Friday, 1 November 2013

Closing on Android

Android DevJam

Some three years ago you would have heard this iPhone user saying it would take something special for me to buy another iPhone. I was a happy advocate for Android. Eventually, though, my views changes and I stuck with the iPhone while getting in way too deep into the Apple eco system. So, what was that special thing that kept me with Apple?
It wasn’t anything in particular that Apple did, for a start. Apple is still a blood sucker of a company that does not do the minimum we all do and pay its taxes. No, my change of heart did not have much to do with Apple but rather everything to do with Google. Since the introduction of Google+ and the twisting of everything Google around it, doubts started creeping. Later, the change in Google’s privacy policies drove me even further towards minimising my interaction with this overreaching, info collecting, monster.
Yet Android still remained a bit of a crown jewel: an operating system that is not as nice to use as iOS but is certainly more capable, more flexible, and much cheaper to put one’s hands on. Most importantly, it was open source – who could argue with that?
Well, Ars Technica did. In this article they strip Android naked and show how, over the past few years, Google put all of its power towards effectively closing down this system. By now it is fully successful: one would be hard pressed to use Android without relying on Google’s own tools. The implication there is simple: there is not much of a difference between relying on Google for Android and relying on Apple for iOS. In effect, both are closed gardens; same crap by a different name.
There is a difference, though. Almost everything happening on an Android phone passes through Google’s servers. For example, this includes every notification sent to you upon receiving a new Whatsapp message. Google collects all this information about its users, probably knowing more about the users than the users themselves. Apple does the same, but there is a difference: Google will exploit this information while Apple, at least for now, regards keeping this stuff private to be an advantage. There is a slight difference there but an important one.
For this reason alone I would recommend iOS over Android to the majority of users. Obviously, there are some applications and there are power users with legitimate counter arguments. In the feudal relationship that is developing between us lowly vassal users and the great rulers of the cloud world, I prefer the lesser evil of the Apple rule. For now.
How I’d love for someone to come and offer us slaves an escape from these Dark Ages into the Renaissance we were promised back in those ancient times, three years ago, when everyone thought Google good and Android open.


Image by Braden Kowitz, Creative Commons license

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