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Standardising Android

Don Marti wrote an amusing post about the lack of standards for Android phones and the fact that the iPhone has a better accessory market as a result [1].

I’d like to see some Android phones get standardised in a similar manner to the PC. The big thing about the IBM PC compatible market was that they all booted the same way, ran the same OS and applications, had the same expansion options, connectors, etc. The early PCs sucked in many ways (there were many other desktop computers in the 80′s that were better in various ways) but the larger market made the PC win.

The PC even killed the Mac! This is something we should remember now when discussing the iPhone.

I’d like to see different Android phones that can run the same OS with the same boot loader. Having HTC, LG, Samsung, and others all sell phones that can run the same version of CyanogenMod and have the same recovery options if a mistake is made when loading CyanogenMod shouldn’t be any more difficult than having IBM, Compaq, HP, DEC, Dell, and others selling PCs that run the same versions of all the OSs of the day and had the same recovery options.

Then there should be options for common case sizes. From casual browsing in phone stores it seems that most phones on sale in Australia are of a tablet form without a hardware keyboard, they have a USB/charger socket, an audio socket, and hardware buttons for power, volume up/down, and “home” – with the “settings” and “back” buttons being through the touch-screen on the Galaxy S but hardware in most others. A hardware button to take a picture is available in some phones.

The variation in phone case design doesn’t seem to be that great and there seems to be a good possibility for a few standards for common formats, EG large tablet, small tablet, and large tablet with hardware keyboard. The phone manufacturers are currently competing on stupid things like how thin a phone can be while ignoring real concerns of users such as having a phone that can last for 24 hours without being charged! But they could just as easily compete on ways of filling a standard case size, with options for screen resolution, camera capabilities, CPU, GPU, RAM, storage, etc. There could also be ways of making a standard case with several options, EG having an option for a camera that extends from the back of the case for a longer focal length – such an option wouldn’t require much design work for a second version of anything that might connect to the phone.

Also standards would need to apply for a reasonable period of time. One advantage that Apple has is that it has only released a few versions of the iPhone and each has been on sale for a reasonable amount of time (3 different sizes of case in 4 years). Some of the Android phones seem to only be on sale in mass quantities for a few months before being outdated, at which time many of the stores will stop getting stock of matching accessories.

Finally I’d be a lot happier if there was good support for running multiple Android phones with the same configuration. Then I could buy a cheap waterproof phone for use at the beach and synchronise all the configuration before leaving home. This is a feature that would be good for manufacturers as it would drive the average rate of phone ownership to something greater than 1 phone per person.

1 comment to Standardising Android

  • Standardizing the bootstrap would not be enough: there is currently no common platform in the ARM world, and that too would be needed in order for the kernel to determine what hardware there is.