Apple iOS is tightly closed, Android is mostly open

Apple iOS is tightly closed, Android is mostly open

Summary: Google has taken great pains to make Android a completely open platform that works to the user's benefits. That is mostly true, but there are several layers of "openness".

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No matter which side of the Apple fence you sit on, there's no denying the iOS system is tightly closed. Sure it can be jailbroken but Apple takes a rather dim view of that practice. That's the first thing Android enthusiasts are quick to point out in discussions about the evil Apple system. Google has taken great pains to make Android a completely open platform that works to the user's benefits. That is mostly true, but the fact is there are several layers of "openness" in Android; it's not cut-and-dried.

Google likes to state that modders are free to do what they want with Android, it is a user's system after all. That refers to the base Android OS, though, not the fancy bits (Google apps) that make Android a solid platform. Not that long ago Google put the hammer down on Android modders who were including Google apps in custom ROMs being distributed on the web. Those are proprietary apps and not open source like Android proper. The Google apps may be free, but they're not freely distributable.

In the early days of Android phones there were Google branded handsets, and those that weren't. The branded ones shipped with all of the Google apps installed, while the non-branded Google phones did not. That resulted in some Android phones handling Exchange email out of the box, and others that did not (non-branded phones). Google licenses Activesync technology from Microsoft to handle Exchange email, and that required Google branding to use by OEMs. Google was never clear about the terms for getting proper branding, but sources indicate it was a healthy chunk of change that OEMs had to pay Google to use the "free" Android platform. We don't see many non-branded handsets on the market currently, so perhaps this has changed.

The "openness" of Android has stimulated a healthy modding community that lets savvy owners change Android phones at will. Virtually every Android device released has mods produced, some even prior to release, that add features not included on the device as shipped by the OEM. Google is very hands-off with this community so it is thriving. The OEMs are not so tolerant of it, as is evidenced regularly with some handsets.

HTC has largely ignored the modding community and let its handsets get altered by the relatively few owners that desire to do so. That changed with the release of the T-Mobile G2 last year, as that handset included safeguards to prevent permanent alterations. It was never clear if HTC or T-Mobile was behind the restrictive safeguards (each pointed fingers at the other), but it was the first (and only) HTC Android device to include such technology.

Motorola has always taken a dim view of "modding" its Android phones, and has taken active steps to prevent it from happening. The Droid X was released with eFuse technology, hardware that shuts down the device (bricks it) when it detects the system software as shipped has been altered by the owner. Motorola was quick to respond to the outcry that erupted when this technology became public knowledge, and stated it would never use it to permanently disable phones that had been modded. It would, however, disable the phone until the mods had been removed and the phone returned to its officially released state. Not as open a platform as some might think.

Those familiar with both iOS and Android acknowledge that the latter is far more open than the former, but it's not completely open and not even uniformly so across the various Android devices. While owners of Android gadgets can mod them for the most part, it immediately voids the device warranty with the carrier and OEM. Even evidence of customization can be enough of an excuse to void the warranty, so it's not something everyone is comfortable undertaking. It also usually disables updates rolled out OTA by the OEM for upgrading the device, so modding the Android device should be done with full understanding of the implications of doing so.

I am happily using my Android phone with a custom ROM, and have been for quite some time. But I know what I am giving up doing so, and the risks I have willfully taken by doing it. The platform is open enough to allow me to do the customization, which I like, but not open enough to be tolerant should I run into problems and need help from the producers of the hardware.

Topics: Apple, Android, Google, Mobile OS

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  • RE: Apple iOS is tightly closed, Android is mostly open

    And Android is a total mess of an Operating System, no single person knows what they are running or what they will be upgraded to next. Just horrible.
    james347
    • Nope

      @james347

      Go back to your walled garden of Apple serfdom.

      Android is certainly NOT a mess. It works just fine for the average consumer.

      Not being an average consumer, there are solid reasons why I choose Android.
      Tim Patterson
      • RE: Apple iOS is tightly closed, Android is mostly open

        @Tim Patterson
        Look around... old business users = blackberry, techies on ZDNET = Android, Steve Ballmer types = WP7, Everyone else = iPhone...
        Hasam1991
      • Everyone Else?

        @Hasam

        Is that why Android adoption is surpassing iPhone?
        Tim Patterson
      • RE: Apple iOS is tightly closed, Android is mostly open

        @Tim Patterson Yeah Android is great if one likes having carrier crapware preinstalled and having to root the device to get rid of it. And what about all the promised OS updates? How's that working out? And that nifty random SMS feature? Killer thing to be sexting one's girlfriend and having that message go to one's grandmother... makes for an interesting conversation at the family dinner table!

        iOS has NO carrier crapware preinstalled - not even on VZW surprisingly enough, only the original iPhone 2G and the first gen iPod Touch are unable to run the latest and greatest iOS, and when I text someone it goes to the intended person.

        Sure iOS has issues - ALL OSes do but I'd much rather have an ecosystem (a OS ecosystem not to be confused with a biological ecosystem as some idiots try to do) that is a bit more closed off than something that is essentially a copy of iOS.
        athynz
      • RE: Apple iOS is tightly closed, Android is mostly open

        @athynz oh, haven't you heard? That "feature" was fixed. In fact, it was a minuscule proportion of Android users that experienced it in the first place.

        Did you really just suggest that Android is a copy of iOS? How the hell did you get to that conclusion?
        alexluckett
      • Android adoption never "surpassed" iOS: the latter was 20% bigger

        @Tim Patterson: Apple had 360 000 activation of iOS devices in **average** for Q4, while Android **peaked** with 300 000 in the middle of December.

        Also, most of these Android sales are cheapo impotent devices which do not even have AndroidMarket, which sell with an old OS version, and which will be never upgraded.
        DDERSSS
      • @alexluckett

        How many phones got the update to that SMS feature?

        Yep Android. Need a bug fix? Buy a new phone.
        Bruizer
      • The real choices are with Apple...

        @Tim Patterson

        You want an App??? Apple has it, Roid does not... You want a bug fixed or you want to get the latest OS, iPhones can get it, Roids cannot... You can call Apple closed, but it is only a meaningless name... Apple is protected yet has all the good choices and has more of them than all the rest combined... So you can call Roid open, and that too is meaningless as well. Good luck updating a Roid phone... Good luck finding the App you actually want.. Good luck with any app you install because the Roid store is a malware infested cesspool.

        But hey.. you want to claim that it's good to have Roids and you choose Roids... You be my guest... Just like with the other type of Roids, I chose not to have them,. They are both a pain in the rear. And I own my iPhone, It doesn't own me... Unlike your Roids.
        i8thecat
      • RE: Apple iOS is tightly closed, Android is mostly open

        @Tim Patterson If you were honest with yourself you would admit that it is mostly pure envy and jealousy that made you choose an alternative (for the time being). Walled Garden, how original, do you guys ever have a thought of your own. Petulant and ignorant children all.
        GAGYRO
      • RE: Apple iOS is tightly closed, Android is mostly open

        @alexluckett<br><br><i>"Did you really just suggest that Android is a copy of iOS? How the hell did you get to that conclusion?"</i><br><br>Easy. Just look at early photos of Android shortly after Apple showed off the iPhone. It resembled more a BlackBerry than anything iPhone. Then they they started cloning Apple's UI with each generation. <br><br><a href="http://www.zdnet.com/blog/ip-telephony/two-photos-here-of-a-very-early-google-android-prototype/3197" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://www.zdnet.com/blog/ip-telephony/two-photos-here-of-a-very-early-google-android-prototype/3197</a>
        dave95.
      • iCrAppleholics are like talking to holes in the wall....

        @Tim Patterson .......like brainless drones that haven't been fitted with Android OS for a touch of individuality to show that not all owners of these mobil devices THINKS like these totally addicted creeps are to being collectively massed produced in the same closed Garden Walled mold unable to customized from what iHitler Jobs and his Mind Control Thought POLICE allow them to do. They'd make great little Commies with the RDF and Proganda they're all fed!!! ^_^
        i2fun@...
      • RE: Apple iOS is tightly closed, Android is mostly open

        @Tim Patterson
        Please name a SINGLE carrier that supports both where Android surpassed iPhone.
        DeusXMachina
      • iCrAppleholics are like talking to holes in the wall....

        @Tim Patterson .......like brainless drones that haven't been fitted with Android OS for a touch of individuality to show that not all owners of these mobil devices THINKS like these totally addicted creeps are to being collectively massed produced in the same closed Garden Walled mold unable to customized from what iHitler Jobs and his Mind Control Thought POLICE allow them to do. They'd make great little Commies with the RDF and Proganda they're all fed!!! ^_^
        i2fun@...
      • RE: Apple iOS is tightly closed, Android is mostly open

        @Tim Patterson [i]It works just fine for the average consumer.[/i]

        As do iOS devices but that's never good enough for all the haters. I am glad you have the choice of Android if it meets your needs better. I personally don't care what device somebody else chooses but when comments like [i]Go back to your walled garden of Apple serfdom.[/i] you obviously have a bias against Apple and those that choose their products.
        non-biased
      • RE: Apple iOS is tightly closed, Android is mostly open

        @i2fun Man, get some professional help please and fast. It is not healthy to carry around so much pent up anger. Especially over something so irrelevant to life as ones choice in mobile OS. I don't think that once a week appointments and some meds are going to do it, at least not in the next decade. I would recommend getting yourself admitted for a while, it's obvious to everyone else you need it.
        non-biased
    • RE: Apple iOS is tightly closed, Android is mostly open

      @james347
      Totally agree, I bought in to the hype and now I want my iPhone back!!!!!
      Hasam1991
      • RE: Apple iOS is tightly closed, Android is mostly open

        @Hasam1991 what the hell is a "Steve Ballmer" type? if you use WP7?
        JMJMJMJM
      • RE: Apple iOS is tightly closed, Android is mostly open

        @Hasam1991
        Try using a little diligence in shopping. You remind me of people who bought early Windows clone machines. You get what you pay for - or what you allow yourself to be sold.
        radleym
    • RE: Apple iOS is tightly closed, Android is mostly open

      @james347 The average user doesn't care as long as it gets the job done for the price that they want to pay. Most people don't know which version of windows they are on or even know what the next one might be. But they still use it day in and day out.
      Jimster480