Interesting read. I tend to agree that fragmentation is one of Android’s key weaknesses, the other being tablet applications. However, with Google launching Google Play Edition smartphones recently, it raises the question as to whether Google is trying to take Android back to some extent.
In the beginning Android needed carrier and manufacturer intervention to spruce up the OS and make it more useable. But with the advent of Jelly Bean, I feel it is polished enough to stand on its own feet with an identity and visual aesthetic that the masses can accept and use, becoming more like iOS in that sense. Whether you agree or not with the aesthetic is another debate altogether. I get that Google preaches openness and that anyone can do what they want with Android, but there’s a reason Google has the Nexus program with its take on how they think the platform should look, feel and operate.
Apple’s approach, i.e. owning the vertical, clearly has its merits, but I’m convinced that the middle ground between Android and iOS is where the sweet spot lies for all stakeholders involved with Android. It will be difficult for Google to become more like Apple, since they’ve relied heavily in the past on the carriers to make Android a true success in the smartphone market. There’s no such thing as a free lunch however and the price of success has mostly been fragmentation, bloated software with junk apps and even visual ugliness compared to stock Jelly Bean, but that is something subjective.
I’m not advocating that the Android business model should change right now or at all, but there’s merit behind the Nexus program and it makes sense to me, especially with the call for North Americans to adopt unlocked devices in greater numbers. Apple sells its iPhones unlocked and has done so for a few years now, in conjunction with the option of buying subsidized models from carriers. Alas, even with all of this doom and gloom, I always have hope for positive change, even if it seems highly unlikely. Let’s see how the next few years play out.