Android: Enabling choice, competition, and diversity in the mobile industry

Android is an open-source mobile operating system (OS) that has transformed the mobile industry by enabling choice, competition, and diversity. Developed by Google and released in 2008, Android has become the most popular mobile operating system, powering over 2.5 billion devices worldwide. Its open-source nature allows developers to customize, modify and enhance the platform, which has led to a vast array of unique and innovative devices, applications, and experiences for users.

Acquired by Google in 2005 when only 1% of the world’s population had smartphones, the tech giant saw the potential of developing an open-source platform, which could be accessed, downloaded, and modified by anyone at no cost. This move made it possible for app developers to create innovative apps and reach a global audience, while device makers could install Android on their devices without having to license or develop their proprietary OS. This led to a reduction in the cost of smartphones globally, making them accessible to more people.

Android’s open-source platform encourages a competitive environment where anyone can use it to create apps and develop competing software. Unlike most closed operating systems, Android enables more choice for users, as they can easily replace any pre-installed Google app with another third-party app of their choice. Android is the only major mobile OS that allows multiple global and regional app stores, including stores owned by Samsung or Lenovo. This has opened up the mobile industry to more competition, enabling a diversity of devices and apps that reflect the billions of people who might use them.

Google Play Powers Android Developers

Google Play is an online store where people can find their favorite apps, games, movies, TV shows, books, and more. It is available on Android devices, enabling developers to develop and distribute their apps to people around the world. There are over 2 million apps available on the Google Play Store, providing users with a diverse range of experiences. The Play Store is also where developers can publish their apps to reach 2.5+ billion active users each month in more than 190 countries.

The Play Store works like a grocery store for apps. Users can browse the different categories, choose an app they want to download, and either pay for it or download it for free. Developers pay a one-time registration fee of just US$25 to register and can choose to put the same app on a different store’s shelf if they prefer. Google Play’s policies help ensure a great user experience by scanning apps to ensure they are safe and updated and protect users’ confidential purchase data.

Google Play has made significant strides in accommodating developers’ different needs, particularly in terms of pricing. Unlike other major platforms, Google Play has moved away from a one-size-fits-all pricing strategy. The Play Media Experience Program offers eligible developers a further reduced fee, which can be as low as 10%. This program recognizes the high content costs incurred by developers of apps that primarily offer video, audio, or books, in which users pay to consume content.

Addressing Mobile Developer Painpoints

Fragmentation in Android refers to the existence of multiple versions of the Android operating system (OS) that are still in use, as well as the diversity of devices that run on these versions. This can create significant pain points for developers, including compatibility issues, user experience challenges, and security concerns. Developers may need to create different versions of their app for different versions of the OS, or they may need to use workarounds to address compatibility issues, both of which can lead to a less-than-optimal user experience.

Among the concerns related to fragmentation are the security challenges for developers, as they may need to ensure that their apps are secure across a wide range of devices and OS versions. This can be especially challenging given the many different security vulnerabilities that have been discovered in the Android OS over the years.

“We have open standards. We make sure that if a device comes with Google Play, they meet certain compatibility requirements for developers to develop for one app store and works across all Android devices. Fragmentation is not a big problem as many people assume,” according to Mahir Sahin, APAC Director of P&E Partnerships at Google during a recent Decode: Google series session.

This developer’s pain points of fragmentation in Android include compatibility issues, user experience challenges, and security concerns, all of which can make it difficult for developers to create high-quality apps that work seamlessly across all devices.

“One concrete way in which Google Play ensures that developers have the right access to insights and tools to really cater to the multitude of devices out there is through Android App Bundles. It allows developers to have one APK to be delivered regardless of the device type,” said Kunal Soni, APAC Director of Play Partnerships at Google at the same online event.

Android App Bundles is a publishing format introduced by Google in 2018 that allows developers to package their Android app and its resources more efficiently and flexibly. With Android App Bundles, developers upload their app’s compiled code and resources to Google Play and Google Play generates and serves optimized APKs for each user’s device configuration, language, and other characteristics. This means that users only download the code and resources they need, rather than downloading a single APK containing everything, which can result in smaller app sizes and faster downloads. Android App Bundles also support the dynamic delivery of features on demand, allowing developers to add or remove features as needed to optimize app size and performance.

Progressive Web Apps (PWA) Alternative

Google has been promoting Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) as a way to provide a better user experience for web applications. As a result, the company has been pushing for the adoption of PWAs across different platforms, including Google Play.

Google Play now supports the distribution of PWAs alongside native Android apps. This means that developers can submit PWAs to Google Play and users can install them just like any other app. PWAs are also eligible for features such as App Indexing and Firebase Cloud Messaging. In addition, Google has been working to make PWAs more discoverable on the web by highlighting them in search results and providing features like Add to Home Screen and Push Notifications.

Overall, it is clear that Google is committed to promoting PWAs as a way to improve the web experience for users and make it easier for developers to create high-quality web applications that can be distributed through various channels, including Google Play.

Android has indeed revolutionized the mobile industry by providing an open-source platform that encourages competition, enabling a diversity of devices and apps that cater to the billions of people who might use them. Google Play has provided a platform for developers to reach a global audience, making it easy for them to develop and distribute their apps to users worldwide. The Play Store provides users with a diverse range of experiences and policies that help ensure a great user experience.