State of the Union – On Android

In this year, 2012 — Google has finally brought us what has been present in iOS from the very beginning: Unity. A seamless ecosystem in which phone, computer, and tablet could work together allowing you to access your data and have complete control of your devices regardless of location.

In the beginning however, this was not the case for Android — We had the G1 (Dream), which from personal experience not a lot of people knew what to do with at that point. We didn’t have many apps available to us (yet) and a majority of the user-base were people like myself who consider themselves to be tech savvy, or first-time smartphone users not knowing what to expect.

Then comes the next big Android phone featuring a fun series of commercials with some well known faces from television and other media: The G2, this generation of devices would see the dawning of Android 2.0 and eventually 2.2 featuring the JIT compiler giving a huge speed boost to the Android operating system allowing it to snowball a larger user-base as the device became more popular.

Next up, is the army Droid series of devices pushed by Verizon — Which are re-branded in the US and are listed in other countries as the Milestone series of phones by Motorola. These, still running Android 2.x series dragging in a large number of users further popularising the upstart mobile operating system. By this point Android is beginning to be a viable contender with the market-saturating iPhone — Which at this point was clogging the pipes on AT&Ts network in the United states.

Tablet users rejoice as Honeycomb (Android 3.0 and a pretty awesome breakfast cereal) was born. This brought several UI refinements, a redesigned keyboard, and several other user experience enhancements. Honeycomb was originally featured on the Motorola Xoom and was released originally as a tablet only update. However several of the good folks over at the XDA Developers website wanted Honeycomb to be available on phones as well and successfully ported it to the Nexus One, EVO, Desire, and Desire HD just to name a few.

2012 finally dawns on us, and we receive Google’s greatest gift to Android users since Android’s conception: Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS aka Android 4.0) — ICS brought us quite a lot of new features and something many Android users had been hoping to receive for quite some time — A Google ecosystem, which ICS was more than capable of delivering. With the release of ICS, Google pushed Play and the ability to push app installs to any devices linked with the Google Play store. This means you could install applications on your phone from any web browser. A comparable feature to the iTunes app store for PC and Mac catering to all iOS devices.

Google Play is more than just an app store though, it gives you access to purchased eBooks, movies, television shows, music, games, and more across all your devices. On the note of music, we also have Google Music which made it’s debut on 16 November 2011 which brought us a host of music playback, sync, and conversion capabilities never before seen in a web-based application. Several artists including Pearl Jam and The Rolling Stones released free titles to celebrate the launch of the Google Music store, and application.

Now, for the last bit of good word in regards to Android, Google has released some statistics about what you can expect as far as content is concerned on the Google Marketplace now branded as Google Play: As of June 2012 there are roughly 600,000 applications available and users have downloaded applications over 20 billion times. Those numbers alone are a good indicator that Android has become an operating environment that users rely on and use on a regular basis in contrast to the overwhelming number of iOS devices. Another statistic published by The Examiner showed that Android device activations exceeded that of iOS by about 35 million in total.

Now, let’s get in to the juicy stuff — There is still two aspects in which the Apple environment still packs the biggest punch and that is: Lack of fragmentation and better universal accessory support. Let’s face it, one of the big reasons Android’s numbers are doing so well is because of the multitude of devices available. This provides difficulties on several fronts for not only Android users, but developers of accessories and applications as well.

I had a discussion about this the other night on Google+ and even though choice is generally a good thing, making your applications and accessories work as intended on that many devices not only requires a lot of extra time, but extra finances to work with and not a lot of start up accessory or development firms can afford that. To really top off the Google ecosystem I believe that Google itself should start working with companies like Samsung who produces probably the most popular Android series of phones at present, the Galaxy S series, and with it’s newly acquired branch of Motorola — Motorola Mobility to continue production of the Droid RAZR, or Moto Droid series, it should also continue working with HTC to develop it’s EVO series and Google should continue to develop it’s own Nexus series.

Four devices, instead of four hundred devices would be easier to develop applications and accessories around allowing developers of these things to optimise them for use on a day to day basis while still allowing users choice of devices and prompting competition between Android device producers. All-in-all Android as a mobile operating system and a device ecosystem has come a long ways, but it still has a ways to go yet. For the best possible immersive Android experience I recommend a complete Nexus environment including devices such as the Galaxy Nexus phone, the Nexus 7 tablet, and the Nexus Q for social media streaming over your local network.

Sources: The Examiner, XDA Developers, Wikipedia (1, 2), Google Nexus Portal

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