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Tuesday
Nov272012

LATE ADOPTION TO ANDROID PAYS OFF - PART II

Last week I wrote about my disappointment in Android--specifically why, as an early adopter, I resisted the siren call of the OS.

As 2012 ticks by, big changes are happening for Android, and they are called Google, Amazon and Samsung. As a consequence of these changes, I set my iPhone down and bought a Samsung Galaxy S3. To summarize the rest of this post: I’m not going back.

I’m running an early version of Google’s Jelly Bean 4.2, the latest version of Android, on my S3, and it positively sings. The performance is remarkably smooth and snappy. Most of what you want is pretty much where you think it’s going to be. The interface has a number of customizations I wished were on my iPhone (i.e. desktop widgets, flashlight shortcut), and several I marveled at because they seemed so obvious that I couldn’t believe they had never appeared before (i.e. choosing which screen would be my home screen). I had 71 apps on my iPhone. I was able to install 68 of them on my Galaxy via the Android Play app store. Battery life is a little worse, but I don't think the OS is to blame (my screen is much larger, so this is to be expected). This operating system has finally arrived.

On the hardware front, AmazonSamsung, and Google are each pursuing strategies which make Android devices much more attractive; reduce fragmentation; and attract developers.

Amazon is making Android tablets inexpensive, and aggressively courting top iOS developers to produce Kindle apps, which those same developers can subsequently sell to other Android devices. Amazon alone can help a developer make the business case to port an iOS app to Android.

Samsung is selling huge volumes of a few handset models. Many app developers could justify porting to Android by using the Netflix app strategy: guarantee compatibility on the top 5-10 Android handsets, and add the rest as revenue warranted. (This approach obviously doesn’t solve the problem of OS fragmentation, but it goes a long way towards solving the fragmentation problem in an app developer’s ROI model.)

Finally, Google’s ongoing efforts to establish hardware standards through leadership seem to be working. Or at least the leadership part of the equation is working; whether this results in more standardization is unproven. Their Nexus 7 (manufactured by partner Asus) may be the best-selling tablet this Christmas, and the buzz around Google’s “X Phone” is impressive for a product whose marketing hasn’t started. Google is more successful at influencing hardware design and specification than at any point since the launch of the very first Android handset.

It'll be very interesting to see how much ground Android gains in the next 12 months as a result of these shifts.

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