30 Days of Geek: 07 – Preferred smartphone platform. And which do you use?

Android.

Android.

I like Android for a couple of reasons. The first is that it slots into the Google Apps ecosystem that I built much of my online life around prior to getting an Android phone — an excellent Gmail app for starters, but also my use of calendaring has improved significantly since getting my ADP1.

The second is that it’s Open Source. This means that (provided you have a suitable handset), it’s possible to obtain or write your own custom firmware which lets the phone do more than what its manufacturer intended. This, for me at least means running later versions of Android well past the support of the manufacturer.

7 thoughts on “30 Days of Geek: 07 – Preferred smartphone platform. And which do you use?

  1. Yeah, I’d like to see you produce a custom firmware for your phone. Go on, do it. You said you could, so let’s see you have a go.

    In reality, the “open source” part of Android is a farce. Android is useless without being able to interface with the GSM/CDMA hardware (the drivers are closed source and vendor-specific for that), and phones use locked down bootloaders to prevent third-party firmwares.

    Most of the work in porting third-party firmwares such as CyanogenMod to a phone appears to be actually cracking the vendor’s bootloader, which should not be necessary for a so-called open platform.

    Not only that, but the Android Market does not foster collaboration, nor encourage openness. The vast majority of apps appear to be proprietary. While there is nothing stopping an app developer from open sourcing his app, there is nothing encouraging one to do so either.

    In summary, actions speak louder than words. If Android is really that open and flexible, let’s see you have a go at actually putting that into practice. Good luck with that.

    1. Excellent. You have made every point against Android that I also have, but couldn’t be arsed articulating today. In particular the Android Market not doing anything to promote Open Source is a sad state of affairs for those of us who want open apps. I’ve upvoted an issue in the Google bug tracker requesting that Market display licensing information — I think this would be an improvement, and I’ve voiced that opinion.

      WRT custom firmwares: The benefit of Android being Open Source here is that custom firmwares are even possible. Also, they do indeed exist for many handsets and helps increase the useful life of those handsets (as it has my G1). I have no interest in writing them myself, however — there are more interesting things that I can do with my time. The point is that there are people who are interested in it, and enjoy doing so, and the Open Sourcedness of Android permits that to the extent that you have detailed.

      Everything else is, however incredibly unfortunate, unimportant to me.

  2. Sadly the openness of Android does not extend to features such as being able to access the Android Market or being able to use the Google APIs to interact with Gmail, etc. This really makes it just a novelty on non-Google devices such as the OpenMoko Neo Freerunner (which I used to run it on, and now sits sadly on my desk here).

    Even the Cyanogen mod (which Google CND’d for originally incorporating the non-open source bits I mentioned above) has dropped them, you need to rely on other utilities to “recover” those bits from your original firmware I believe.

      1. Are you sure ? I thought that’s what got him CND’d the first time and now the “about” part of the website says:

        This is a pure, working AOSP build which you can use without any type of Google applications. I found a link from some other project that can be used to restore the Google parts, which can be found below or elsewhere in the thread.

  3. I feel obligated to point out that by the argument used in favour for Android (i.e. Cyanogen is awesome) iOS is just as open. A hacker can do just as much to the iOS firmware as Cyanogen does to the Android firmware. And they do.

    Paris

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