back to article Google's Android market needs Jobsian strongman

One of the most hyped technologies of the last year or two is Google's Android. Based on a modified Linux kernel, Android has been heralded as the future of everything from tablets to TVs – and as a release from the stranglehold that Apple's iPhone has on hearts, minds, and wallets of people everywhere. Progress since Android …


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  1. Si 1
    Big Brother

    Does Android phone home?

    The biggest barrier to me owning an Android device is that I don't know what it's sending back to Google. Google don't do anything if they can't store it, profile it and use it to sell advertising (or whatever it is they're amassing all this data for). How can I be convinced Android is any different?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      What's so bad about them using that info to try to show me better targeted ads? Personally, I like the way they handle it.

      For example, on Android Google asks me if they can track my location - if I give them permission I can change my mind and turn it off anytime. It will be used for search, tailoring ads, etc.

      For comparison, with Apple's new policy (widely reported yesterday) you pretty much have no choice but to allow them to track you, and they are going to sell the data.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Down

        tom 53

        You've got it completely backwards. You make it sound like Apple tracks your every move and Google is benevolent.

        BTW, you can opt out of Apple's personalising their ads, just as you can with Google ad preferences.

      2. NB
        Thumb Down


        personally I hate ads and there are none on my n900, even my browser has ad and flash blocking enabled. It makes for a much more pleasant internet experience.

    2. Spoonguard

      Trust... nobody?

      Do you trust Apple? or your carrier? your ISP? your handset manufacturer? the government? what about your neighbours?

      How do you know what they are sending back and storing, and why are you not boycotting them all also?

      If Google's collection of information about you was a real concern I doubt you would use the internet to make this post!

    3. Wize

      Storing data

      In light of the recent street view network snooping stories, I would find it difficult to trust they didn't do anything fishy on their phones.

    4. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    5. Geoff Campbell

      Why should we convince you?

      Buy what you want, what you feel happy with.

      Personally, for me, that was Android. I'd rather have the risk of some small information going to Google (and each App shows you in detail what rights it requires before installation, as it happens) than submit to the control-freakery of the Church of Jobs.


    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You can

      You do know, because Android is open source. You can read the source code and look to see if it does phone home. And if it does, you can just rip that part out, recompile it and flash it to your device.

      How do you know the iPhone doesn't phone home? And if you find out it does, what can you do about it?

      One other thing; Android doesn't need a "Jobsian Strongman" to come and restrict the app stores. It just needs someone to come along and combine all the app stores into a single application.

  2. someone up north

    who want an mcdonald

    if some one want an mc donald, he know where to get it, but do let local fish and chips shope boom

  3. Gene Cash Silver badge

    It needs a whole lotta love

    My god, how many solitaire and "flashlight" apps do you need?

    It needs some way of browsing it on the desktop. At the moment, you just plain can't do that, unless you go through some 3rd party site. That was a major surprise when I decided to buy a Droid and wanted to see what apps were available for it.

    The navigation sucks. You get a choice of games or apps, then paid or free, then a list of vague categories, then you're down to random text searches.

    Considering Google's roots, searching for an app is a pain too. You search for solitaire, and you get a ton of card games, some of which are not solitaire games. There's no easy way to narrow it down, as you can't get your original search term back without retyping it. You get suggestions from previous searches as you type, but the frustrating thing is that clicking one doesn't populate the search bar, it redoes that search.

    There's apps where one is clearly a copy of another, and the user comments devolve into kindergarten squabbling about who stole what from whom.

    A lot of the stuff is basically ad-carriers rather than useful apps, like solitaire games where the entire background or left side of the screen is an ad. If you leave feedback about this, you get a pissy response about how are they supposed to support development without ads. "Um, like I do... with a real job...? Are you out of high school yet?"

    I've discovered more than half the apps on my phone somewhere else, then endured a lot of frustration to find it and download it from the store. This at least is starting to be addressed with QR barcodes on some of the app websites.

    You can tell it's a "well it's there because we gotta have one" feature. I hope it gets a little more love and resources than that, and soon. So far, it's the worst part of owning an Android phone.

  4. censored

    Has the author actually used Android?!

    There's one market and its just as prominnt on the device as the App Store is on an iPhone.

    Indeed, for me the biggest plus is NOT having to connect to a computer, particularly when the experience is as horrible as iTunes. Why the hell does your phone need to be connected to a computer before you can even use it?

    1. Quxy
      Thumb Up

      Apparently not...

      Indeed, one of my big reasons for abandoning iPhone in favour of Android was its horrible reliance on iTunes. Talk about a nasty user experience...

    2. KnucklesTheDog

      Couldn't agree more

      Only techies want to plug their phones into a PC. Everyone else views them as pieces of consumer electronics. One of the great Android features is that you can download apps straight from your phone's UI, in most cases in seconds. No "sequence shortened" required here.

      This article is just jumping on the "if it doesn't work in the same way as the iPhone it must be bad" bandwagon which seems prevalent also in most smartphone reviews nowadays. As for "Android apps require users to purchase and download only from their device" this is deliberately misleading (it should say "Android market requires..." if anything).

      BTW, I'm not anti-Apple. I have an iPod which I think is great and I also love OSX. I can't fault much of the simplicity of the iPhone - which is why it sells, and fair play if simplicity is your thing. It doesn't stand up to its competition regarding features though, and it never has. Neither does Apple support iPhone developers in the way Google does. As for iTunes? I think we all know that's just a joke.

    3. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  5. Sean Timarco Baggaley

    Way to miss the point. Again.

    The problem isn't that Android sucks. It doesn't.

    The problem is that Android is an *operating system*, not a device. Apple aren't selling "iOS 4 devices". They're selling *iPhones*, *iPod touches* and *iPads*. (And some other stuff I forget the names of.)

    Android is *already* on a lot more devices than Apple's iOS, but only techies and nerds buy "Android devices". Most people buy *phones*, and couldn't care less what the name of one of the magic spells inside it is called.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Good point, but you forgot to add that only techies, nerds and men buy Android devices. Apple are savvy enough to make their gear appealing to women, too.

      1. kdsandeep


        men are 50 percent of total population. Techies and Nerds are present among both men and women, so you are implying android appeals to atleast 50 percent with the added bonus of all techies loving android. Really. Who loves Iphones ? only non-techie, non-nerdy women ?

        1. Rob

          Not quite true

          My wife has a G2 and a couple ore female friends have just bought the Desire, none of them are techies and they all love the way Android works, which came as a bit of a surprise to me as I thought they would be mainly picked up by the stereotypes you mentioned.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          " Techies and Nerds are present among both men and women"

          You lie, Sir.

          Men buy iPhones too, of course. But have you ever seen a chick with an Android device?

          1. Captain Underpants
            Thumb Down

            Insert witty title here

            Yep, I wake up next to one every day - and I know plenty of other women using Android devices.

            Not everyone who buys Android-based devices is a nerd, and not everyone who buys an i$DeviceName is a fanboi.

      2. Graham Lockley


        "Good point, but you forgot to add that only techies, nerds and men buy Android devices. Apple are savvy enough to make their gear appealing to women, too."

        This is going to embarass my mate then. He has an Apple phone and his partner loves her Hero(G2).

    2. fandom
      Thumb Up

      Exactly right

      "Most people buy *phones*, and couldn't care less what the name of one of the magic spells inside it is called."

      And that's why over a hundred thousand android phones are sold every day, most people don't care about getting an iPhone.

  6. Mike Demler

    Google's Android Market

    I agree with the point that the Android Market may be better run by a more consumer-facing company/organization than Google. But I don't think that the availability of apps from places other than the market is an issue. It is definitely not an issue with AT&T here in the U.S., since they don't even allow apps to be installed from other locations. The Android Market is very much positioned as the central place, and no doubt the only place that most consumers go to for Android apps.

    You also should be aware of what Google has shown recently at their developer's conference, for the future of the Android Market. A desktop interface, and the ability to browse the market, was shown. In addition, the Android Market will have a feature that iTunes lacks - over the air download of apps and content. So, the Android Market that you see today is not the one you will be seeing in a few months.

    The remaining issue is how to address the growing number of non-smartphone applications. For that, I hope to see a 3rd party come on the scene as the aggregator for all types of Android devices.

    1. chuckc
      Jobs Halo

      Re: Over the Air downloads

      I can very happily download apps over the air with my iPhone, have done it multiple times. Since when do you need to plug an iPhone to the computer to install apps? This has been available forever...

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Have you ever even played with a nexus?

    Or any other android 2.1/2.2 phone? At least for more than 5 minutes? After one hour I was trying apps, after one day I installed themes, one week and I tried a new ROM. And for the first time I spent money on apps for my smartphone, less than one hour after I got it. So I'd say the market and all the environment around the android are ddoing very well, thank you very much.

    Leave the closed gardens and blessed-choice stores for the fanbois. We android users are quite happy with the "fragmentation" and the wide, unapproved, choices we get for our phones.

  8. Michael Wright

    Walled Gardens

    I think there's a contradiction in this article. On the one hand, the Wild and Woolly Web is better than the Apple Walled Garden; on the other, someone ought to get a grip. But surely the Walled Garden isn't just because Mr Jobs has a controlling personality--it's at the very heart of the Apple user experience, part of the necessary compromise. So Android couldn't be more Apple-like, and still be Android.

    BTW, the Apple user experience takes a lot of maintaining--the iOS 4 upgrade has not gone well for me, and it seems it might even be Apple's Toyota moment. My experience with a 3G iPhone upgrading to iOS 4 is sadly reminiscent of my various attempts at using Linux.

  9. davenewman

    You can do all these things

    I can download apps to my PC, then upload them to my Android phone over a USB cable. Not every Android 'phone has that, but a lot do.

    I can get apps from several independent marketplaces. Where I cannot go is the Android Marketplace, because the Marketplace app is proprietary code (not open sourced), not available for my OpenMoko Neo Freerunner.

    Far from centralising control, Google should release the marketplace API, so that others can write better marketplace apps, rather than only allowing access to hardware manufacturers who pay them money.

    Finally, the last thing we need are app stores run by the network operators who gave us walled gardens, rather than full Internet access, for years.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can't we have something in between?

    Surely we can have something in-between the corrupt autocrat and the wild-west?

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Linux is a success?

    Wow. Who knew?

  12. Dave Horn

    The problem is Google

    Android Market feels like a pet project by Google engineers. As a software developer, I don't see why I should have to suffer Market bugs such as my apps randomly not appearing in the Market. It's intensely frustrating for both developers and consumers, and right now the overwhelming feeling is that Google just doesn't care.

    It's the other way round with Apple - the App Store is EVERYTHING to them and issues aren't fixed fast enough. Until Google gives me the impression that my time is more than second class (even though they're creaming the profits from the Market), my time is better spent developing apps for iOS.

    1. Tomas T

      What profits?

      Google doesn't make any profit from the Marketplace. That's why it's not "everything" to them. I've never had the issues you mention here and the disappearing apps problem has only ever happened once. It was also fixed within hours of its emergence.

  13. Anonymous Coward


    >Google offering up Android phones, you'd expect to see a more polished – dare, I say, iPhone-like

    God forbid. People who want that should buy an iPhone. In my book its only a user-experience if you control it. In any case since Android handsets outsell iPhone considerably, I'm not sure the problem you're proposing to fix is actually there.

    There are already too many Apps on Android to wade through, I tend to locate what I want via reviews online and drop the installer over the network or scan the QR link from the developers site.

    The onboard Market is still really useful for managing updates to the installed Apps, but unless they limit it to a few hundred actually useful Apps its not something I'd use to locate stuff on the off-chance via the phone, web browser or a desktop application - and requiring the latter would be a retrograde step in any case. I'm not even sure where the USB cable is for my N1 come to think of it, though I remember there was one in the box.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Android v/s IPhone

    The appstore advantage of IPhone is just a marketing gimmick. with 250000 apps in appstore and around 70k apps in Android, average user has more than enough to choose from either markets. Maybe apple appstore has more games agreed, but most of the other types of apps are already there in both markets. Why is everybody talking about Android should be more like IPhone. Android is radically different approach(apart from touch interface) with IPhone in every way. Yes they need to improve their touch interface agreed. Historically when a competitor copies everything from the leading company, the competitor usually fails or is just a distant second. Obviously android does not want to follow the same path.

  15. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    New Content is Leading Root and would always indicate Future Direction for Present Attention

    What the Android platform misses is a Championing Application displaying Proprietary Features which deliver to Mobile IT Players and NonState Actors, the Better Beta Future Experience with Enriched and Enlightened Content. .......... for Novel Deep New Information allows one to Beta Phorm and Deliver Desired Futures ...... and that is bound to be an Improvement of the Present Chaos Fare.

    And if the Platform picks up Phantom Flash Messages for Instant Rush Processing to Master Hub Scripting, does Man and Machine and Virtual Machine Morph to be Both and all Three and One and None and something altogether even greater than ever imagined.? :-) Obviously I'll be expecting Android Base to be considerably smarter establishing Sensitive InterNetworking Channels/Vice Free Zones.

  16. Simon Mackay

    Symbian and Microsoft platforms

    Microsoft's Windows Phone platform and the Symbian mobile phone plafforms have allowed over-the-air installation as well as "download-to-PC" app installation models. As well, there have been competing app stores for both these platforms and the carriers (in my case, Telstra) have been able to supply the apps through an OTA download or as part of their handset branding.

    I have also noticed that developers have been able to host their own apps on their own Websites and provision them to their users directly, whether for free or through their own e-commerce interface.

    As far as competition is concerned, both these platforms also benefit from a competing app store in the form of Handango which had existed in the days of Palm Pilot.

  17. Miek


    "The market bread indifference" -- good one

  18. Rosco

    Quality of apps, not distribution model

    As a massive Android fan I have to say that where the market fails is in the quality of the apps. Apple's totalitarian control of the app store and the apps that go into it may be a pain for developers but it does ensure a basic quality of construction (but not function - fart apps?). 90% of the apps I have got from the Android market are of bedroom hack quality in terms of UI. That's because no-one polices the quality and any old shit can get on there.

    1. Giles Jones Gold badge

      Not to mention Java

      Android's primary SDK is Java, why?!? what's wrong with native C++? at least C++ is fast, compiler interpreter systems aren't that's for sure!

  19. NB


    slightly off topic I know but I definitely prefer the development model for maemo and the upcoming meego, it's much more true to F/OSS philosophy and the platform as a whole is more open, it might not have the market share of Android but as we all know greater market share != superior product. Another thing I've heard about Android (can someone confirm this?) is that it doesn't have CLI access which seems a bit ridiculous for a Linux based system. I know the CLI is the domain of geeks but one thing that I find essential about my n900 is the fact that I can open up a terminal and ssh into my desktop machine at work to check things like server status etc... The fact that I can also run Irssi and Vim on my n900 is pretty sweet too :)

    1. KnucklesTheDog


      There are SSH clients, so you don't really need command line access to the device itself. I believe you can SSH to the phone itself with a hacked ROM though. Although we all know it's Linux underneath, that's hidden from end users of the phone pretty well (good thing in my opinion - Linux is my OS of choice incidentally, I just don't think mass market phones should require knowledge of it).

  20. Stefing

    The Droid Army cometh

    Google's strategy of just being better may get there eventually but Apple's control of the slavish media is a big obstacle to overcome - as is people's just plain ignorance. Personally I think the Nexus One is still the best hardware/software combination at the moment but Google's brave online sales move flopped, which is a real pity because if it worked we'd all be better off.

  21. Daf L


    A decent web interface of the whole Android market is available on AppBrain. This also hides any Spammy apps.

    It also has a handset app that can interact with the website. So you can click install on the AppBrain website and the name of the app is waiting on your handset for you to install - all over the air.

    I really don't understand this bizarre lovefest with iTunes that some authors have. I don't like that product at all. I never want to have to connect my phone to a PC. Any music I can download over the air via Amazon, backup using dropbox and install apps using AppBrain or the marketplace. Why should anyone be required to have a PC to use a phone?

  22. thesykes

    No advertising?

    Maybe there is little or no advertising in the US, but, for those of on the other side of the pond, things are different.

    Am I the only one who's noticed the X10 mini advertising during advert breaks on ITV's coverage of the World Cup (that's a bit of a football - not soccer, football - tournament that is going on at the moment, for those in America)? As Sony are worldwide sponsors of the World Cup, is it possible that those ads are also being run, prime-time, throughout the world?

    If so, then it is possible that tens of millions of people are seeing those ads every day for a month. As FIFA claim worldwide cumulative audiences of 26.29 billion for the 2006 World Cup, if Sony are pushing their ads to even a small proportion of the broadcasters, that is still some audience.

    Then again, if it is only ITV in the UK, that's an audience of about 6, as most people get up to put the kettle on, grab a beer, take a leek, at half time, then sit back down as the second half starts.

  23. Anonymous Coward

    The 1960s Are Calling

    ..and they want their Communist Control Freaks back !

  24. Matt Hawkins

    Android eats Apples for breakfast

    I went Android specifically because I didn't want or need to install bloatware on my PC just to use a phone. I also wanted to be able to use memory cards and change my own battery.

    If you want to install an app on a phone it makes perfect sense to install it via the phone. Its easy. Most Android apps install in seconds. The only thing they need to improve is the search and filter in the Marketplace app.

    There are more apps in the Apple app store but once you've gone over 20,000 apps there is really nothing worth worrying about. A huge chunk of Apple apps are used by either 0 users or a handful. Exactly how many calculator apps do you need? I believe the Apple store has a fair number of "fart" themed apps making up the numbers!

    There are improvements to make but being more like Apple isn't one of them.

  25. Jacek

    Tu stiupid to chose?

    So - users are just too stupid to chose? F** you! My phone is MY!

  26. Stone Fox

    "The market bread indifference and frustration"

    I don't care what market it came from, if they bake bread that tastes of indifference and frustration, I won't eat it!

  27. John Styles

    They should have paid off Steely Dan

    ... and called it the Android Warehouse.

    1. Ralph B
      Thumb Up

      Great Idea

      ... and the porn section could be called the Android Whorehouse.

  28. Tim Almond


    "The Android Marketplace runs a distant second to Apple's App Store in terms of numbers and range of applications and sheer profile."

    OK, what's missing from the Marketplace in terms of App functionality that the App Store has? OK, games. What else?

  29. Tom 38 Silver badge


    Ever played with an Android 1.5 based phone? Ever played with one that the manufacturer won't/hasn't released updates to the latest version of Android?

    Lots of apps that are available for iOS aren't available for android. There may be 17 different fart apps, but there is also unique apps, like the Marvel Comics app. Where's that on android?

    I'm not a huge fan of Apple's walled garden, but there is a lot to look at there.

    Personally, what put me off Android was that lots of it is Java based. I've vowed never to touch anything related to Java, so it's a deal breaker. Even Objective-C is nicer than Java.

    1. Eponymous Cowherd

      Updates, apps and Java

      The Updates fiasco provided by the likes of Vodafone could seriously damage Android. Being 6 months into a two year contract with a 1.6 based phone that the service provider (I'm looking at Vodafone UK, here) won't commit to update is extremely annoying and could put people off Android. The fence sitting is the most annoying thing, they refuse to say whether they will or won't update your phone.

      There are, indeed, a lot of garbage apps on the Android Market. There are also a lot of apps that you cannot (and, due to Apple's App Store policies, never will), see on an iPhone. Generally there *is* and app for most things on the market, and, unlike the iPhone, if there isn't an app, I can write it myself (on Windows, Mac or Linux) and don't need to pay anyone to deploy it on my own phone.

      There's nothing wrong with Java (at least, no more than any other language), and, IMHO, the Android API is rather elegant and powerful, though that's obviously a matter of personal preference. You do realise we are talking about something that is more akin to the full J2SE, rather than the J2ME abortion that is used to provide Java apps for most other phones. That, I will concede, is a frightful mess.

      Running a rooted Vodafone Magic. Got pissed off with waiting for Vodafone to make their blasted minds up.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Nothing Wrong With Java

        ..except that it is slow as a dog and consumes memory like a hungry Polar Bear. Serious people use C++ or Objective C. There's an Android SDK for that.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Who cares about marvel comic apps

      People don't buy a phone to buy a marvel comic app. And if marvel comic app is not present, Android is not going to lose, it is Marvel who is going to lose. Here is one small little calculation for you. Apple said they paid 1 billion dollars over 3 years, there are 2.5L apps out in appstore, so if we divide, we get 4K dollars per app over 3 years, so per year is 1.3K dollars which is less than the average salary in Sudan(hopefully). So obviously the vast majority of apps are just fart apps making no money or very little downloads. And guess which is no.1 and no.2 app on IPhone, it is facebook and google maps and on android it is google maps. Some stupid comic nerd would probably be a little upset that marvel comic app is not there. It is immaterial to the growth of android. About the 1.5 phone yeah that is sad, but unfortunately that is the price to pay due to the rapid pace of innovation of Android. Hopefully vendors will move their 1.5 phones to 2.1, else they are going to lose customers.

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