Sunday

26th Mar 2017

Opinion

Android: great for innovation in Europe

  • "People all around the world use Android because of the choice it offers" (Photo: Brieuc Kestens)

How do you like your smartphone?

Large or small? High end or affordable? Many or few apps? In folders or spread out all over your home screen? Which apps do you use the most? Have a look at anyone’s phone today and it won’t be like yours.

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Nearly a decade ago, we launched Android, our open-source mobile operating system.

In those days smartphones were still rare, our aim was to make them available for everyone - to increase choice and innovation by stimulating competition.

Today, there are over 24,000 devices running on Android from over 1,300 brands. A million apps and more to choose from.

That degree of competition, choice, and innovation has brought devices for as little as €45 to the world.

That’s at the heart of Android.

The popularity of these devices isn't the only reason Android is in the news.

Android is for everyone

You may also have heard that the European Commission has asked questions about how Android works for phone manufacturers, app developers, and for you, the user.

Last week, we shared our formal response to the questions raised by the commission ; we’ve explained how Android has fostered competition and spurred growth in Europe.

Tim Berners-Lee famously said of the World Wide Web: "This is for everyone," and Android is absolutely for everyone.

Anyone can make an app, anyone can design and market a phone.

That's a marked contrast to when I joined Google in 2007 (before Android). Back then anyone making an app had to customise and test it on a huge variety of operating systems, devices and networks - hundreds of them. Those phones were definitely not for everyone.

Open-source

In 2006, only one percent of the world had a smartphone.

We wanted to transform that; today, more than 1.4 billion people around the world use devices running Android.

But Android was very different from the closed operating systems and devices that were standard at the time.

Working closely with the mobile phone industry, we created a new, open approach for smartphones.

At the centre was - and is - a free, open-source operating system.

This creates a level playing field on which device makers, developers, mobile operators can all compete, ultimately to the benefit of consumers.

Today, Android phones and tablets are available at prices.

Android enables smaller phone manufacturers - like Wiko and Archos in France - to compete with the industry’s giants by lowering barriers to entry and allowing them to build whatever they can imagine, with or without apps from Google.

The Possibilities of smartphones

Today there are sustainable phones with replaceable parts; tablets for toddlers with big, bright buttons; dual SIM phones that allow you to run multiple subscriptions - and everything in between.

Today’s smartphones truly are for everyone.

Our aim at Google is to organise the world's information; these days smartphones are the main way that people access information online.

Whether it's finding a recipe to follow, or getting a date for tonight - and a restaurant tip for where to go - we use our phones to do it. Not just by searching the web, but also via apps.

The Play Store - where you can download apps for Android devices - has created a diverse online marketplace where competition flourishes.

European superstars have emerged, from fluffy and furious Angry Birds to the breezy practicality of France's BlaBlaCar ride-sharing app.

In fact, European app developers lead the field, with 40 of the top 100 grossing apps in the EU and US created by European companies.

All this activity has a very real economic impact, at a time when Europe is searching for growth.

Mobile phones, mobile growth

The European Union is updating laws to create a Digital Single Market, that will make it easier for European entrepreneurs and businesses to make the most of the opportunity.

Mobiles contribute $3.1 trillion (€2.8 trillion) to the global economy - about 4.2 percent of GDP. In Italy alone, Android has generated 79,000 new app developer jobs since its inception.

This is only the start - as more people get smartphones, start coding, and get involved, the apps sector alone could create 4.8 million new European jobs by 2018.

Unlike other phone operating systems, device manufacturers, or mobile carriers can tinker with and customise the software itself; they can also ship Android devices with or without Google's applications - and if they do want to ship phones with Google apps pre-installed, there are no restrictions on pre-installing competing apps.

It takes seconds to download and install an app - one of any millions on the Play Store.

The average Android phone comes with roughly 45 apps pre-installed and the average user downloads another 50 or so themselves.

When it comes to choice for consumers, with Android, the options are endless.

Android: the freedom of choice

Choice is also about being free to leave and we’ve built Android so that you can disable any pre-installed app, including any from Google.

You can replace a search box or browser in around 30 seconds with just a few taps of your finger.

If you don’t believe me, have a browse through all the different web browsers available on Play: Firefox has been downloaded more than 150 million times on Google Play and Opera is above the 200 million download mark.

People all around the world use Android because of the choice it offers.

Here in Europe we’re incredibly proud of that fact because in making a product "for everyone," the freedom to choose matters.

We agree with the European Commission that choice is critically important and we believe that the story of Android - built for everyone - shows that we have increased choice for consumers.

We’re very proud of the fact that millions of people around the world agree.

Matt Brittin is president for Google Europe, Middle East and Africa

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