Android: Is Open Source a Good Thing?
Here’s the difference between Android and iOS: anybody can write code for Android, while not just anybody can write code for iOS. An iPhone’s operating system is locked, proprietary, strictly controlled by Apple.
Android is built around open source coding. That means it’s built to be tinkered with, and it’s why many Android phones have variations on the same interface. It’s why you can buy “skins” to make your phone’s interface cooler. An iPhone is not. You get what Apple gives you—which, thankfully, is cleanly designed and easy to navigate.
Look at the charger on an Android. You can use the same charger on a Samsung Epic that you can an HTC phone, Samsung Galaxy, or even a Kindle Fire. The MicroSD card can be moved back and forth to a PC, or a Mac, or an Android tablet with the same port. The only standard port on an iPhone is the headphone jack—and that’s for output, not input.
If you look under the hood at the Android operating system, it’s functional but not secure. Android viruses and hacks are all the rage. In fact, a “hack” on an Android often isn’t—there’s nothing to hack; it’s open source software.
Therein lies Android’s triumph and Achilles’ heel, all rolled into one. An open source operating system is so highly customizable, so open to a custom user experience—but it’s also extremely difficult to secure.
Moving data on Android is an absolute breeze. You can move MicroSD cards from your phone to your computer in a flash. Android-based tablets often feature the same card input—and, in the case of the cunningly designed, highly underrated Lenovo Thinkpad tablet, a USB port. Getting big groups of pictures onto Facebook from a cell phone is often made easier by just removing the MicroSD card, plugging it in to the PC, and uploading.
Is moving data like that a good thing? The Internet can sometimes be seen as the data equivalent of sewage: to a computer, it can be like flushing a toilet in reverse. Bad data, viruses, malware, and more often come through the mix, jeopardizing its security. Critics say that moving hard data keeps computing in the dark ages. Most people don’t realize that USB ports were invented by Xerox in the 1970s, and haven’t changed much over the years.
However, equally valid is the idea that we cannot just wipe the slate clean and create a new operating system we expect to function on a different plane. Just as it’s important to preserve our history, fluidity of data from generation to generation in computing is important. It is becoming vital to our heritage, as meaning in our culture is swiftly becoming no more than the sum of its data. Whether open source or no, the numbers don’t lie: Android outsells iOS, and it is here to stay.
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