Android One and the future of the platform

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So this week was exciting huh? Google I/O and the return of 3D graphics and animations in Android. Android Car, Android TV, Android Lunchboxes. All very exciting. So exciting, that it almost drowned out one of the more notable announcements of the Keynote: Android One. But it’s a confusing issue, so lets talk about it a little shall we?

Android One is basically a blueprint for a low-end phone. It’s a set of hardware and software rules that OEMs can follow to make what amounts to a pretty good dual- SIM toting handset that is set to reel in “the next billion”. “The next billion” is a term to describe the next billion smartphone users who will be coming from developing nations. The first billion is pretty much all wrapped up – as absurd as that sounds. We’ve all made our decisions on what phone we’re going to carry. The next billion is still very much up in the air. So it stands to reason, that this will be the next market to dominate, and Google has got it firmly in the crosshairs.

android-oneBut at what price?

The problem that Google is now trying to address is that many, many, many low-end Android phones… well… they suck. They’re either underpowered or have operating systems that are older than most of our children, or both. What Google wants to do with these guidelines, is help manufacturers make phones that don’t suck, and are cheap so that the next billion will buy them and not hate themselves when they do. This is a pretty big deal, but it comes at a cost, and it’s time for us to decide, good reader, whether or not that cost is too high.

Android was born and has grown up as a free entity. You want to make a phone? Put Android on it. You want to keep your tablet running after HP decided you suck and it hates you? Put Android on it. You want to make a tablet, and then a phone that bears no resemblance to any other OS out there? Put Android on it. And so on. Android has never been one about rules and regulations. But now Android One seems to show that Google is realizing that maybe this isn’t such a good philosophy. Android One is basically the opposite of “Android” which is to say “You want to make a phone? Do it this way,” which is a much more Windows Phone like attitude.

CrowdPlusses

The benefits of this are obvious – low-end, potentially sub $100 phones that don’t suck. That’s something that only Motorola (nd not even sub-$100) has really managed thus far. But there’s a ton of OEMs out there who have tried and failed. Maybe Android One is a Motorola aftertaste that it left in Google’s mouth after it chewed. Disturbing metaphors aside, Android One could be paving the way for quality low-end phones across an entire spectrum of OEMs, which could be dangerous for Windows Phone OEMs who, until now, pretty much cornered this market.

On the other hand, it needs to be repeated that this is not even close to the foundations upon which Android was founded. The old Android was free and open and “do whatever you want with it”, and that was a beautiful thing. It’s lead to a number of wonderful creations from skins, to mods, to major differentiation among the platform. Differentiation that could be threatened by these rules of a stock Android build that will grace these low-end beauties. Basically Android seems to be trading in its freedom for a little bit of security. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to take off my shoes before I can board this plane.

So… debate!

So I put it to you dear readers. Is sacrificing Android’s freedom for a solid affordable handset worth it? Or would you rather see Android OEMs continue to throw a multitude of phones of varying quality into a market that will help define the future of mobile? This is the freedom of Android that we’re debating here. I’ve given you both sides of the argument, now I invite you to take it to the comments and as the header graphic suggests, debate. Feel free to add your own points and views and let’s see if we can figure this out together.

Leader image source: thenextweb

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About The Author
Adam Doud
Adam joined the tech world after watching Jon Rubenstein demo the most epic phone ever at CES 2009. He is webOS enthusiast, Windows Phone fan, and Android skeptic. He loves the outdoors, is an avid Geocacher, Cubs/Blackhawks fan, and family man living in Sweet Home Chicago, where he STILL hosts monthly webOS meetups (Don’t call it a comeback!). He can be found tweeting all things tech as @DeadTechnology, or chi-town sports at @oneminutecubs.Read more about Adam Doud!