By Megan Fleet
Every brand and company has its shtick, its M.O., its press friendly sound bytes. Google is no different when espousing the virtues of its Google Android operating system at each event they are able to use a soapbox and spread their smartphone evangelism. The main gospel is the Android culture of openness and the lack of limitations is to the benefit of the consumer.
This is great PR spin. And this writer truly loves a good euphemism laced with truth. So, while Android is more open that its competitors, it is comparative. When held up to open-source software like Linux, it is actually quite closed. Hence, a Hollywoodesque Benniffer moniker is bound to catch: Clopen.
At the moment, Google makes the Android OS source code available to companies and individuals to customize to their liking. Very open and transparent, non? Flip side of this coin is the Google mobile suite: Gmail, Android Market, Google Maps, and the long list of “Google” stamped functions. These are closed sourced. The double talk is confusing for customers. Especially when end users purchase a no-Market Android device. Not good PR.
Throw in the custom skins and fragmentations used by the varied carriers and manufacturers and there is a varying standard of quality for the smartphones bearing the Android and Google names. This is damaging to a brand. In fact, Marketing Land’s Danny Sullivan wrote that these quality control discrepancies are resulting in customers with outdated devices in their hands. This particular quirk can be addressed with accessories (protective cases, upgraded screen skins etc), but what is under the hood is harder to resolve.
Case in point: the latest Android OS release, Ice Cream Sandwich. Various manufacturers have hedged and speculated about when the update would be available and on what phones and what carriers (at least with an unlocked phone, the customer will have more say in to get the latest Android OS). As of right now, only one physical device has the update on it. The flagship Android phone, Galaxy Nexus. Newer devices like the DROID RAZR, DROID Bionic, and the Rezound should see the update later in 2012, but there are many others like the LG Revolution (launched only 7 months ago) that will never get the ICS upgrade treatment because of the carrier (please see above note about unlocked phones!).
Luckily for customers, the Open Handset Alliance which encompasses major US players (LG, HTC, Motorola, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T to name a few) which has pledged with Google to bring an end to fragmentation and bring the latest Android OS to devices if the smartphone release is 18 months old or younger.