With a fatherly pride, Google VP of Engineering Andy Rubin penned some comments for the Android Developers Blog about the present and future of the Android OS. Rubin said that while manufacturers are free to make changes to Android to accommodate any “range of features”, it is important to remember that, “Quality and consistency continue to be top priorities.”
Rubin added that while Google does allow phones to be marketed as being compatible with Android, or having Google applications on board, there are a series of requirements that must be adhered to. Rubin also alluded to an “anti-fragmentation” program that has been in place since Android 1.0. He wrote that all members of the open Handset Alliance promised not to fragment the OS when it was first announced back in 2007.
Rubin added that currently, team members are working at bringing the Honeycomb features to Android handsets. When completed, the code will be published as Rubin stressed that Android remains an open source system.
If you have some time, go to the source link and check out Rubin’s complete article. The piece gives you an idea of where Android stands and where it is going in the future.
While fragmentation still plagues Android, it is not the issue that it once was. Thanks to the large number of newly launched Android devices and the number of older models that have been upgraded, Android 2.2 is now installed on 63.9% of Android devices, up from 61.3%. That is followed by the 27.2% of Android phones carrying Android 2.1 after a 2 point drop. Still, that means more than 90% of the handsets are concentrated in just two builds, certainly not what one would call fragmentation.
Surprisingly, 3.5% of phones running Google’s open source OS are still powered by Android 1.6 while 2.7% have Android 1.5 under the hood. But what about the newer Gingerbread versions? Android 2.3 can be found on .8% of Android phones while Android 2.3.3 represents 1.7% of the outstanding handsets. The Honeycomb build, optimized for tablets, is on .2% of Android devices.
As time passes, you can expect the older builds to start dropping off in numbers and as Android users start to replace their older models with newer dual-core, 4G enabled phones, we should see the majority of Android phones running Froyo and higher. Considering the features that Android 2.2 brings to the table, it will be some time before that build starts to drop off significantly, but the percentage of devices running Eclair should drop sharply as 2011 comes to a close.
According to multiple sources, Google is planning a crackdown on fragmentation of their booming Android OS. Specifically, they want to limit the UI tweaks which OEMs have been placing on their Android devices. They also want to eliminate the willy-nilly collaborations between OEMs and their Android partners.
DigiTimes reports that Google is aiming to heavily standardize the Android 3.0 operating system, in an effort to reduce the drawbacks of the unique tablet format. While there are about 250,000 applications in the Android Market, few of them work optimally on tablets. So Google is hoping to limit further fragmentation down the line.
Also, Google will negotiate with ARM to make ARM-type processors the standard for all future Android devices. This would reduce the difficulty of updating the vast number of Android devices on the market, and reduce the time it takes to bring OS updates to the consumer.
Sources are comparing Google’s changing strategy to that of Microsoft, and we’re not sure if that’s a compliment or criticism. But the sources do say that this standardization will make them even more competitive (overall) with the Redmond giant.
Bloomberg’s BusinessWeek says that Google’s recent run-ins with OEMs like LG, Toshiba, Samsung and Facebook, have prompted filings with the U.S. Department of Justice. But Google insists that their enforcement is only for the sake of quality control and user satisfaction.
Research firm Ovum says it sees the future of the global smartphone industry-and the future is green. According to Ovum, by 2016 the global smartphone market will have doubled from current levels, led by Android devices. Phones powered by Google’s open source OS will control 38% of the world’s smartphone market. Ovum analyst Adam Leach says the reason for the expected domination by Android over the next half a decade is, “…the sheer number of hardware vendors supporting it at both the high and low ends of the market.”
Behind Android will be Apple with a 17.5% slice of the global smartphone pie. The research firm has the Windows Phone platform in third place by 2016, passing BlackBerry’s forecast 16.5% share, on the strength of Nokia’s use of the Microsoft produced OS. That should be enough to give Windows Phone a 17.2% share of the market in 5 years, according to Ovum. Analyst Leach also said that another platform could find itself becoming a mainstream success during the 5 year period of the forecast. He says this could be an existing OS like webOS, MeeGo or Bada or it could be a completely new platform not yet developed.
The researcher noted that Nokia’s deal with Microsoft will reduce the number of Symbian flavored handsets coming to market although some areas of the globe will still be getting Nokia phones with Symbian as late as 2016. Ovum noted that Nokia’s use of the Windows Phone platform could put pressure on some manufacturers to not use Microsoft’s mobile OS so as not to compete with the Finnish cellphone giant.
The whole global smartphone industry is expected to ship 653 million units by 2016. By that year, smartphones will control 40% of the overall global cellphone business. In five years, the largest number of smartphone users will come from the Asia-Pacific region with 200 million phones being shipped to the area. Western Europe will see shipments of 175 million handsets followed by 165 million expected to head to North America in 5 years.
Google said in a presentation that it will delay the release of Android 3.0 Honeycomb’s source code, mostly to combat efforts to port it over to phones “and creating a really bad user experience. We have no idea if it will even work on phones.“, as per Andy Rubin.
Closing access to the Honeycomb source code as a step to avoid further fragmentation of the phone versions, and prevent unauthorized hacking and development, it’s probably not a great idea. It’s the open platform that attracts developers and ROM modders, and sometimes they come with solutions that will take Google the next version to roll out, or fix annoying little bugs.
Still, Google knows what will happen when it releases the source code, there will be a rush to port Honeycomb over to phones. and the whole interface and menus are made with tablet screens in mind. But so what? If you don’t like it, you can always try it out just out of curiosity, and then revert back. Moreover, Android 2.4 will have some of the Honeycomb features, just with more phone-specific interface anyway, so that’s what people will want in the end, and manufacturers give to them.
If this is actually the first step in a trial to avoid the fragmentation of Android for tablets, we are all for that, but that means the slate software development will come mostly from Mountain View, and some nice modding potential out there will be left untapped. We’ll see where the future takes us. Andy Rubin was quoted to say “Android is an open-source project. We have not changed our strategy.“, but it might turn out that in order to create quality experience you have to be at least somewhat closed, and that’s what Google might be doing here.
Next week, in-app purchasing is set to debut on the Android Market. According to the Android Developers web site, the Market is opening up to allow developers to upload and do end-to-end testing of their apps that will be using the new feature. Developers can now upload apps to the Developers Console, create a catalog of in-app products, and set the prices for them. Test accounts can be set up to make sure that all is in working order prior to the launch of in-app purchasing. Although developers can upload these apps, they cannot be published until the day that the new service debuts next week.
Developers seeking more info on how to set up in-app purchasing should click on this link. The Android Developers site says it is essential for developers to read the security guidelines and if you have an app that will take advantage of the new in-app purchasing feature, the site encourages you to upload and test it “right away”.
While Samsung’s Android phones haven’t been known for having the most timely of updates, there is some speculation that the Korean manufacturer will have Android models that will be the first in the U.S. to get upgraded to Android 2.3. The Romanian Facebook page for Samsung hints that the international version of the Galaxy S will get an OTA upgrade to Gingerbread by the end of March.
While some handset makers delivered OTA upgrades to Froyo within 6 weeks of it becoming available, Samsung’s first Froyo upgrade came 6 months after Android 2.2 was launched. And Samsung Fascinate owners on Verizon are still waiting to move up from Android 2.1. Sprint had to put the Android 2.2 upgrade for the Samsung Epic 4G on hiatus because of problems with the download.
Although some might consider Samsung’s plan to be far-fetched, consider that the Samsung Galaxy S and the Nexus S (also made by Samsung) share the same hardware and since the latter did get launched with Android 2.3 installed, loading the Galaxy S with Android 2.3 should be a snap for the manufacturer. And while the HTC made Nexus One was the first handset to upgrade to Android 2.3, that handset was sold online. Samsung wants to be the first to have a device available from U.S. carriers that receives an OTA upgrade for Gingerbread.
If Samsung can get the international Galaxy S running on 2.3, there shouldn’t be too much resistance getting Android 2.3 working under the hood of one of the Samsung Galaxy S variants available on U.S. carriers. Of course, you might want to rule out the Fascinate on Verizon, for the reason we stated above.
We know we’ve said it countless times before, but it’s worth saying again: a smartphone’s operating system depends on the happiness of its developers. In this competitive OS landscape, the consumer’s choice often hinges upon the availability of key apps, rather than the actual OS interface.
And Google is eager to appease its developers. They have now added download statistics to the Android Market’s developer portal. These include a breakdown of the OS versions (2.1, 2.2, etc.), as well as a breakdown of the specific devices.
The graphs featured below are for Android Central’s widget. As you can see, Android 2.2 users are downloading the widget more than they download apps overall. This is an indication of Android Central’s users, which are skewed towards the more up-to-date tech users.
These types of results are important for developers to gauge their demographics, and appropriately target updates and future applications. For example, given that only 2.5% of Android Central’s market have anything below Android 2.1, they might conclude that accommodations for the earlier OS are unnecessary.
Thank you, Google, for understanding that happy developers make good/plentiful apps, which then attract more users.
source: Android Central
The major criticism leveled by Android’s competitors is that the fragmentation of their device market is a hindrance to the operating system. But Motorola Mobility’s corporate VP, Christy Wyatt, disagrees. She argues that variation among Android devices is actually one of Android’s strengths.
At AnDevCon (Android Developer Conference), Wyatt argued for the benefits of Android fragmentation. Despite the challenges it presents to developers, customers have the luxury of choosing their screen-size, price range, and other features, rather than being railroaded into a one-size-fits-all approach.
But she did admit to some shortcomings: “Managing differentiation against fragmentation is kind of a delicate balance.” And if you’ve ever owned a low-end Android device, then you’ll probably agree. It’s difficult for developers to make an app that is sufficiently impressive on the top-tier handsets, but still compatible with slower devices with earlier OS builds.
You would be right to doubt Motorola’s obviously biased perspective on Android fragmentation. But there’s still some truth to it. Isn’t it nice to not only be able to choose an OS, but also a manufacturer, feature-set, and price range? While recent rumors of Apple’s lower-end iPhone have diminished, Apple has almost certainly considered expanding their lineup to net an even larger customer base.
When a new product segment begins to gain relevance in the market, some companies out there are quick to jump on the bandwagon and crank out devices that might not fully grasp the full potential of what it’s sought out to accomplish. Interestingly enough, we’re seeing that all too evident in the Android tablet market as some manufacturers hastily come up with tablets that don’t necessarily take advantage of the new medium, but even worse, they essentially emulate the smartphone experience. Call it an outcry or something, but with that type of mentality, you pretty much place a death sentence on that particular device. Thankfully though, Google decided to intervene before the market is saturated with these so-called tablets that are simply giant sized smartphones at their core.
Clearly Apple has a head start in this thriving new market, but now that Android 3.0 Honeycomb is finally here, we’ve got something that realizes the specialty that’s needed in order to provide an encompassing experience. Although it improves upon some of the core foundations brought along by previous versions of Android, this one is specifically catered to adapt to the increasing functionality that is coming around with tablets. So let’s take a closer look shall we?
Read the full article at PhoneArena.com!
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