2011-03-16

One way in which Android really is more open than iOS

This post explains the tricky meaning of “open” with regard to Android: Sometimes Android is not open at all, sometimes its openness has negative consequences. The post concludes with one aspect of Android that is more open than iOS, in a manner that is only beneficial to programmers.

I’ve always thought calling Android “open” did not adequately describe how it works in practice. With many Android devices (including Google’s own Nexus phones and Motorola’s Android devices), if you want to tinker with them, you have to jailbreak them. If it interferes with its plans, Google does dictate to application vendors how they have to write their apps, in a manner reminiscent of Apple. Furthermore, Android’s “open” has the negative consequences of carriers changing the software to their liking and vendors adding their own ugly user interface layers. The Android Market would also benefit from less openness and more control, when it comes to avoiding useless apps and crooked schemes.

There is one instance where Android really is more (positively) open, at least more open than Apple’s iOS: Android has more open source libraries for developers than iOS. Presumably, because iOS developers always try to sell something and are lured to iOS by the commercial opportunities of the platform. This is a definite advantage of Android, as it makes development more fun and simpler for hobbyists. [Thanks to Korbinian Moßandl for pointing this out to me.]

I’ve always been intrigued by the “freedom versus control” debate and how smartphone operating systems such as Android, iOS, and Windows Phone 7 position themselves between the extremes regarding various issues. As far as I am concerned, each one does some things right and others I don’t like.

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