These days when you buy a phone, you’re not just getting a gadget, you’re getting an ecosystem. After spending hundreds on apps and eBooks, starting over to switch from iOS to Android can be scary. You want to be sure you pick a platform that will stick around.
For the most part, your choice boils down to Android, iOS, or Windows. Of those three, I would say Android is the safest bet. Here’s why that green little robot isn’t going away anytime soon.
1. Android Is Open Source
Android is an open source project. Some people, myself included, find this appealing for ethical reasons. But this also serves as the primary insurance that Android will stick around.
Google makes source code available in the Android Open Source Project (AOSP). Everyone from hobbyist developers to hardware manufacturers is free to use this code. Even you can take Android and install it on all sorts of things yourself.
If Google were to lose interest, there are many companies with enough stake in Android to take the code and continue development. Actually, that’s a separate point in and of itself.
2. Many Companies Are Invested
No one company determines Android’s future. To fully appreciate this, let’s first look at the competition.
With iOS, Apple designs the hardware and the software. Apple is also in charge of distributing apps. Millions of iPhone and iPad users are dependent on Apple for future updates, software, hardware support, and phone selection. If Apple makes decisions they don’t like, their only options are to deal with it or abandon the Apple ecosystem entirely.
With Windows on phones (the current version being Windows 10 Mobile), the situation is better, but only slightly. Microsoft controls the software experience, but other companies can license the operating system to put on their hardware. This is similar to what we see with Windows on PCs. The downside is that you’re still dependent on Microsoft for most of the experience.
On Android, there are dozens of large players. Google may drive most of the development, but it’s not alone. Samsung, HTC, and LG each tweak the interface and make their own apps. Amazon puts the Android-based Fire OS on its Fire tablets. Companies are cramming Android into game consoles, watches, cameras, TVs, and fridges. Corporations aside from Google are investing billions into making products that run Android.
3. Competing App Stores Are Welcome
Most Android phones and tablets ship with access to the Google Play Store, but this is hardly the only option. Once you allow installation of apps from unknown sources, the possibilities are endless.
With Amazon Underground, you can experience many paid apps for free. F-Droid offers software that is free and open source. The Humble Bundle is a great way to get games. Frankly, there are more options out there than most of us would think.
Yes, you can find alternative app stores for iOS or Windows Phone, but none of them come from major companies. Amazon is hardly the only big name to distribute Android apps — Samsung has its own store, and Barnes & Noble used to. Companies that set up their own app stores want to sell apps for as long as people are willing to make them.
4. Custom ROMs Are Everywhere
If you don’t like the out-of-the-box iOS experience, you can jailbreak your device. This voids your warranty and gives you more control over your phone. On Android, we call this rooting, and that’s only one way you can make your device your own.
Want to really change the way your phone functions? Install a custom ROM. These are alternative firmware images that can replace the one your manufacturer provides. CyanogenMod is the most popular option. It gained so many users that the founder started a company that now tries to compete with Google.
CyanogenMod may be the most well-known, but it is not alone.
There are many reasons to install a custom ROM, but one of them is having the comfort of knowing you’re less dependent on any one company. And if businesses were to give up on Android, custom ROM makers would still keep the operating system running on devices.
5. Android May Be Your Next PC
Plus there’s the recent story going around that the Play Store is coming to Chromebooks. This would provide access to millions of apps on a completely different form-factor. Your investment in a mobile platform will have become an investment in a desktop one as well. And there are already unofficial ways to make this happen now.
If this sounds exciting, you don’t have to wait. Google’s latest Android tablet, the Pixel C, is essentially a laptop if you buy the keyboard dock. HP has made laptops that run Android in the past. Acer put Android on a desktop. Jide Technology is working on a version you can install on a PC yourself.
Google Is a Benevolent Overlord
It’s true — picking up an Android device is an easy way to get sucked into using Google’s services. This is the way the company makes money, and it’s the big reason the search giant has no problem giving away the platform for free.
But Google doesn’t lock you into using anything. You don’t have to sign in with your account. You can use alternative app stores. You can get your books, magazines, and videos from third-party sources. If you’re committed enough, you can go pretty much entirely Google-free.
When it comes to Android, you have options — more than if you hedge your bets with iOS or Windows. This little mobile operating system has become one of the biggest open source projects in the world.
Are you an Android user? Ready to become one? What other reasons would you add? Sound off below!