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What makes it useless?

Look at the efforts that Amazon continues to invest in Fire, and CyanogenMod (the Company that Went Bankrupt as opposed to the jailbreak mod that still mostly exists) tried to invest in a Play Store/Play Services competitor, and Samsung is trying to invest in its efforts while also trying to be stealthy about it in its current Cold War with Google...

Android (AOSP) forks are numerous, yet competing with Play Store/Play Services seems expensive and onerous. Nontechnical consumers don't see Amazon's Fire as Android, just an Android-like system that runs many Android apps. Nontechnical consumers thought the same about CyanogenMod (the Company)'s efforts. Samsung's Cold War seems so desperate, from the outside, because they are trying to walk that fine line between remaining a consumer Android and yet still distance themselves from Google's control.

AOSP forks seem alive and well in China.

But yes, in rest of the world non-Google Android is struggling.

I'm curious how many of the Chinese forks label themselves as "Android" and if the Chinese have a different mental model of what "Android" means.

Without any first hand knowledge, I'd assume that the balance of things towards WeChat and away from Play Store/Play Services in China might mean that "Android" really does mean something different in Chinese markets? It's easier to sell an "Android" device if the benchmark is "runs WeChat" rather than "runs the apps I see advertised everywhere" (given the near ubiquity of Play Store emblems on American ads) and "runs the collection of apps I've bought over the last few years from the Play Store".

I am Chinese and I've been living in the U.S. for a couple of years, so I know both worlds. Everyone I know in China who use an Android has ton of apps on their phones. I'd say there are at the very least tens to hundreds of thousands of apps to choose from either in the various third party app stores or directly from first party websites, and it's very common for people to have multiple apps with similar functions, e.g., four or five web browsers.

I don't know where you learned about the misinformation that is "the balance of things towards WeChat and away from Play Store/Play Services in China", which is frankly quite ridiculous because WeChat is just a messenger app with a few added functionalities (social timeline, payment, etc.) — it's not comparable to an app store or a service SDK at all.

Thanks for some perspective. I'm sure my curious bias about WeChat stems from how often it dominates chat bot conversations (esp. here on HN) and how often chat bot conversations mention WeChat as if it were the largest Chinese app store/service SDK. Fresh perspectives help tamp some of that enthusiasm.

Back to my original curiosity, outside of my supposition you think is clearly wrong, do you have an impression that Chinese phones that have forked AOSP and don't have access to the Play Store/Play Services still count as "Android" in China? If so, can you give an indication why that might be different than in America where Play Store/Play Services are nearly synonymous with Android?

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