back to article Android Phones are 10: For once, Google won fair and square

Google has received massive fines for its recent stewardship of Android, but there was no conspiracy or underhand tactics about how it got there: Google won this monopoly on merit. Shutterstock molten chocolate Google-free Android kit tipped to sell buckets READ MORE Today, 10 years after the first Android phones launched*, …

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  1. Lee D Silver badge

    Android won because iPhones are stupidly expensive.

    Not because Android was "free" because it wasn't, and it certainly isn't by the time it gets to the consumer.

    The reason Android is 90% of the market is that they can literally be 10% (or even less) of the cost of the iPhone or iPad, brand new. Simple as that.

    (Holds a £10 Android 7" tablet in his hands. Bought from brand-new. Works fine. Once bought a £20 Android kid's smartphone. Bought from brand-new. Works fine. Looks at the stack of iPhone screen repair tools in his office - costs £50-70 each time you break it. And that's just the screen)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Android won because iPhones are stupidly expensive.

      And because of the walled garden and interface lock down. For some people those are desirable, but for many the openness of the Android interface is preferable to Apple. Looking at the software, even if IoS were also free, I'd still choose Android, even with the total absence of privacy.

      1. JDX Gold badge

        And because of the walled garden and interface lock down

        No no no. The vast vast majority of normal people do not care about this. In fact they like things that work consistently.

        You're making the common mistake of thinking others think like you do. They don't. If you ask random people in the street, you will struggle to find anyone who knows what a "walled garden is".

        Let's look at e-readers... Kindle is the iPhone of this market in areas you mention, but it has the lion's share of the market like Android does on phones.

        Android devices are cheaper for those who don't want a top-of-the-line device, work as well as iPhones and have as good a range of apps, for the average punter. That's all it takes. The things we care about like walled gardens, removable batteries, and ability to customise our OS, are simply not factors for 99% of consumers.

        1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

          Re: And because of the walled garden and interface lock down

          I would also say that for many of us with phones we are often like the punters; just want a device that works.

        2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: And because of the walled garden and interface lock down

          Kindle is the iPhone of this market in areas you mention, but it has the lion's share of the market like Android does on phones.

          In which countries?

          Android devices are cheaper for those who don't want a top-of-the-line device

          And also works on top-of-the-line devices such as the Galaxy Note and niche products like the Planet Gemini. We're going to see more devices in different markets using Android (several e-readers use it already).

        3. Patrician

          Re: And because of the walled garden and interface lock down

          "No no no. The vast vast majority of normal people do not care about this. In fact they like things that work consistently."

          Actually, my experience proves the opposite, I have friends that are not in anyway "IT Comfortable" that chose high end Android devices simply because they liked to be able individualise the Home Screens. Now, possibly these friends could be the exception rather than the rule I suppose.

        4. Rafael #872397
          Pint

          Re: You're making the common mistake of thinking others think like you do.

          Upbeered.

        5. Coypu76

          Re: And because of the walled garden and interface lock down

          This: "The things we care about like walled gardens, removable batteries, and ability to customise our OS, are simply not factors for 99% of consumers."

          "We" being geeks.

          iPhone won in the market niche of affluent consumerism, consumers who don't want to reflect on technology. They simply want a magic box that works and has complete concierge service, because the 'walled garden' isn't just Apple's closed technological ecosystem; it's affluent consumerism itself. The iPhone evolved from the iPod, which was primarily a media delivery device for passive consumption, and now the iPhone is more versatile: an experience delivery device, with unbeatable aesthetics and branding. It's the ideal device for those who want concierge service in every part of life. Would you like another mimosa?

          Android has evolved into at least two other ecological niches: the broader low-to-medium end global consumer market of affordable smartphones with decent functionality, and readers of El Reg: geeks who view a mobile device not as a magic black box, but as a customizable technological Swiss Army Knife. (sorry for the zed; that's how we Yanks spell.) Android evolved from Linux as a mobile computer system with a host of tools and a panoply of choices for media delivery without walls. It's an open ecosystem with lots of choices but no concierge service. But it's great for anyone who has the will and the skill to change their own oil.

          As for the two extinct species of mobile devices, their failure lies in their evolutionary forebears. Blackberry was a mobile email terminal which didn't even have a telephone at first. It provided email for corporate executives first, then middle managers. But its ecological niche was too narrow and specialized. Instead of innovating, Blackberry tried to continue to justify their obsolescent business model. By the time they tried innovation it was too late, and Blackberry ended up as just another app on an Android phone for which there were better alternatives.

          Windows Phone didn't really evolve. It was designed as one component of Microsoft's aspirations for global technological and economic hegemony. It arose about the same time as Redmond's other super weapons: Windows Vista, Zune, and HD-DVD. Microsoft was going to rule the world with DRM, a vision where every person, every device and every media channel paid license fees to Redmond - forever. But the marketplace had other ideas. Cue Peter Gutmann's prescient "The Longest Suicide Note in History" paper and the clip from "Downfall."

        6. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: And because of the walled garden and interface lock down

          "Let's look at e-readers... Kindle is the iPhone of this market "

          Agree there (up-voted you). The e-ink display, even on the cheapest device, is spot on. I got my wife one and she reads lots of books on it - more than any tablet or phone.

    2. ThomH Silver badge

      That's kind of a limited view; as per the article Android started from nothing in a mainstream market dominated by Nokia and various Windows Mobiles, both already smart enough to offer browsers and cameras and apps. It then won because it was better than Symbian or Windows Mobile.

      Apple was never number one by sales volume, and never will be. The 90% of the market that isn't Apple has just evolved from flip phones to Android smart phones.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Android 1.5 wasn't better than anything, it ended up winning because it was free and the competition either wouldn't let its OS be used (Apple), didn't know what to do with it (Palm/HP/LG), or was busy setting fire to itself (Elop). Since then Play Services terms have got more onerous, we all know that and Andrew's wrote loads of articles about that, so the headline is just to tease us.

        Oh, and this is what Whackypedia has to say about the original Samsung Galaxy:

        "Due to a lack of firmware updates, Samsung received criticism from original Galaxy users."

        Ten years later and the update problem is still not solved. Yay, Android.

        1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

          "Due to a lack of firmware updates, Samsung received criticism from original Galaxy users."

          Ten years later and the update problem is still not solved. Yay, Android.

          Luckily not all phone manufacturers are as bad at software as Samsung - generally great hardware but appalling software at every level. Seriously, Samsung Kies could win a prize as the worst bit of totally dysfunctional crap ever to have been vomited out of a huge technology and foisted on end users. The Samsung poor quality copy apps that get force loaded as "system apps" on every Samsung phone are no better either. Use Samsung mail or the Gmail? One barely works and is disgusting to use, and while the GMail app has its flaws it at least works, is functional and is updated. Which is the next problem with Samsung, and to a lesser extent a lot of the other manufacturers: Once a phone is released, pretending it no longer exists and/or is not updateable (for spurious reasons) after three months is not a useful "support" strategy.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Seriously, Samsung Kies could win a prize as the worst bit of totally dysfunctional crap ever to have been vomited out of a huge technology and foisted on end users.

            It looks like you're writing a scathing critique of a piece of software. Would you like help?

          2. johnnyblaze

            Sorry, got to add iTunes to that list of dysfunctional crap software. It truly circles the drain, and would teach George Orwell a thing or two about draconian control!

            1. katrinab Silver badge
              Mushroom

              iTunes is indeed dysfunctional crap software, but it has nothing on Kies.

        2. chasil

          Android is a terrible operating system.

          If you are building an OS that cannot receive regular updates, then you have to make some sacrifices for security. Android most certainly did not do this.

          Using chroot() for untrusted apps is a well-known practice that Android ignored.

          The Java JRE and other bytecode emulators (i.e. .NET) have led an extremely troubled existence from a security perspective; ADA compiled to native code would have been a far safer choice.

          Instead of doing any of these things, Android requires all of the media libraries to be linked into the Zygote process which is forked to run apps. This is about the same as systemd refusing to run without a complete copy of VLC in its shared text segment. Android's media system is a particular disaster.

          Android won because of the deal-making behind it - it certainly did not win on technical merit.

          The consequence is that, every month, we have new critical flaws, addressed by OEM patches that either don't exist or are quite tardy.

          See for yourself:

          https://source.android.com/security/bulletin/

          1. Mark 110 Silver badge

            Re: Android is a terrible operating system.

            Just downloading latest system update for my HTC U11 now. Bit late, I'll admit, but I'm getting it.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Android is a terrible operating system.

            This is about the same as systemd refusing to run

            Suits me.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            FAIL

            "If you are building an OS that cannot receive regular updates"

            Which is weird, as my Google Pixel 2 receives security updates every 4 weeks, and these are guaranteed by Google to occur for 3 years (see Android Enterprise docs), I am also guaranteed at least 1 major OS update too (in likelyhood, more). I also receive system app updates several times a week..

            Perhaps you are referring to something that is Android based? in which case, you really need to speak with whoever created it, as it's certainly not a problem with Android or a problem created by Google.

            Guess what, if iOS was opensource, and anyone could make products using it, what do you think would happen then? Yup, EXACTLY the same thing, vendors that want to undercut Apple on price will make cut price products with cut price support. So by your measure, the only reason iOS is more secure, is because it's closed source and nobody aside from Apple uses it.

            I would counter that the most secure device on the market, is a Google Pixel device, as the OS os opensource, it's been vetted and reviewed in the open, there are no doors to hide behind, and the device gets very regular security updates. I wonder how many security issues that Apple are keeping quiet about until they have fixes in place for, as they have the luxury of a closed platform.... Go ponder that....

          4. chasil

            Re: Android is a terrible operating system.

            And just in case anyone here has doubts about how awful Android's media system is, let's refer to an authoritative source:

            "Don't start me on [Android] Stagefright and Mediaserver, I could rant for 2 or 3 hours non-stop! Seriously, the code over there is crap, and has insane concepts, like aborting the whole mediaserver (and all related media decoding of all other applications running at the same time), when it parses a file with attributes it does not know, instead of skipping the file. We discovered some issues in Stagefright (busy loops, device reboots, mediaserver crashes) quite early, but we never thought about submitting them."

            https://interviews.slashdot.org/story/16/08/26/1338246/the-slashdot-interview-with-videolan-president-and-lead-vlc-developer-jean-baptiste-kempf

      2. Joe Gurman

        Define "win"

        If you mean giving all the Android fondletoy-floggers other than Samsung a chance to lose money every quarter, break out the party hats and crackers!

        If you mean establishing an experience that's bewildering for users who try to find the best deal every time the buy a new phone, start dancing.

        If you mean provide a platform that's proven to offer an opportunity to make some money for hardware makers whose name is not Samsung.... not quite time to celebrate, is it?

        1. philonous

          Re: Define "win"

          You've hit all the nails on the heads. Google literally stole Microsoft's model for subjugating hardware vendors to its operating system and implemented it flawlessly. Dell and HP managed to save themselves by building IT and cloud services around the computer, which makes them no money at all. Smartphone makers do not have this luxury. Going against Google's domination of user data monetization is a far more formidable task than building your own corporate services on Microsoft's OS.

          Android has laid waste to the hardware industry. These poor vendors need to give most of their profits to the likes of Qualcomm for chips and the rest to Google. The fact that Apple alone reaps as much as 80% of all smartphone profits by some estimates clearly establishes that Android's victory is Google's alone, not any hardware manufacturer's.

          Lastly, Android's success derived as much from the fact that there were no developers to attract by the time Microsoft entered the game. Microsoft couldn't interrupt the iOS + Android domination of mobile app developers.

          This article is so biased that it's almost funny.

          1. Horridbloke

            Re: Define "win"

            "... that there were no developers to attract by the time Microsoft entered the game."

            What are you on about? Microsoft had been in the game, through various Windows CE monstrosities, long before Google set to work. They just weren't very good at it.

            1. WallMeerkat Bronze badge

              Re: Define "win"

              Microsoft with CE was doing the inverse of Windows 8/10, whereby they were forcing a desktop environment onto a touchscreen device. For larger devices it was somewhat acceptable (I remember playing with a dinky netbook, it was almost like using a cheap small laptop), but on a phone it was painful having to navigate a start menu with a stylus.

          2. Ian Joyner

            Re: Define "win"

            "Android has laid waste to the hardware industry"

            That goes for software as well.

            http://ianjoyner.name/Open_Source.html

            1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
              Thumb Down

              Re: Define "win"

              > http://ianjoyner.name/Open_Source.html

              "The Failure of Open Source

              Open-source software is supposed to promote the idealistic notion that software should be freely available and cheap for all. It is actually achieving the opposite effect. Here is why. [...]"

              "While Google might have developed Android (???is it open source???), Android is mainly based on Linux (more warm, fuzzy open source sentiments) – a system developed for speed, not security. "

              BS of the highest order.

              1. Ian Joyner

                Re: Define "win"

                My Post:

                >>>Re: Define "win"

                > http://ianjoyner.name/Open_Source.html

                "The Failure of Open Source

                Open-source software is supposed to promote the idealistic notion that software should be freely available and cheap for all. It is actually achieving the opposite effect. Here is why. [...]"

                "While Google might have developed Android (???is it open source???), Android is mainly based on Linux (more warm, fuzzy open source sentiments) – a system developed for speed, not security. "<<<

                GrumpenKraut's response:

                >>>BS of the highest order.<<<

                Really? Don't you have anything sensible to say? You have to provide a counter argument. The fact is that Linux IS built for speed not security.

                Try to have something intelligent to say.

                1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge

                  Re: Define "win"

                  > You have to provide a counter argument. The fact is that Linux IS built for speed not security.

                  No, I don't have to provide a counter argument to your unsubstantiated (and frankly silly) claim.

                  Linux may well not be part of the "security first and foremost" camp of OSes, its track record regarding security is not bad. Considering the wide deployment, it's actually quite good.

                  By the way, "works" (not "speed" as you suggest) is Linus' main goal for all I can see.

                  1. Ian Joyner

                    Re: Define "win"

                    "No, I don't have to provide a counter argument"

                    Oh, yes you do. You obviously can't so that is the end of the conversation. It shows you are working on prejudice and don't know the architectures of these systems.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            FAIL

            Re: Define "win"

            What sort of tool, uses the term FACT and ESTIMATES in the same sentence? A tool that's been brainwashed by Apple is the answer of course.

            "The fact that Apple alone reaps as much as 80% of all smartphone profits by some estimates"

            1. Ian Joyner

              Re: Define "win"

              "A tool that's been brainwashed by Apple is the answer of course."

              No one is brainwashed, except maybe you who is accepting the advertising.

        2. veti Silver badge

          Re: Define "win"

          What are you talking about? Several Android phone manufacturers are doing very nicely for themselves. Huawei, Oppo, Vivo all make a very nice living for themselves. Source. Huawei made over $7 billion profit last year.

          I should lose such money.

          1. Dave 126 Silver badge

            Re: Define "win"

            > Ten years later and the update problem is still not solved. Yay, Android.

            Really? Have you a crystal ball? It's impossible to tell which of today's handsets will still be receiving updates in a few years time, but the signs are promising. Sony used to be criticised, but my Xperia P was updated across three versions of Android. OnePlus used to be criticised, but due to market pressure they now roll out version updates far faster than they did. My Samsung S8 has been receiving monthly security updates, and it doesn't even have Project Treble. Since phones have matured and there is less to choose between them, there's now more incentive for vendors to release updates, and it's now easier for them than ever before to do so.

            (I've only ever used Android, there are things I like about it, and things iOS seems to do better. I'm not cheerleading, just pointing out the consequences of a maturing market)

      3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Apple was never number one by sales volume, and never will be.

        This is revisionism. It certainly was #1 by market share in some markets such as the US for a while and Apple's pursuit of the competition over some of its more frivolous design patents was classic monopolistic behaviour. In the end it decided to trade market share for share of the profits and has done very well in this, even if it has essentially given up innovation.

      4. mgbrown

        Lets not forget that one of the main reasons why Android was better than Symbian and Windows Mobile was because Google refused to support those platforms with their services like Maps and YouTube.

    3. juice Bronze badge

      > Holds a £10 Android 7" tablet in his hands. Bought from brand-new. Works fine. Once bought a £20 Android kid's smartphone. Bought from brand-new.

      A £10 Android tablet and a £20 smartphone?

      I'd be intrigued to know where these came from; looking at dx.com (chinese exporter), the cheapest Android smartphone is £25 and the cheapest 7" tablet is £35.

      So I'm guessing they were heavily subsidised (e.g. an EE second-phone offer) or on a really heavy discount at the time!

      But yeah: generally, it's cheaper to buy a replacement device than to repair the existing one, which is a shame. It's not just the Apple eco-system where that's true though - replacing the screen on a Samsung Galaxy phone ranges from £140 - £240 for the a phone from the last 3 generations.

      https://www.samsung.com/uk/support/mobile-devices/how-much-will-it-cost-to-repair-my-phone-screen/

      As to whether it's worth the extra money - that's down to the individual, and the usual caveats (do you have transferrable data on there, do you need specific technology such as the camera/battery life/etc)!

    4. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      @Lee D - "Android won because iPhones are stupidly expensive." The primary reason I buy mid range Android phones is cost as they are much cheaper than an iPhone.

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        Amazon deals - unknown make and model - I think one was an "Opera" tablet (yeah, that was just the brand-name they emblazoned on the back). The other was a managed kid's smartphone that was just Android which some MDM and control apps. Same place - Amazon, random brand (but can't tell you which one as my kid has it over in Spain nowadays!).

        1. RegGuy1
          Coat

          but can't tell you which one as my kid has it over in Spain nowadays!

          What? He's become a bloody foreigner?

          Grrr!

          Brexit means Brexit.

          Leave means Leave.

          Red, white and blue Brexit.

          We won, get over it.

          No deal, no deal, no deal.

          ... etc :-(

          [voice in background] Nurse! NURSE!!

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If iPhones where priced the same as Android, then they wouldn't be "better".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Please tell us where the iPhones are, then, if you bring up their location as being somehow important to how good they are/n't

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Holds an iPhone XS max...

      I'm sorry, but given the title all I can say is game over to android- and all non-apple OEMs. After owning 2 phones ever since 2012 (had an iPhone 5 and decided to get a Sony XZ ultra instead of going for 5s, and thus decided to keep the 5) this is the first year I've decided one phone is enough for me.

      Android just does not kick it it in comparison. You have been very lucky with those devices (if you are not talking bs) because even my XZ premium running 8.0 is like a childs toy in comparison to this beast. Good luck with, well everything I suppose!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Holds an iPhone XS max...

        ^^^^ That's bait

        1. Archivist

          Re: Holds an iPhone XS max...

          That's ~~~~~~bate...

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Holds an iPhone XS max...

          Haha... yep! But it's also true. Haven't used my xz premium once since 21st September and I don't miss it at all (after loving it for the last 16 months).

          As only a minor point, the iPhone connects easier to all my Bluetooth devices, and more importantly hasn't dropped connection once. UE boom, beats studio 3.. and ironically my Sony Bluetooth headset SBH54! My iPhone SE (which has been passed on now) was used for very little the last 16 months and I wasn't sure if I was making the right choice when I ordered.. but I have no doubt now. ;)

    7. steviebuk Silver badge

      And...

      ...I'd probably say the locked down nature of the iPhone. The fact Steve Jobs took it to court to make Jailbreaking illegal but thankfully lost. At least it's easier to flash an Android with a custom ROM than an iDevice.

    8. katrinab Silver badge

      "Android won because iPhones are stupidly expensive."

      Not really. They are/were the same price as the equivalent Samsung flagship model, but they last longer before falling to bits and get updates for longer.

    9. Anonymous Coward
      Megaphone

      Android won because it was BETTER and CHEAPER.

      Android won because it was BETTER and CHEAPER.

      The 18 month old Pixel2 (that is now £450), still has a better camera than the £1100 iPhone XS (and the Galaxy S9)... And this is according the the hugely biased Apple fanboys at iVerge.

      https://www.theverge.com/2018/9/19/17878018/iphone-xs-x-pixel-2-galaxy-s9-camera-comparison

      Who sort of person spunks £1100 on a phone that's worse than a 18 month old phone costing less than half that money?

      It's of course not just the camera quality, on the Pixel 2, you have all your Google apps (which most iPhone owners have to download), you have better NFC, that you can use for things that aren't just Apple Pay (like pairing up headphones and cameras, and automation), you have far better bluetooth audio (whilst iPhone is still stuck in the dark ages with AAC profile), Android phones have the Superb APT-XHD and the Sensationally good LDAC codecs.

      Then you have battery life. My iphone 8 was lucky to get to the end of the afternoon without needing a recharge. My new Xperia that replaced it goes for 2 days without a charge with similar usage patterns and very similar battery capacities. Android with Oreo totally destroys anything iOS has in terms of battery life (and I hear Android 9 is even better still, with smart optimisation based on app usage history).

      1. Ian Joyner

        Re: Android won because it was BETTER and CHEAPER.

        "Android won because it was BETTER and CHEAPER."

        Certainly not better. And cheaper because those who are second to market use some tactic to undermine the originals.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Android won because it was BETTER and CHEAPER.

          Clearly better, he even provided 4 key areas with supporting cited as to how it's better, unlike your response...

          I guess you just spunked £1100 on an iphoneXS that got owned by an 18 month old sub £500 phone...

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