Ron Amadeo of Ars Technica wrote a great story last month about how Google is taking back control of Android at the expense of the software’s open source roots. Slowly, Google is ceasing development on the open source versions of key apps, such as the software keyboard and the web browser, while building up proprietary apps such as Google Keyboard and Chrome. All these apps are then licensed to phone makers as a package deal. If you’re Samsung, you can’t include Google’s app store without also including Google’s search app and web browser. This is how Google ensures that its services are available on all major Android phones.
The problem for Google is that it’s still easy for phone makers to circumvent those services. Samsung, for instance, has simply created its own versions of most Android core functions and hidden the Google stuff away by default. It makes for bloated software, but it’s the only way Samsung can try to establish its own non-Google services.
Taiwan led the charge, with 89 percent of revenue from Android devices coming from games, in contrast to 84 percent on an iPhone or iPad. Korea ranked second in combined revenue share across the two platforms – Distimo believes that a whopping 94 percent of revenue in the Google Play store was generated by games last month.
One of the most talked-about Android 4.4 features is its ability to run on low-end phones. While this matters little to users in developed countries, it’s a sign that Android updates–the ones named after desserts–are becoming more about under-the-hood changes and subtle design tweaks. All the bigger features are being served on the side.
But just looking back to the release notes for Android 4.0 from two years ago, you can see how much things have changed. Features like the redesigned home screen, resizeable widgets, improved keyboard and better voice search–none of them would require a full Android update today. You’d just update their respective apps, or the Google Home launcher itself, through the app store.
Previously exclusive to BlackBerry smartphones, BBM is now available as a free
download in Google Play and the App Store. Android smartphones must be
running Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean (Android 4.x) and iPhones must be
running iOS 6 and iOS 7.