Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 5th Dec 2013 09:51 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

About 2 years back, I read this article on Michael Degusta's personal blog. It was a revelation. Michael ripped the Android ecosystem apart with a simple chart. The chart converted me from an Android user to an iPhone user. I hope this chart helps other folks make an informed decision when their next smartphone upgrade is due.

Charts like this do great in certain areas of the web, but it's too simplistic. First, it does not take into account that many core aspects of Android are updated through Google Play, such as Chrome, Gmail, Maps, the keyboard, and so on. Whereas iOS needs an entire update to fix a small bug in, say, Maps - Android does not. Many core parts that require an entire OS update for iOS are updated weekly on Android.

Second, it does not mention that even though older iPhone models get the latest version of iOS, some functionality of these latest versions is disabled due to marketing, and in some cases due to hardware constraints (if you were to believe Apple, that is).

Third and foremost, though: I'm betting each and every one of those devices has at least an Android 4.2 or 4.3 release (and some have 4.4 too, like my Find 5) from, for instance, CyanogenMod - and countless other ROM makers. Installing a custom ROM is one of the strengths of Android, and not nearly as hard or difficult as some make it out to be. If your iPhone becomes unsupported or really slow due to iOS7 - you're screwed. You have no other options. If Samsung's TouchWiz crap makes your Galaxy slow, run out and get a quality phone install a custom ROM.

I see this all the time: people ignoring core strengths of Android because they don't understand them or because they don't belong to their interests - "this is just for nerds and geeks, so it's irrelevant!" Take discussions about application on iOS and Android, for instance; those arguing in favour of iOS routinely ignore that Android has access to types of applications iOS users could only dream of. If you leave those out, it's easy to make Android's application offering look weaker. The same happens when looking at Android and updates.

All this doesn't negate the fact that updates are by far Android's weakest link, although not nearly as much of an issue as it used to be during the gingerbread days. Moving more and more parts of Android to Play will eventually all but solve the issue completely.

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RE: A shame
by Kver on Thu 5th Dec 2013 15:20 UTC in reply to "A shame"
Kver
Member since:
2012-07-08

Your logic is completely backwards. If you're selling services, you want people on the newest platform so you can have the most compelling services. You can look at how Google works hard to keep chrome up-to-date for evidence of that. Even a feature almost unrelated to Google such as improved battery life means people will have more time to surf those services and slurp up ads. Those successive Android releases also bring more APIs Google can use to make their services better.

On the other hand, Apple barely has its toes in the water when it comes to services - they're in the sales business. Apple doesn't sell hardware or software, it sells its brand; and that brand is experiential. That's why they keep their phones up to date, because anything less would hurt the overall Apple brand.

Both businesses took fundamentally different approaches though, with Google being open and Apple being locked down. It's not that Google is trying to abandon older phones or doesn't care - the approach they chose just happens to make updates much, much harder because they chose to let carriers and manufacturers manage the software (and those groups genuinely don't care how up-to-date you are).

Oddly enough, both companies are getting hurt by their decisions right now. Apple didn't sell nearly as many of the new iPhone 5s as they could have because most people simply didn't see the value proposition. Sure, Apple disabled the odd feature, but the upgrade was still enough to give old phones a novel enough feeling to discourage new purchases. And Google is getting hurt because their services need to anticipate a myriad of environments and devices, making development miserable for them. For example, my phone is perfectly capable of 3D, but the old software and manufacturer skin makes apps that use 3D glitch out (navigation and maps, mainly); guess which apps Google isn't serving me ads on!

In all irony, the controlled environment Apple provides means Google could make its apps *way* more reliable, while having a hardware treadmill would get Apple *way* more sales.

But all said and done, Googles solution to the fragmented ecosystem is to make the Android system as modular as possible, moving the 'core' system components into the app-space. This means eventually major OS upgrades will become less of an issue, as eventually Android will just be a kernel, a runtime and an API. I wouldn't at all be surprised if within the next year or two the status-bar, notification centre and soft buttons all became apps too.

The new 'Art' runtime is an indicator of this; it gives all apps native speed all the time - exactly what you need to move 'core' system services into the app layer. Sure, many small updates is less 'sexy' than giving everyone and their dog the latest releases - but it's practical and Google has enough control over the App Store to bypass the upgrade barriers and provide a more consistent and up-to-date API.

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