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.