Lately, it’s not often that I agree with MG Siegler. If you’ve read my work elsewhere, you know I’ve taken issue with some of his coverage of Apple.
But his post explaining his distaste for Android is probably the most cogent argument so far why the platform is falling so far short of its potential.
Android was built on a foundation of good intentions. The platform was supposed to usher in a new mobile era where the power was given to the user to make their device their own. No walled gardens, no censorship, no limits. Supporters of the platform heralded its “openness,” deriding Apple and others for their top-town controlled approach.
It sounded too good to be true, and it pretty much was. Carriers balked at giving up that control and quickly Android became just as tightly controlled as iOS or any other mobile platform. And this is directly a result of Google’s business decisions in the company’s quest for Android market domination.
Siegler points out Google’s deal with Verizon in 2009 for Android, which really was the beginning of the end. Let’s just refresh everybody’s memory here on Verizon’s own strategies. This is the same wireless company that up until a few years ago replaced phone manufacturers’ own operating systems with its own really lousy (and buggy) user interface, which often meant the same phone on another network acted completely differently — and was less functional — on Verizon. The most “open” mobile platform joined forces with one of the most closed mobile providers in the world.
What did you think would happen? Of course something had to give, and it ended up being Android users’ freedom. I found it comical how many of my Android-loving friend’s tunes changed around this time. The same ones who had been arguing until they were blue in the face how much better Android was because of its openness were now telling me that the platform was never open to begin with!
How can you equate those two positions? You can’t. Google folded on Android because it didn’t have the gravitas to stand up to the carriers.
Since then, Google has shrunk into the background, allowing the carriers to set the ground rules rather than sticking to its guns on behalf of users, many of who came to Android because of its so-called openness. These days, the platform is a shell of what it once was — a lot of promise, but often not living up to the hype.
You can’t have openness when it’s convenient: you’re either open or you’re not. Android these days is far from it. I’m willing to bet most users don’t even know how much is locked down in the operating system just because they don’t know any better. That’s pretty sad.
I know many readers here on Technologizer do: I’ve read some of your comments on here, many complaining of the various carriers shutting you out of a particular feature, or being slow as molasses in delivering an update.
Siegler is right in saying Apple has held a consistent position in dictating terms, which has in turn resulted in a uniform experience no matter what carrier you’re on. There is not one feature of your iPhone that is locked down, Apple will have none of that.
Google does need to stop talking out of both sides of its mouth. Either it should open up Android as intended, or end the marketing gimmick of “openness.”