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A recent article at OSNews called "Android is a dead end" brings up some good points to think about. While I think the conclusion is wrong, it does touch some important changes that are likely going to happen with Android. At least the phone OS version of Android. You should take a moment and read through it, if for nothing else than a different perspective.

A lot of different things get called Android. The reality is that Android is a front end that interfaces with us and can talk to whatever software or hardware it needs to so that magic can happen. Technically, it's a giant set of application frameworks and a way to turn code written for "Android" into an app, then run it. It can do this with the free operating system Google delivers designed to run Android, it can do it on Windows, it can do it in Chrome, it can do it on a Mac, or even BlackBerry 10. It's not quite portable, but hard work can make it so.

This is where I think anyone who thinks Android is at a dead end is confused. It certainly seems like Google is working on something to replace a lot of the software that runs on your phone with future versions, but that's not the Android part. From the article:

Android in its current form suffers from several key architectural problems - it's not nearly as resource-efficient as, say, iOS, has consistent update problems, and despite hefty hardware, still suffers from the occasional performance problems, among other things - that Google clearly hasn't been able to solve. It feels like Android is in limbo, waiting for something, as if Google is working on something else that will eventually succeed Android.

These are unpopular truths, especially in the Android fanbase. While building Android to run on almost any hardware is a strength, it also means these architectural "problems" will be undesired side-effects. It means the software isn't as efficient because it's designed to do things more than one way and it's never running as native software. Native software is more efficient, runs faster and uses less power, but it only runs on the hardware it was written for. Sometimes these problems mean nothing to us as end users, other times they interfere. They're not bad enough to matter to most people who use the front-end and interface that is Android.

And all signs point to Google working on something else to succeed what we have now. And it will run Android.

I want to think of Android O as like Apple OS 9 or Windows NT4. It's as far as the current software can go. All the tweaking has been done, performance and compatibility issues are addressed as much as they can be, and to take the software to the next level a lot needs changing. And like Windows 2000, Android can be exactly the same to the end user as the previous version was. Or like OS X, it can be a bigger change to how we do the same things, but still be able to do them all.

What the article at OSNews alludes to, and we've talked about here, is Fuchsia. It's a completely new operating system built from the ground up by some people who are really good at building operating systems. And it will have Android as the familiar user-facing software that we already know. It will also have Chrome as the familiar face we all know. And maybe even something new and different.

Google definitely is trying to succeed Android with something better, but at its core it will still be Android.

I don't think this shows Android is at a dead end. Not even a little bit. If anything, it will breathe new life into the entire ecosystem. Not all change is a bad change. And some changes can be very good. From the article, again:

In a few years, Google's Pixel phone will have a fully custom, Google-designed SoC, and run an operating system that is Android in brand name only.

Hopefully, this is true. And I'm more hopeful that the software will be written in a way that Samsung can do the same, and Huawei, and anyone else who wants to custom fab a SoC. Android in brand name only is Android. The underlying operating system doesn't give the user any experience, and a cheap Wi-Fi router that runs Android or a Kindle Tablet or a microwave oven is not giving you the Android experience the way your phone is. This part of Android is just a generic software. A commodity. It's valuable, but can be replaced by something better if something better comes along.

Android in a Fuchsia future may not look like Android today. Or it might. The important thing is that it can, and can be a better experience for all of us who use it without any worry about the technology that drives it.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Jerry Hildenbrand

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

27 Comments
  • Perhaps it’ll be written in a more efficient programming language. Java isn’t exactly resource-efficient.
  • Isn't Google pushing a new language to write Android with or maybe I am thinking of Fuscia down the road.
  • Yes, they introduced official support for Kotlin at Google IO.
  • Kotlin runs on the Java virtual machine. Kotlin source code is compiled to Java byte code just like Java source code is. Java virtual machines can support almost any language, including Python, Ruby, PHP, Lisp, Scale, Groovy, and Kotlin, among many others.
  • Kotlin can also compile to native machine code instead of JVM.
  • Any java virtual machine language (like Kotlin and Java) can compile to machine code via JIT compilation.
  • I'm not referring to running Kotlin through JVM and using JIT though;. I'm talking about the Kotlin Native project.
  • Dead end with 85% market share last I read. It will evolve into a locked down OS like iOS. Then something else will become the next big thing.
  • Evolve into a locked down OS? I don't think so. Both AOSP (Android as we know it) and Fuscha are open source.
  • Yeah, and who is going to give us an AOSP Android phone that is usable and not locked down? Even Google, who used to be ok with rooting and openness, has locked a lot of stuff down on their phones. You can't root if you want to use Android pay and a lot of apps are allowed to not work simply because you root. Good luck finding a device that is actually open and works with everything. I would welcome a new competitor with the resources Google has that actually wants to be open and live by the "don't be evil" motto.
  • I used to be hardcore into Android rooting, because the first 4 yrs of Android was horrible skinning, batteries that lasted mere hours stead of days, and some general other nonsense. Now I have no need. I can slap a barebones cool launcher on any unit with Nova and Action launcher, battery lasts me a day and a half easily, and most of the general nonsense is gone. Apps have progressed as well as the platform so I personal have no reason to root anymore. It does 99.9% of what I want out of the box with the app add-ons I like. As far as I'm concerned if the lock downs are for security reasons, I'm all for it, and it currently doesn't affect my Android usage as of today. As long as other aspects aren't locked out like most of iOS then I'm a happy camper and YMMV.
  • Makes sense when dealing with something like banking they would want the most security that you can have and not essentially leaving the door open by having the device rooted.
  • Please name an AOSP phone that's not usable and is locked down. In fact, please name any AOSP phone. And just because Google allows you to break their entire permission model when you buy one of their phones, you shouldn't expect any service to just work afterward, no matter how mad it makes you (or me). There are plenty of valid reasons to keep rooted phones out of the Play store itself let alone any specific applications.
  • Yeah, it's bad enough that Google Play lets widely reported malware apps stay on the store for months on end. Security is the major problem facing 'Droid devices and the fact that Google doesn't give a flying F about it's users. If you're getting something amazing for free (or close to it), you are the product.They are profiting from your use. Google's mobile division should either spin off as a separate financial entity entirely or be sued into oblivion.
  • If they didn't care about security they wouldn't push monthly updates. Google can't do anything about what other OEMs do in terms of updates.
  • Johnny makes idiotic comments
  • I still root, for basically two reasons. One is the ability to update the os to a new version, when the mfgr doesn't want to. The other reason, that a launcher can't solve is hardware constraint's , that mfgr put into place on their phones( some phones could use a nudging of lmk, cpu settings). I like to delete bloatware, be it system, or internal user apps, that are no use to me, or there's a better alternative out there(if I like it enough, will try to incorporate it into the room). Phones are getting better,I see your point, as the speed and fluidity of them is better, so adjustments aren't needed as much, but I still want ultimate control over what I put in my pocket.
  • One of the reasons I dropped all other manufacturers and went with Nexus/Pixel. Tired of rooting just to get rid of crapware etc./get lastest updates. So far happy with all the manufacturers google has chosen for this, although im sure others out there dont feel the same way, but for me in the end, turned out I needed the software to be better more than the hardware, hence the course correction for me, and ive owned way more phones than the average person as a beta tester back in the day so learned what worked for me best.
  • An interesting article. Thanks as always.
  • I hate the idea of a Google designed SOC - it's not that I think they can't do it- but they'll try and do it for mass market and developing countries and try and sell it as "good for the world" rather than "good for you," if you're interested in performance. If they could focus on a high end and low end SOC - that'd be one thing, but I don't see that happening... God bless then man that kills the Java link to Android though - that coffin nail has had to be hit for years... I actually like the idea of eradicating the need to "root" a phone - it's a long worn philosophy - but there's a ton of bugs to work out of that obviously - you can't have people with "no rules" uploading content or event getting access to the Play Store content, your content providers (who have a vested interest in you "paying" for things) would just abandon the platform
  • I'm actually hoping they decide to give us a ChromeOS phone/tablet and concentrate more effort toward improving their Web App development tools (like Polymer, Angular2, Lighthouse, etc...) as well as simplify Cloud Platform and App Engine options to entice more developers to design in the cloud. Think about it. 6+ years of software updates regardless of manufacturer that get applied in the background only a few days after each release cycle? A full browser that syncs theme/extensions/etc across both mobile and desktop? A lot less waiting for your apps to update every week or two before you can use them (instead, cloud services are simply updated server side)? I'll take all of the above.
  • Android isn't just a front end UI. It's the entire system and as such, it's an unsecured abomination that shows Google's "Do No Evil" mantra is truly dead. Every week there are new wide scale malware attacks discovered because Google doesn't give a rat's @$$ about their end users. It's embarrassing and I for one will not support them or their efforts until they clean up their act and put their users' security above market share.
  • Food for thought: Rate of iOS Malware Increasing Faster than Android Malware at iPhone Ten Year Anniversary
  • JohnnyDoesntWannaThink
  • I had to actually download the whole report to find the numbers, since the linked article just states "doubling and tripling". Only to find out that meant it went from 0.21% in Q3 2016 to 0.65% in Q1 of 2017. I'm no Apple fan boy, having used both OSes extensively, but that is still far fewer instances of malware than Android. The study is also by a company that pitches their security software at the end of the study.
  • Interesting. I do think this is true. Android has evolved so much. I used to root every phone I owned until 2013. Haven't rooted a device since. There are just no features I must have that I already don't currently. Android O looks to continue that trend for me and that's okay. Everything runs smoothly. I look fwd to the next chapter
  • I do agree with their Win95 analogy. It seems Android-the-OS (as opposed to -the-ecosystem and -the-runtime) will need deep re-architecturing to solve the critical update issue (hardware astraction and OEM/Carrier customizations).
    Luckily, with care, this can probably be done w/o breaking backward compatibility nor the well-known UI (unlike what happened with Win8).
    I can't wait to have my phones and tablets update as smoothly as my PCs.