Nobody really likes Apple's Draconian control over just about everything that relates to iOS and all things iPhone/iTunes/iPad. If we spend a bunch of money on a phone and access to a data plan, we should be able to use it however we want, right? It's not like Microsoft can tell us we can't wipe out Windows on that new computer we bought and install Ubuntu - the computer is ours. And if I want to install a Dirty Rotten Nasty Girlz app, that's my business, right?
So enter Android, where Google doesn't care what you do as long as you're seeing their mobile ads. Of course, the one fly in the Android ointment is the carriers. In this story, Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint are the Draconian overlords and thou shalt not enjoy the full benefits of an open, highly capable operating system on phones that look like Star Trek communicators compared to the flip phones of just a couple of years ago.
Case in point? The Android Developer blog recently released the latest statistics on Android platforms in use. Almost 13% of Android users are still running versions of the mobile OS that are several generations old (versions 1.5 and 1.6). These users will never see Android 2.1, much less 2.3, without rooting their phones, either because their carriers refuse to push down upgrades or because the device manufacturers refuse to certify their devices with newer versions of Android.
Again, imagine that you had bought a computer in the year before Windows 7 was released. What if Dell told you that you couldn't even go out and buy an upgrade for that computer and you'd be stuck with Windows Vista forever? Half your friends are talking about how great Windows 7 is and the really useful applications they've found that don't work with Vista but work brilliantly on 7. This wouldn't go over well. So why does it happen with our Android phones? And why should users often need to root their phones, potentially voiding warranties, violating terms of service, and losing carrier tech support just to make their phones work better?
As the LA Times reports,
The update rates for Android users is held back, in part, by the fact that Wireless carriers and not Google control when a specific handset can get a new version of Android. Many older handsets have yet to recieve software updates and likely won't.
On the other hand, Apple's iOS is pushed to iPhones by the company itself and not by AT&T.
CEO David Lieb of app maker Bump Technologies said last week that 89.7% of iPhone and iPad customers are on iOS 4, a far larger percentage than any one release of Android.
No, we may not like Apple's approach to app approval or their rapid hardware upgrade cycles. But iOS users can count on regular updates (even if they sometimes cost money) and developers can count on homogeneity. I'm not sure when Google, the carriers, or device manufacturers are going to get that this is a serious problem.