Forget Apple. Forget iOS. Forget Tim Cook. Don’t fall for the marketing ploys. Don’t listen to the fanboy platitudes.
In 2017, there’s only one mobile operating system that’s innovating, growing, and developing: Android.
This assertion isn’t based on personal preferences or online rumors. It’s not borne out of a dislike for Apple or a loathing of iOS. It’s grounded in cold, hard facts.
Don’t believe me? Keep reading to find out why 2017 is the year of Android.
App Stores Projections
Technology lives or dies by its popularity. There’s a reason VHS beat Betamax in the first battle for your living room, and Internet Explorer smashed Netscape Navigator into the trashcan of history: user numbers.
And right now, the various projections don’t make happy reading for Apple and iOS.
In late-2016, App Annie released its annual report. It found that over the course of the previous 12 months, global app downloads had risen by 15 percent, time spent using apps had increased by 25 percent, and money paid to developers had grown by 40 percent. The report suggested users in China and other emerging markets fueled a significant part of the growth.
And which operating system is most popular in China? It’s Android, by miles. The most recent figures from Statista show Android boasts a mammoth 74.44 percent market share, compared to iOS’s 24.74 percent.
Worryingly for Apple, the percentages have barely moved in the last four years. If anything, Android is the operating system that’s been slowly stealing users away from Windows Mobile and other defunct platforms.
It’s the same story in countries like Brazil, Mexico, Turkey, and Indonesia. They’re the places that’ll be driving app store growth in the next decade — markets in Europe and the United States have almost reached saturation point.
So what does the future look like? App Annie says the number of handsets will grow from 2.6 billion in 2015 to 6.2 billion in 2020, and the Play Store will be the clear beneficiary. Projections show the growth of Google’s store will be four times stronger than the growth of Apple’s store.
It also predicts that by early 2018, the combined app revenue of the Google Play Store and other Android stores such as Amazon Appstore will surpass Apple’s App Store revenues. Most estimates think the changeover will happen in late-2017.
Bottom line: There’s only so long that developers will maintain their iOS-first approach. Like any business, they’ll follow the money.
When was the last time Apple did something truly innovative with iOS? In fact, when was the last time the operating system changed in any seriously discernible way for end users?
Apple released iOS 10 in 2016. The headline new features were a press-to-unlock home screen and mainly cosmetic app updates. The visuals of the platform have barely changed since 2007’s original iPhone.
Meanwhile, in the software department, Android has improved by leaps and bounds. Different manufacturer versions of Android now boast fantastic features that aren’t present in iOS.
To be fair, though, outside of the top couple of premium Android handsets, iPhones do have better hardware. Apple is continually improving there, and the amount of technology they manage to cram into the ultra-slim iPhones never ceases to amaze me.
An Operating System for Life?
But what’s going on outside of the smartphone sector? Right now, Apple’s newest iPhone 7 can’t even connect to its top-of-the-line MacBook Pro without an assortment of dongles and adaptors.
Let’s cast the net even wider. What other projects is Google working on?
Well, there’s self-driving cars, global internet coverage, Google Glass, Nest, delivery drones, medical devices, smart contact lenses, Android Auto, Google Fiber, virtual reality, and more. And which operating system is going to underpin those cars, futuristic devices, and other ambitious projects? It’s certainly not going to be iOS.
Privately, Google must think it’s won the smartphone war. It boasts an insurmountable 81.7 percent market share globally. It’s moving onto bigger things.
And Apple? It spent its time peddling mostly unwanted smartwatches and inventing pencils. Google’s been working on its self-driving car since 2009. Apple only got its Californian “learners license” in early 2017.
Sarcasm aside, it’s clear Google has big plans for both itself and its mobile platform. The projects I mentioned above might be in the long-term plans, but Android could easily become an “operating system for life” which underpins them all.
There are three areas where Android is growing outside the smartphone sector right now.
ChromeOS has frightened Microsoft and Apple. It’s success and rate of growth is astounding, especially in the education sector where Apple once reigned supreme.
And in early 2017, the operating system got even better: Android apps finally became available on the platform. The Samsung Chromebook Pro kicked off the revolution, but on its website, Google has listed more than 80 existing laptop models that will become Play Store-compatible over the coming months.
By the middle of this year, every new Chromebook will be Android-enabled. Given Chromebooks outsold Macs in the United States for the first time in May 2016, there’s an enormous user base that’ll soon automatically be part of the Android ecosystem.
Google hasn’t developed Remix OS itself, but nevertheless, it does represent a giant leap for the company.
Remix OS is a free operating system that runs on any PC with x86 or ARM architecture. It’s based entirely on an x86 port of the Android operating system and means users can install any Android app on their computer.
There are versions available for both Windows and Mac. It means even people who use a Mac for professional purposes can still have access to the Google Play Store on their machine. Unlike Chromebooks, which can run Linux but struggle under the weight of Windows, users can dual-boot the two systems and easily switch between them.
At the time of writing, there is no equivalent for Apple. It’s not surprising: Apple is notoriously stubborn about its “walled garden” approach. It’s an approach that’s served the company well through the formative years of mobile technology, but at what point does it start becoming a hindrance rather than a help?
Are you in the market for a new television? If you are, there’s a good chance you’ll buy a model from either Sony, Sharp, or Philips. Between them, the three giants accounted for more than 35 percent of TV sales in Europe and North America in 2016.
But what do the three manufacturers all have in common? They all use the Android TV operating system. That means all users get access to the Google Play Store, have access to native Chromecast technology, and can use Google Assistant.
It’s yet another avenue in which Android will be picking up users, often without them even being aware.
Of course, Apple offers Apple TV devices. But a report from eMarketer provides yet more worrying news for the company. It says the devices now control just 11.9 percent of the connected TV market, down from 13.5 percent 12 months ago. Chromecast boasts 19.9 percent (up 1.5 percent) and Roku has 18.2 (up 3 percent).
Right now, Google’s various operating systems are still fragmented: Android, Android TV, Chromecast, ChromeOS, and so on. It’s a problem Microsoft has also struggled with as it’s attempted to expand Windows for the 21st century.
In this regard, Apple has been the winner in the last decade. The company’s marketing team have religiously stuck to “i[Device]” branding, and the OSX and iOS platforms have been clearly designated as “for desktop” and “for mobile.”
But the tide is turning. We’re at a crossroads. It’s no longer only about desktop and mobile — it’s about everything.
Once again, Google appears to be one step ahead of the game. It’s developing an entirely new operating system: Project Fuchsia.
We don’t know much about the system at the moment. All we’ve seen is some code on GitHub from August 2016. However, clues in the code suggest something grand is coming. Some experts have said it looks like the OS will be able to run on everything from self-driving cars to traffic lights — with smartphones, tablets, and PCs very much included.
Is Google going to replace Android? Is Fuchsia the operating system for life I referred to earlier? It’s very possible. If the rumors are true, you need to get onto the Android operating system now. When you’re eventually upgraded to Fuchsia, you’ll realize it was one of the smartest tech decisions you ever made.
The End of Android’s Childhood?
Android has been part of our lives since September 2008. At the time, it was hard to imagine quite what a juggernaut the operating system would become.
To many, it’s already grown up. It’s fast, fluid, sleek, professional, and millions of user around the world love it. But I don’t think it has grown up. If anything, it’s only just starting to embark on its teenage years. Over the next few years, you’ll see it grow a beard, start university, and get married. It might even change its name.
2017 is more than the year of Android. It’s the start of the decade of Android.
Disagree? Can Apple respond to the ever-increasing threat of Android domination? Or is it happy to consign itself to being a luxury brand for the few? Let us know what you think in the comments below.