, unlike what appears to many the Android "mess".

Observers believe it is the openness of the Android platform that has lead to its recent successes in terms of acceptance, although critics think this comes at the cost of quality.

Most Android users head to the app stores looking for free stuff, giving the instant impression that the revenue model of developers is questionable. This is not exactly true, given the fact that in-app advertising and huge sponsorship by major brands fetches money. Also, Android has the potential to reach mass populations, which is slightly different from Apple’s traditional those-who-are-willing-to-pay-for-Apple way of doing things.

Android's growth
Android's growth chart. Image courtesy: Google

A closely fought contest to excel in innovation will ensure the finest quality in the years to come. Neither an acrimonious patent war nor a wild rush to saturate the markets is going to help define the best future smartphones.

Do you believe Anrdoid is the future of smartphones? Do you think openness will make the difference in the contest between Android and Apple? You’re welcome to comment!


You make a funny remark about Apple's marketplace. Do you really approve of the fact that Apple controls what apps you can or cannot put on your own hardware? I really cannot believe that you accept such a Big Brother mentality! For this reason alone I will never buy Apple hardware!

By Mike

I'm basically inclined to believe that developer freedom and interoperability are very healthy.

But going by comments made by one of the readers in the older article on openness, I've chosen to respect the view that Apple has maintained quality by controlling what gets into their app store. This may not necessarily be the best way to do it, but it seems to be working.

By Naweed Chougle

I'm not sure Android is the future of smartphones. I think it's still not very conclusive. Apple kinda dropped the ball with 4S in terms of expectations, but I have a feeling they'll come up with something major for the iPhone 5 and have everyone play a catch-up game yet again.

A lot of Android success is indeed down to its openness, mostly because so many vendors saturate the market with it. Apple is just one vendor in comparison, and still manages to hold up pretty well.

I think I wouldn't really care which ultimately win out if I didn't worry about quality with Android phones. I don't really want the smartphone market to go the way of PCs, where everyone competes on price and feature lists while the quality is on the back-burner. This is the main reason why I might cheer on Apple. They give a damn about the little things that a lot of others quickly miss out on. As a result they tend to produce top notch stuff that keeps others on their toes.

Ideally, competition should continue with everyone hovering just around the breaking point instead of reaching absolute dominance. Then there's still the possibility of Windows Phone 7 or even WebOS breaking in.

>mostly because so many vendors saturate the market with it. Apple is just one vendor in comparison, and still manages to hold up pretty well.

You can choose to ignore history all you want but here's the rub:

Apple lost the saturation war. Microsoft won. We are just seeing this play out all over again. Apple disrupts, whatever is more open (I can't believe I'm referring to DOS/Windows as open) wins the day.

By nortavlag

I'm aware of that, no need to be so standoffish.

Linux is even more open, but it didn't have as much success as Windows, so it doesn't appear openness alone is enough, or that it is proportional to the chances of success.

I wouldn't use the Windows vs. Mac case as a clear cut predictor of the future of Android vs. iOS though. During the 90s Apple was a mess, and that's when Windows experienced most of its growth to dominance. Things are quite different for Apple after Steve Jobs transformed the company, and in many ways sticking to their guns (not licensing, not compromising, not trying to be more open for openness sake etc.) is what led them here.

In any case I don't really care who ends up having a majority market share so long as I have a choice, but I don't mean just a choice among many Android variants. Apple has to be included, and I wouldn't mind Windows Phone or webOS to compete either.

Linux fans really shouldn't be so bent on cheering on Android though. It may be "open", but it's ultimately Google's way of suckering us into their ecosystem in the most profound way yet. Android is only open to the extent to which it is because that helps Google's plans. The difference between Google and Apple are not black vs. white, more like shades of the same color.

tldr, no standoff here.

The point is, Linux != Android. It's the platform. The PC War was won long before Linux came along. The Mobile War is simply ramping up, much like the PC War in the 80s.

The parallels are astounding and quite obvious.

By nortavlag

Why hasn't Linux won the PC war? Not user-friendly for a long time, and user base too small to justify porting games to it, are two relevant reasons, among others. However on the Android side things have been user-friendly from the ground up, and all that is needed to encourage massive software development is that a big mobile phone manufacturer adopts the operating system (and many have done it). Simple team-up between hardware and software in a competitive environment.

By Rodrigo

Openness is essential. It always has been. Prior to the 90's things were open. Getting the specs of a device in order to program it was the norm. Since MS introduced the grab it, hold it, tell no-one how to use it mentality things have gone steadily downhill.

Openness has returned with Android and it's clear we prefer it that way by the rate of adoption.

Just goes to show you can have a viable market AND work with the people who use it, leaving it open to all.

As much as Google appear to be the "Next Big Brother", they do it so much nicer than Apple and MS.

Hell. Now things are opening up again it might even grow to a point where vendors start supporting standards and heaven forbid creating devices that work together across brand lines!! Wouldn't that be novel for the end user left to fight with technology inherently designed to not work together (Apple .mov, Windows .avi). Isn't it something when codecs are not useds as a lock in tools to force sales of in-brand equipment.

Google have done the smartest thing ever. Getting revenue from advertising, not from the sale of the product itself. The product is free to be what the people want, skyrocketing it's appeal. While they continue to make money hand over fist.

It really is a win win for everyone and personally I'm glad it wasn't MS or Apple that realised just how well openness can work. As either of them would have broken it somehow.

By Homer

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