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Android isn't freedom, because Google is closed (phonearena.com)
53 points by caberus on Oct 27, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 56 comments

It may not be 100% freedom, but they allow me to load apps from wherever I like, unlike Apple or Microsoft, and so I will continue to use them.

If there was a popular phone platform that was even more open, while providing the same levels of functionality, I'd be very tempted to give it a go.

Google has too much authority over Android Platform itself like Apple and Microsoft :

While Android remains free for anyone to use as they would like, only Android compatible devices benefit from the full Android ecosystem. By joining the Open Handset Alliance, each member contributes to and builds one Android platform—not a bunch of incompatible versions

source : http://officialandroid.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-benefits-imp...

Google offer the Google Platform to people who agree to certain things. But anyone is free to fork Android at any point, if they choose - Amazon have done so, for instance, as well as many Chinese manufacturers.

Seems like Android really gave Chinese and Korean companies a lifeline in the mobile phone market. Those phones either wouldn't exist or would be running the windows phone software I assume. Chinese and Korean companies benefit from Android. Blackberry and Microsoft are losing as a result.

They're free to fork the segment of android that google hasn't locked into their own closed-source ecosystem.

Many AOSP applications have been abandoned by google in favor of their proprietary applications.

And the reasoning is most of those apps (for better or worse) depend on Google's cloud services, so it makes no sense for them to be in AOSP.

There remains nothing stopping you replacing all the Google stuff on Android, including the very parts that make them money.

One of the sadder, non obvious, parts of the way mobile has developed is it is becoming synonymous with trivial front ends to cloud services, and not really smart client apps at all.

Not anyone -- if someone like Samsung decides to fork Android, people using their devices will suddenly find that their Google apps won't work anymore.

That's an argument against Open Source :(

I think you misunderstand. Google's individual apps (like GMail) are closed-source, and only licensed for use on "official" Android builds.

Err... Which Google apps are open source? Or maybe I'm just not getting the objection.

Replace "full Android ecosystem" with "Google services" to see why your point doesn't make sense. (and that's what they are)

What do you mean too much freedom? From the user's and even developer's perspective, it's better for Android to be more like Windows (pre-Windows 8), than more like Linux (tons of different distros/forks).

Perhaps Firefox OS in the future? http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/os/

Not a chance. My guess is that it'll be DOA.

I'm not sure why technical people can't be more aware of how the world works, but until we are, the world is going to continue to be run by MBA's and marketing people. Google is the one of the few bright spot but most companies are run by a different breed.

I hope so. I'd love it if any web page could be an app, and they had the same power that apps do.

I'll be keeping my fingers crossed :->

So, I know perhaps this is not the right place to ask this, but I am not sure where else I would ask. I made a comment on this post and now it's dead. What did I do wrong? I mean, I included several links but they were all pertinent to the reply. The first was a link discussing new functionality in Android specifically related to making Web Apps more like normal apps. The rest were links to API documentation for various features that filled in some of the gaps. So, certainly not spam and on target. Why is it dead?

More and more Anti-Android propaganda pops up since iOS' market share is nosediving.

If Android is not freedom what is iOS then? No inter app communication, no exchangeable launcher/lock screen/ keyboard, real multitasking came just since this fall, no real resolution independency, no nothing.

> If Android is not freedom what is iOS then?

Who cares? The article writes about Android. Just because iOS i even less free does not make Android better.

Reasons I pick Android over iOS:

- Google does not have a war against rooters. They try to close exploits but any pure google android phone can be rooted with no effort.

- Android allows almost ANY application to be installed on non-rooted devices. Exception is applications which require root, which won't function.

- Android allows for things like Humble Bundle, which is impossible on iOS.

- Android allows me to chose any email client I want with full support of cross-application features. Any browser I want. Any instant messaging program I want. Any chat program I want. Etc.

IDK that feels pretty good to me.

Maybe Firefox OS or Tizen fit the bill of a free mobile OS better?

If anything, less so. Firefox OS could be viewed as an incredibly limited subset of Android, and these things promote ever increasing dependence on computing services not in the devices, which more than likely means closed ecosystems in clouds. This is a worse situation than you have on Android today.

The freedom problems with Android are more to do with driver support. Until an app development SDK is self hosting it's a bad sign too, but none of the mobile OS candidates has that right now.

Good point. More dependency from cloud applications; more support for closed source; cause clouds are the new way to help corporations to hide their code away

Who cares about the layout of a button and some images in a page (as theres little value in this code) if the real brain in applications will be closed behind the clouds?!

We need more devices that can run independently, with open source code and preferably in a distributed and autonomous way..

Clouds are anti-hacker and anti-opensource; if a user platform help this trend to grow(as FirefoxOS do), it helps for more closed- source and hidden secrets.. completely against the hacker spirit of collaboration and openess

I haven't seen a detailed breakdown of the freedom problems with Firefox OS, but it looks to be more or less the same as Android in the cupcake era - really basic core applications and a phone that works, but not much third party stuff. You have to rely on mobile web sites. The biggest difference is that rather than have dalvik-based applications, they are written in javascript. All the core apps are on your device locally, and you can write code that is also stored locally too.

Then it promotes the whole "search" part. That seems to be links to websites mixed in with applications, which does seem confusing and doesn't sit well with having data independence. But that's just the same as using web sites on Android.

On the positive side, I'd trust Mozilla to maintain their first-party code as free software. The core phone apps are not likely to go proprietary, as seems to be happening on Android.

The killer cutoff is if it's possible to write server apps for the platform in question. For iOS you can while the app is in the foreground, for Android you can all the time, for Firefox or Chrome OS . . . nope, they are explicitly designed to be clients to something else.

That may seem ridiculous, but the hooks are not there in Web APIs to do peer to peer communication for example, let alone peer to peer based on discovery of nearby devices. Chrome OS even lacks zero conf network support. Aside from Mozilla (who seem overly attached to the support of carriers) the people pushing the advancement of the web platform have zero interest in altering this direction, and in fact would prefer we go further in it.

I would be far keener on FF OS or Chrome OS if they supported sandboxed node.js on the clients, and worked on extending the API from node.js, not the web browser model.

Someone with more knowledge of the situation than me may be able to offer more useful input, but it appears that the terms of the Tizen SDK are troubling from an openness perspective: https://developer.tizen.org/forums/sdk-ide/tizen-sdk-licensi...

iOS are more closed than Android? sure. But at least they dont lie about it; they dont market themselves as open-source heroes.. Is this misleading speech that is at stake here;

There's a lot of people buying android devices, thinking they are supporting the open-source movement..

So its better not compare the worst(iOS) with the bad(Android) when it comes to openness; lets compare it to how it should be, according to Android PR; what they are saying and what they are practicing are very distant things; and thats the most pure example of hypocrisy

> they dont market themselves as open-source heroes

"We're going to the standards bodies, starting tomorrow, and we're going to make FaceTime an open industry standard"

- Steve Jobs, 2010

Open source == standards? Don’t kid me

i understand you point, and even file manager not exists on iOS, despite is running a modified version of unix, in which almost everything is presented as file or directory...

experience of Android is only on Google's Android, this is my point, if you want to have the true Android Experience, than you have to use Google's Android because Google Apps only run on official Android OS

Even if it's not the entire android experience. I can still read it, and use it's lessons to write my programs. VS iOS. Yes where is the iOS kernel source code on the internets?

Obviously it's not, but their documentation is by far the most extensive - even community support amongst devs for the language is higher than Android.

of all the things, you had to pick the kernel :). the kernel in use for both iOS and OS X is xnu for which the OS X sources are available on opensource. apple.com ( mavericks source at http://opensource.apple.com/source/xnu/xnu-2422.1.72/ ). While the iOS version isn't released, it likely to be exactly the same with the only differences being in the ARM architecture specific code.

If you would like to make changes and build your own OS X kernel, instructions to do that are at


Whats the difference between Android/AOSP and RedHat/Linux, or nginx.com/nginx.org, or DataStax/Cassandra? I believe the Android platform itself is free, however the many components that Google provides that run on Google's backend aren't, and understandably so.

The "open" variants of those you list can be compiled, installed and used practically without significant compromise - they are genuinely useful. The exception is AOSP.

There are very few devices where you can compile and install AOSP and have a genuinely useful result. Compiling alone is fairly useless if the binaries you generate can't be used for any purpose. You may recall the maintainer recently quit because it became an untenable position:


Isn't that just what this argues? nginx.org is free, but nginx.com isn't.

What conflates this is the confusing naming. Android, the open source OS is different from Android(TM), Google's brand for devices running Android, and both are different from Android, the combination of the open source OS with Google's services that many users recognize as Android.

Yes, the official name of he former is 'Android Open Source Project', but in the mind of many, it's just 'Android'.

Android is (about) just as free because AOSP is open source as Mac OS X is free because Darwin is open source.

Those other projects are developed in the open, Android is not.

> but the idea that Android as we know it is open-source and the ultimate freedom is absurd.

Nobody claimed that Android was the ultimate freedom, but it's the most free mobile operating system that is successful in the market place.

Free software extremists like the author of that article can simply never be satisfied.

I don't know how someone types up the 1000th iteration of this article with no acknowledgement of the 999 times people have written it before now or of any of the responses or counterarguments anyone has made in response.


"Replicant is a fully free Android distribution running on several devices."

and actually, i am looking for jolla, i hope it will be a "open" platform

yes, but as i can see there are no 2013 year's devices listed in supported devices page

Another option, which isn't 100% free but still manages to avoid the Google Play Services layer, which is what the article focuses on, is running an alternative ROM such as Cyanogenmod, skip flashing the Google apps package, and install an alternate package repository such as f-droid.org which features only FOSS apps.

Most alternative ROMs have binary drivers pulled from the official ROMs, but it should be no worse than running a Linux distro with, say, non-free binary firmware images which are loaded on demand for wireless cards, and you strike a better balance between a fairly open system and the latest hardware.

"In the real world, if you want the best customer support, you're not likely to find it in the Android ecosystem. If you're looking for specific productivity apps like OmniFocus, you're not going to find it on Android. If you're looking for the best integration of Microsoft services, you won't find it on Android. So, how exactly is Android the "ultimate freedom"?"

Who needs RMS when this guy is on the case.

Android isn't the problem, Google is.

The problem begins with the installation of every android device when you're asked to register a Google account (same process with the Apple ID in iOS). [Sure enough you can use the phone without a Google account or an iOS account but your excluded from each ecosystem]. For me - as an iOS user - I got a much worse feeling using the Google ecosystem than Apple ones because of one simple fact:

Google can get much more value out of the data you're generating than Apple does using it to later 'enhance' your experience for all other Google services (Google Search, Gmail, etc.) showing ads. Knowing everything about my daily behavior ('When is the user active? Was does he do? Where is he? ...') will lead to a perfect profile to sell the right ads.

At Apple you at least got the change to opt-out even using the ecosystem of the unique ad identifier. Correct me if this is possible using a Google account on android as well.

No, you're not. You can use any android device without any Google involvement at all. Please stop spreading FUD. Look at the Kindle devices.

Kindle is a particularly bad example. Kindle forked Android, so are not under control of Google. In principle, other manufacturers could also do this, but in practice it's practically impossible because they'd loose Google Play.


Thanks for the correction - updated my answer.

But when you're honest: How many users are willing to use the device without connection to the Google ecosystem? It's the same on iOS. My point of criticism remains the same: The data you're (then) generating in the Google ecosystem has a higher value than in any other ecosystem (Apple, Microsoft, etc.) and more likely makes you a product (and not free).

one thing i like about Apple, despite being closed, old devices get software support, for example iPhone 4 released in 2010 and get the newest version of iOS.

i bought my Android device 2.5 years ago it has only get 2.3.5 , initially it was 2.3.3.

... and curiously Google is migrating stuff to Play services for this exact reason : so you can benefit from its upgrades without upgrading the OS itself.

Google needs to start treating Android and Google Edition Android like Chromium and Chrome.

GE Android is Google's and they do whatever they want with it, and they control and update it just like they do with Chrome, but Android needs to become a little more open than it is (more like Chromium), and they need to actually keep develop it, just like they do with Chromium.

I'd actually prefer a more Google-dominated Android ecosystem than a Samsung or some other Android OEM one, and I'd prefer to see more standardization in the Android ecosystem for both hardware and software.

My only concern is NSA or the US government starting to demand of Google to spy all Android users through Play Services, or to be able to shut down their phones at will during protests. I just hope Google will not be that stupid to allow them without a fierce fight.

But I guess we'll deal with that when the day comes. Until then, yes, I want Google to get more control of Android and fix fragmentation.

I sure look forward to Sailfish OS, Firefox OS, Ubuntu Phone hitting the wider market.

I got a root shell on a Firefox OS phone, just started 'adb' and got 'root@android'.

We should call it by it's proper name "Android/FirefoxOS"

It's unlikely that Google will become more open now that they are working on vertical integration with Motorola.

waiting for firefox OS

I can change the design and layout my my android phone. Much better than the other competitors.

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