Android 'splits' into the Good and the lovechild of Bad and Ugly
Top-end kit world away from crippled cheap cousins, warns analyst
Android was everywhere at Mobile World Congress last week - there seems to be no stopping Google's mobile operating system that's now almost as ubiquitous as a colour display. But the success hides the platform's problems, insists one analyst.
Former Nomura analyst Richard Windsor paints a picture of increasing fragmentation creating a clear dividing line down the middle - with one half of the split populated by shoddy low-end devices that look good but "barely work".
"Android will separate into a high and a low end with the two having less and less to do with each other", he suggested, writing on his website. Gingerbread, the code-name for Android version 2.3.x, runs on 45 per cent of Android-powered devices even though it's at least two years old, but surprisingly, Windsor predicts this share may actually increase.
What makes a low-end Android gadget such a crappy experience? The cheapo hardware can't keep up with the demands of the software, we're told. Android is already fragmenting into Google-branded and non-Google-branded worlds, particularly in China. We've noticed that upcoming communications powerhouse Huawei makes Google almost invisible on its flagship smartphones.
Windsor is bullish about the prospects for the operating system's rivals, particularly Windows Phone, which offer a better user experience. He has a point - and Nokia is throwing its best engineering talent at Microsoft's mobile OS, particularly at the low-to-middle end of the market.
However, Windows Phone is merely a cog in the larger Microsoft machine, and the Windows world is now pretty fragmented itself. The Redmond giant botched its bold Metro-everywhere strategy, which was supposed to bludgeon a new software "ecosystem" into existence by allowing a developer to write code once, safe in the knowledge the application would run across fondleslabs, Windows 8 desktops, and Windows Phone
Instead, they have to maintain two or three codebases. This wasn't supposed to happen. For a developer with limited resources, iOS and Android are quite enough of a headache already.
For years El Reg wondered what the consumer electronics world would look like if the software was free. Now we know, and it's a rather depressing sight. Hardware manufacturers take the savings, pocket them, and cut the corners on the hardware.
For Samsung, Android has been a gift. The South Korean company was rampant at MWC 2013. The rest face a race to the bottom. ®
So, some analyst somewhere produces a report that says Android is fragmented, it's this, it's that.
Of course, all these analysts only give the world the benefit of their immense wisdom as a favour to us all, as in reality, they're all multi-billionaires following their shrewd investments over the years on the technology trends they are so brilliant at forecasting.
It's not like they pluck numbers and thoughts out of their arses and try and be controversial or stick Google/Android/Microsoft/Apple in their article titles to just get clicks, is it?
Some analyst sitting on a pile of Apple stock that has fallen by 30% in the past five months is worrying about how he will confinue to fund the condo, kids private education *and* his coke habit? "Hey! Let's roll out the hackneyed Android Fragmentation scare story - there's plenty of tired tech journos out there to spread some FUD!"
So in an open free-market ecosystem some companies make crap? *yawn* bears-trees-poop, meh.
When you can get a good SIM-free ICS smartphone (e.g. Huawei Ascend G300) and a good 7" JB tablet (e.g. Storage Options Scroll Evoke) for a little over £200 it's bleedin' obvious to all those who aren't supping the Cupertino/Redmond kool aid that Android fragmentation ain't the problem it's cracked up to be.
On and just how much quality smartphone+tablet hardware and software can you get for less than 250 notes from Apple or a Windows source?
"For years El Reg wondered what the consumer electronics world would look like if the software was free. Now we know, and it's a rather depressing sight. Hardware manufacturers take the savings, pocket them, and cut the corners on the hardware."
Utter and complete disappointment and disagreement reading this (AKA: IT'S BOLLOCKS)
I run a Samsung phone (Good hardware for the money) using CyanogenMOD 10.x tell me which other ecosystem will allow me to run a phone using a supported modern OS without any link to any commercial entity, as I do not run the Google applications.
I would say that is a triumph, is it perfect? no, is it much better than anything else that came before for the end user? YES, do the majority of phone users of the world care about me running a free operating system, no sir.
But from there to say it is depressing... what would you expect? having hundreds of manufacturers in a market and having all of them get a proportional piece of the market, ie 5 players with 2% of the market each?, all of them selling essentially the same product? with the same capabilities?
The software is all that matters in 2013 (It has been always like that, hardware is nothing but the means, not the end) And having free software running not just on a phone, but on a majority of the phones is FANTASTIC.
At the peak of Apple's dominance with the iphone it looked like they would dominate the smart-phone market, and suddenly it is Samsung the one that looks will dominate... It was not that long ago that HTC looked like Samsung today...
Perhaps the author of the article just laments the lack of success of Windows phones, and would prefer a market dominated between Apple and Microsoft with the Android handset manufacturers in a distant third spot.
Because having Apple and Microsoft, dictate the direction of mobile computing will be such a good thing.
what is wrong with gingerbread? I still run (albeit it a heavily modified flashed version) gingerbread on my galaxy s2. It has a custom kernel though so many of the power saving features are probably surpassed anyway. "cheap" phones often have reasonable specs for their price anyway. My wife still uses an archaic (by current standards) xperia pro - dual 1ghz with 512Mb ram on a 3" screen on gingerbread. It still surfs the web, plays tuneinradio pro, runs skype, youtube etc. Most chinapads and phones have similar specs anyway.
I do have an old LG gw600 flashed by cyanogen to froyo I think (I never updated it after that) with a really ancient 600Mhz cpu (OC to a whopping 800Mhz) and (I think) 256Mb RAM. Just about every service has been disabled on that "phone". That is an internet radio "wifi only" phone running tunein radio pro only (it does have a samba server on there too so I could push music to the SD card but I havent really needed to). I recessed the phone into a pair of old "shelf end" speakers and that works just nicely in the conservatory. On the odd occasion I switch it off it does take a good minute to power on but consumes very little power and works nicely.
As an analogy, XP is a perfectly reasonable operating system and works on older hardware - unless you *need* the features of the latest OS then making do is fine (as long as there are no glaring security holes of course!).
Amusing he picks MS as the way to do it... Aren't there a load of recent Nokia customers stuck on 7.5 because their reasonably new handsets won't run 8?
That sounds like fragmentation to me, which is impressive given then minor market share.
(And yes, I'm ignoring all the earlier mobile windows versions).