How Android Is Slowly Becoming More Consumer-Friendly
While the Apple iPhone has shown the benefits of a closed and regulated system, Android hasn't done quite as well at showing how versatile an open platform can be. But with two policy reversals, that's starting to change.
AT&T recently announced it will open up some of its Android smartphones to apps from third-party stores , rather than restricting them to applications from the official Android Market . This reflects a mentality that is slowly (very slowly in some cases) gaining steam among smartphone makers.
More stores mean better competition, which benefits the Android user in the long run. It allows users to go wherever the popular and high-quality apps are, because they certainly don't all reside in Google's app store.
Next, prominent Android smartphone manufacturers HTC and Motorola have set a precedent by deciding not to lock down bootloaders on its phones.
Android phones, like any other smartphone, can have their operating system "cracked," allowing consumers to install their own modifications or change how the operating system functions. Most manufacturers have vociferously opposed this practice, doing everything possible to stop it, so the recent policy reversal is a huge benefit to Android users.
An unlocked bootloader makes it much easier to use custom interfaces, mods and other code that can add functionality to the phone. The move is a tacit acknowledgement that customers can now personalize their phones how they like.
This doesn't mean the battle for open handsets is over. Carriers and many manufacturers are still wary about opening up completely. Manufacturers worry about guaranteeing a phone that consumers will tinker with, and carriers worry about modifications that can circumvent data charges, such as a mod that allows tethering devices to the phone's data connection without paying for it.
But for now, these developments are starting to fulfill the promise of openness that Android originally stood for. With greater customization and app store competition, consumers have much greater choice about how they use their Android devices.
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