Who cares that Android is ‘open’?

  • Less than a tenth of Android users care that it’s open

  • The number of people who care that Android is open is about the same as the number of people who run Linux

This was a fascinating read.



  • Mark Morrow

    To be honest, I think rather than defining the argument as “open” or “closed” a more useful way to define it is “more APIs” vs. “less APIs.”

    • Jessica Darko

      You can’t talk about APIs while ignoring the quality of those APIs. Cocoa is one of the best designed platforms for UI work ever, while Java has always been one of the worst. I don’t see how “more apis” is really meaningful…

      But faster development– which you get with iOS– is meaningful.

      • http://www.johncblandii.com John C. Bland II

        There is no lack of quality in Android APIs. The Java knowledge on the web is vast as well so if you’re stuck you most likely can find it on Stack’ or elsewhere.

        A bad carpenter blames his tools. A good Android developer can be as fast as a good iOS developer. Both have wins and losses but neither can be deemed better than the other because it matters who is behind the keyboard writing the code.

    • samdchuck

      No user cares about that either though.

      • http://www.johncblandii.com John C. Bland II

        True. Just devs.

  • http://www.johncblandii.com John C. Bland II

    Interesting hypotheses.

    I think more people care about a more open ecosystem than open source code.

  • JDSoCal

    I’m shocked anywhere near 1/10th of Android users give a shit that it’s “open.” I’d guess 1-2% really care.

  • derekmorr

    Well, Evans is hardly an unbiased source. He really had his conclusions in his assumptions — he set out to prove how small this segment is. That’s a biased starting point.

    Further, I think one needs to take a broader view of openness. It can include third-party ROMs, but it can also include the flexible nature of the OS itself. The top paid apps list on Google Play includes two replacement keyboards (SwiftKey at #1, Swype at #10), a replacement launcher (Nova Launcher #4), system backup apps, rom managers, etc. These are only possible because the OS is open and flexible.

    I suspect if you polled Swiftkey users they might not say that “openness” is important to them, and many probably wouldn’t fit into one of Evans’ categories. But clearly openness matters to them, at least implicitly.

    • Jessica Darko

      I love it when biased people try to claim others are not credible because they are “biased”.

      Accusing someone of bias is like admitting you can’t engage in critical thinking.

      IT’s like saying “He has an opinion, therefore he’s wrong (don’t pay attention to the facts or his arguments)”

      • derekmorr

        Evans has a long history of trashing Android. Further, as I said, he set out to prove that this user segment is small. As he often does, he cherry picked data and made assumptions that gave him the conclusion he wanted.

        • samdchuck

          Do you have any data to back up him cherry picking data or is that just you being biased?

          • http://www.johncblandii.com John C. Bland II

            He did cherry pick data but he had to since there isn’t a true way to come to his hypotheses.

            With that said, I think he chose good data points to focus on. His conclusion isn’t by any measure fact but it was an interesting approach.

            Personally, I think he missed the point of open [see my first comment] but I like the thought exercise.

          • derekmorr

            He has a habit of selectively defining terms to reach the conclusions he wants. For example, when discussing Android marketshare, he often excludes devices without Google Play (like most devices in China, Kindle Fire, Nook, etc), since that drives down the numbers.

    • http://www.ben-evans.com Benedict Evans

      I’m a little perplexed at the idea there’s anything in the assumptions that’s biased. (I’m also, incidentally, perplexed that you didn’t make the point on the actual post). I simply wanted to work out how many people care about a particular aspect of Android that’s often, rather loudly, touted as a (the) key difference. I hypothesise that it’s about 10% of the users. Do you have a better estimate?

      If there’s some reason why the numbers of the parameters I looked at are wrong, I would, as I said on the post, love to hear them.

      Conversely, I have no respect at all for the idea that trying to work out the dynamics of Android is ‘trashing it’. Android is great, but it’s also complicated. It MATTERS that a third of Android sales have no Google services on them. It matters that Kindles Fires don’t have Google Now. It matters that Samsung is the only profitable branded OEM. Would you prefer that no-one knew?

  • Jessica Darko

    How is android open? You have to jailbreak it to install unapproved software… just like the iphone. you have to get gogole’s permission to sell in their “walled garden”. The core operating system is open source in both cases.

    Google licenses android to a bunch of hardware makers who sell under their own brand, while Apple has only a few people make their phones and sells them under the Apple brand.

    The “android is open” mantra is from the android zealots who are trying to astroturf over reality.

    • derekmorr

      Very little of that is actually true.

      You can install any app you like. If you want an app that’s not in the Play Store, just enable third-party apps and install whatever you like. If you want to install a third-party ROM, unlock your bootloader and install it.

      The core of iOS is not open source. The XNU kernel is, but Apple certainly has custom kexts that aren’t open, and very little of the iOS user space is open (a few libraries and webkit, but not much else).

    • http://www.johncblandii.com John C. Bland II

      Wow. I don’t think I’ve seen a stronger comment be this wrong on the The Loop…ever.

      You can build an APK [Android App] and deploy from sign up to pushed to the Play Store in ~15 minutes. There is no approval necessary.

      Android is open but it isn’t a mantra for zealots. It is fact. Now, how open is the debate and why Jim, Gruber, etc stay focused on it with wise cracks; some well warranted.

      The code isn’t a full blown open source project on GitHub (or Google Code) where anyone can fork and commit but the code is open for use. The OS is also open along with the ecosystem. You can install any app without jailbreaking by simply toggling ‘unapproved apps’ [as derekmorr pointed out as well] in your settings.

      You really should learn a bit more about Android to provide better counter arguments.