Day-one advantages of Android: how many remain today?

When I chose my first Android device over an iPhone in 2009, each plat­form had exact­ly one device avail­able and the deci­sion of which plat­form was for me was clear.

Even back then, to those who had been pay­ing atten­tion to the smart­phone world, the iPhone arrived as some­thing that was­n’t quite a smart­phone. It had an advanced web brows­er and slick Google Maps app that were both bet­ter than any­thing else avail­able, but lacked a lot of fea­tures that exist­ed in pre­vi­ous smart­phones — the biggest omis­sion being third-party app devel­op­ment. But the world very quick­ly for­got how anti-app Steve Jobs’ Apple was at launch, and how the ‘no, you can’t devel­op for iPhone’ atti­tude led to web app mon­strosi­ties skinned with brushed met­al and pin­stripes, which peo­ple quick­ly cooked up to look “iPhone native” in the ear­ly days.

Of course, the ear­ly days did­n’t last long. An SDK and the App Store showed up a year lat­er, but for a long time iPhone remained on my “still would­n’t even con­sid­er” list because it was still miss­ing things I con­sid­ered basic func­tion­al­i­ty, things that Android got right, right from the start.

But it’s not 2009 any­more! So where are we now? Let’s take a look back and see how many of these Android advan­tages are still applic­a­ble today, 12 years later.

    • Devices avail­able from mul­ti­ple manufacturers
    • Outside-of-app-store apps avail­able (not a walled-garden)
    • Almost entire­ly open-source OS
    • Third-party devel­op­ment possible
    • Mul­ti­task­ing
    • Cus­tom input methods/software keyboards
    • Selec­tion of devices with hard­ware keyboards
    • Cut and paste
    • Exten­si­ble, sys­temwide ‘share’ functionality
    • Not AT&T‑exclusive
    • SIM-unlocking actu­al­ly allowed
    • No desk­top client need­ed for setup
    • Filesys­tem
    • Casu­al­ly swap­pable battery

Things aren’t look­ing good! Apple (and Google them­selves!) has chipped away at Android advan­tages over the years, though the two that remain on my list remain huge.

But I some­times gaze jeal­ous­ly at the iOS world and its devices with com­pe­tent sup­port and five years of updates and won­der if the prin­ci­ples that led me to choose Android are still worth anything.

Wrong: a modest trumpposal

Some­thing occurred to me late in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial race.1 Every­body was like “this guy lies and nev­er faces con­se­quences,” but was going about it in pret­ty much the least effec­tive way possible.

I’m sure folks who hold this opin­ion were well-meaning, but they seemed to be com­ing from a time where being caught lying is the worst thing a pub­lic offi­cial can do. Slimy politi­cians are sup­posed to, what, recoil with shame, mum­ble an apol­o­gy and exit the spotlight?

That’s obvi­ous­ly not the play­book now, and it should have been clear to any­one even a lit­tle awake in 2016. So can I just pro­pose some slick new lan­guage for describ­ing a case where a pub­lic state­ment does­n’t quite match up with reality?

You don’t call it “inac­cu­rate” or “unfac­tu­al.” We’re all very impressed that you went to college.

You don’t call it “lying” because that’s what 4D-chess-playing busi­ness­men do when they nego­ti­ate, I guess.

The word you’re look­ing for is “wrong.” They’re wrong, you say they’re wrong.

Wrong helps keep a record. It clas­si­fies the state­ment into a clear cat­e­go­ry, help­ing rein­force objec­tive real­i­ty in a time where it’s needed.

Wrong is, at the same time, a lit­tle soft and assumes the best inten­tions. Swing and a miss. Good hus­tle out there, lit­tle bud­dy — you can’t hit ’em all. 

Wrong is, most impor­tant­ly, uni­ver­sal. You could be a mid­dle school dropout and remem­ber the feel­ing from, I don’t know, mul­ti­pli­ca­tion tables or some­thing. Being wrong isn’t game-over, but each wrong stings a little.

At some point, if any­one’s actu­al­ly keep­ing score, con­sis­tent wrong­ness writ large in head­lines for years on end makes a case for mal­prac­tice. And who the fuck would tie up their iden­ti­ty sup­port­ing some­body who’s just so loud­ly and con­sis­tent­ly wrong, in pub­lic, all the time?

  1. I know, I’m sor­ry I kept this to myself.