If you’ve been an Android Police fan for a while, you may recognize my name from some of my past posts. Beyond that, I was mostly active behind the scenes until I dropped this little bomb when I departed earlier this year.
The reaction to that article was pretty much what I expected - it was divisive and the conversation surrounding it was often heated. Ultimately, though, my goal was accomplished: people were talking about the problems surrounding Android and software updates.
You may be wondering, “If that was your departure letter, why the hell am I reading this? Go away iFanboy”. In fact, one of our team members assumed I had crossed to the dark side and purchased an iPhone. I’m happy to report that none of that happened. Since my departure, I’ve remained a loyal Android devotee.
There are few reasons for this, despite my strongly worded letter of condemnation:
1. It’s the ecosystem, stupid
This is both a blessing and a curse. When you devote yourself to one of the major mobile platforms right now, you end up with a problem: your apps. I tend to buy a lot of apps, and I love the fact that when I do so, I can install and use them on any Android device that my account is tied to. If I understand correctly, the same applies to Apple devices. The problem is, should you choose to jump ship from your platform of choice, you’re basically throwing money away. Any apps that you’ve previously purchased will have to be bought a second time on your new platform.
We saw a similar problem with DRM’d music – users that bought songs on iTunes (before they introduced DRM free music) were forced to listen to their music only on iTunes compatible devices. The solution there was simple (once you get the record companies to play nice): remove the DRM on music. The problem is considerably more complicated when it comes to a mobile ecosystem.
This isn’t something that I see being fixed overnight (or…ever). To do so would take momentous efforts, and, realistically, the payoff would be minimal for the owners of the ecosystems. I’m not placing the blame on Google or Apple with this one. For better or worse, it’s how things are, and likely will be for some time to come.
2. Google is stepping in. Wait, no they’re not.
Earlier in the month, rumors started spreading that Google planned on tightening its grip on Android. Specifically, this would involve Google placing restrictions on the amount of customizations that carriers and manufacturers were allowed to add to their Android-based phones so that updates can be pushed to the consumer quicker. As an outsider (at the time), watching those events unfold was fairly comical. First came the initial reporting with sensationalistic titles and hyperbole. Then came the backlash – “Android open? BAH! They’re becoming worse then Apple!” – and finally, the acceptance and reinforcement of the rumored policies - “Hey, maybe some control to prevent fragmentation would be a good thing!”
I, as you may have guessed, fell into the latter camp. Should the rumor prove true (it wouldn’t), Google would basically be implementing policies very similar to what I called for here (to clarify, I think my letter had absolutely nothing to do with the rumor). About a week after the rumor emerged, and it was spun, re-spun, and then spun again, none other than Andy Rubin himself stepped in to clarify the situation. It turns out the rumor was false, and business would continue as usual.
Initially, I was disappointed – clearly I’m an advocate of more control of the Android platform – but my disappointment began to wane when I realized how much I had read about the rumor over the few days that it was active, and that was enough for me. If anything, people were talking about it, and if Andy Rubin had to personally respond, then he was clearly aware of it as well. Who knows when, if ever, Google will step in and exercise more control. Hopefully the manufacturers themselves will pick up the slack without prodding from Google and release updates on a timely schedule, or maybe Google has something up their sleeve for the I/O conference.
3. I kind of really like Android
It's true. Despite my rant, I think it's going to take more than hurt feelings for me to walk away from the platform. I'm not sure if many of our readers are 'How I Met Your Mother' fans, but last nights episode dealt with something they referred to as "graduation goggles". The idea being that though high school may be rough (for some), come graduation day, no matter what happened, you tend to get 'misty eyed' and realize that you're going to miss it, despite the cruelty inflicted on you for 4 years.
I definitely had a case of "graduation goggles" when I began to think about leaving Android. Sure, some of the competitors offerings were tempting, but I started thinking about Android's little quirks, what it's like to install a new ROM for the first time, how supportive, passionate, and energetic the community is. Then I started thinking some more and I realized that Android is the right platform for me. It's young, and there are going to be bumps along the way, but at this point I think I'm in for the long haul.
That sounds eerily like a love letter. I'm going to go reflect on that. For those of you that would like a tl;dr: I'm back.