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The many faces of Android | The Gadget Consultant

Freddy Cloud

Frederick (“Freddy”) Cloud has had a passion for all things electronic since he “accidently” caused the class Commodore PET to malfunction in 8th grade. “I swear. I didn’t do it on purpose” He was quoted as saying to a very unhappy computer teacher... Read his full bio

The many faces of Android

android

Ever wonder why you can walk into a random little mom and pop store and buy a tablet made by some company you never heard of that runs “Android” for like $49.99 (OK, maybe $79.99)? Too good to be true? Well, usually yeah, it is. But it’s there. It exists. How can this be? Or why is it that when you walk into AT&T or T-Mobile to buy a phone, picking an iPhone is WAY easier than deciding between 15 different “Android” phones, especially when all of the “Android” phones look COMPLETELY different. How is this possible? Well, first we need to take it a step back and explain what it is that Google does …

Apple is a software and hardware company. They make their own devices, they make the software that goes on the devices, and to an extent they monitor what software you can use on your Apple device by making applications accessible primarily through iTunes. From soup to nuts, they control the experience, and by doing so your moving from your iPhone to your iPad is seamless, which is why quite a few people go with all Apple devices when they look for tablets and smartphones. Apple is very good about making things seamless and simple.

Google is a search company. Yes, their primary source of income isn’t from Android, it’s when you do something like go to Google and search for an iPhone. No, it isn’t the ONLY way Google makes money, but it’s the primary way. See those ads that come up with your search results? That’s revenue for Google, and the more ads you see, the more money they make.  It’s even better for them if you actually click on one. And why wouldn’t you? Google is good about collecting data, and based on the data they collect about you, they try and make your searching for an iPhone more relevant. For example, your search for a digital camera may bring up a list of stores in your area that sell the particular camera you searched for. What does this have to do with Android, you ask? Why does a Samsung Android phones look different than one from Sony?

The operating system of an Android-based phone is pretty much the same across manufacturers, depending on the version of Android they’re using. The UI (user interface), the way you interact with the phone, varies from manufacturer to manufacturer because despite the frame being Android, they need to do something to differentiate one from the other. And boy, do they differ … processors, icon colors, widgets, the buttons (or no buttons), screen types, sizes, the way the phone takes pictures, if it’s curved … anything they can do to get you to look at theirs versus someone else’s. That’s why they vary so wildly from manufacturer to manufacturer. Android is still there, but it’s buried under the “skin” that the manufacturer has placed on top of it to make theirs different and (in theory) more user friendly. Some do an ok job, others not so much. And that’s the problem … since anyone can make an Android device, anyone does. And depending on what they do with it, the experience can be extremely frustrating. Android is fine as an operating system, but when you put it on something with a slow processor and no memory, you wonder if it was worth the $50 you spent on it.

Google doesn’t make a lot from Android; other than money it gets from purchases from the Play store (that’s Androids’ iTunes), they practically give it away. And Google doesn’t actually make phones. They may have a manufacturer make a version of their phone (or tablet) with no “skin” on top and sell it through the Play store, but the main purpose for Android is another way for Google to collect data and have you look at ads. When you search for something on your phone, you’re using Google. You’re using Google’s browser. You’re probably using Gmail, you may be using Google Calendar, YouTube, Google Maps, your apps are more than likely coming from the Play store … having an Android phone is another way for Google to get information about you, and that information is VERY valuable to a company that makes money by knowing who you are and what you like.

It’s probably easier to think of these devices according to their manufacturers and not so much them being Google. You wouldn’t ask for a Google Galaxy S4, you’d ask for a Samsung Galaxy S4. And Samsung’s phones look nothing like Sony’s or LG’s as far as their user interfaces. If you’re looking for one, know what you’re looking for. The good thing about all these manufacturers making Android-based phones is that you have choice. The Galaxy Note 3 has a huge screen and a stylus. You need a curve? LG has you covered. Great camera? I’d give the nod to Sony for the camera. Too much? Of course, you can always just get an iPhone. Apple put a lot of time an energy into making a device that’s really easy to use. Sometimes an overabundance of choice isn’t a good thing …

Talk to you soon!

Freddy C.

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