Apple held its World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) near its Cupertino , California headquarters this past week. As iPhone J.D. notes, there are some big enhancements to the iOS platform thanks to iOS 8. There’s a lot of praise for the new “innovations” coming with iOS 8. However, as I pointed out, most of the innovations are simply rewrites of Android’s old stuff.
But of course, Apple’s imitations won’t stop lawyers from flocking to the new iOS and other iDevices. Although we claim greater Android adoption among attorneys, in truth, that’s really hype. Check out MyCase’s infographic or the numbers from the 2013 ABA Tech Survey (edit: also check out these demographics from Technolawyer), if you don’t believe me. Apple’s WWDC announcements will impact that growth.
Fragmentation is killing Android
Android has, and will continue to be, a mixed-match family of devices and operating systems. The inconsistency requires developers to think hard about how to create usable apps for Android OS. Of course, Android’s new coding package, primarily in Android 4, and its Android Studio coding platform, helps minimize the work for developers, but the number of considerations that go into designing Android apps is tremendous.
Another huge fragmentation issue is that no two Android devices are alike. Manufacturers can’t even agree on a uniform look for their phones and tablets.
We won’t even talk about the sheer number of different versions of Android OS, including devices running “legacy” (older than 2 years) versions of Android OS — about 56%.
But there are only two primary iDevices, with uniform screen sizes and functions. Thus, consumers and developers aren’t fighting over how best to support and use the devices (I’m obviously not talking about Apple’s brand of iPod devices, though even those have universal design.)
Quite simply, when you touch an iDevice, the tablet or phone has the same look, feel, and functions across devices. Not so for Android.
Where iOS 8 sacks Android
Oh sure, we can tout the mantra that many of the new iOS 8 features are just replays of Android’s “old hat,” but for Android lawyers, these mean death.
Customization has always been Android’s champion staff. “The greatest feature about Android,” as I told ABA TECHSHOW 2014 attendees, “is customization.”
So much for that argument.
While iOS 8 won’t allow as much in-depth customization, such as custom ROMs or launchers, the new OS will allow its users to add widgets (very handy) and change keyboards (one big seller for Android).
Apple, in its genius, recognizes that its users — call ’em “sheeple,” “iDiots,” “Appholes,” or whatever — and consumers in general, aren’t really interested in full out customization. Users want to pull the device out of the package, caress the device amorously for a second, quickly get it started, download some apps, and
take the thing in the bathroom to read start using the device . . . in the exact same way each time.
Android users are the same. There’s a fragment of “modders” who want to change and arrange their system, but there’s the vast majority of end-users who just want a device
to accompany them in the bathroom that works right out of the box every time.
Quite frankly, Android’s a difficult coding language to learn. Look at sites on mobile app design and most will tell you to develop for Apple first, primarily because of fragmentation.
With Apple’s new “Swift language,”developers can unify their apps between mobile and desktop platforms. Apple users will start seeing programs that share information between the two systems. Thus, you can actually view and reply to text messages from your desktop, without a third party application.
While Samsung, Motorola, and HTC each have their own version of this system, there’s no true unity among Android devices. In reality, we see apps like PushBullet and MightyText, which are great apps, but really lack the cohesion and robust usability.
This isn’t exactly an iOS 8 feature, but one introduced at WWDC that’s coming to iTunes. The concept is simple: your family owns a number of devices, you should be able to share apps you’ve purchased on the device. Yes!
My biggest pet-peeve with multiple users on Android is the fact I can’t share the apps I’ve already purchased with my kids or wife. My workaround is to add my Google account to their devices, add the apps, and then restrict access. That isn’t exactly secure, and requires a lot of trust.
Google, please let me share the movies, games, and music I’ve purchased, without making me share my Google account. It’s much less expensive this way.
Apple also announced its new iCloud inegrations, which means universal access to data. Apple hasn’t been too interested in the cloud for much more than storage, but iCloud poses significant threats to Google’s ecosystem. That is, if Apple can figure out how to effectively integrate the two.
Check out this quote from Ben Evans had to say about Apple’s and Google’s cloud/device philosophies:
Apple loves the cloud, just not the web (or, not URLs). This is obviously a contrast with Google, which has pretty much the opposite approach. For Google, devices are dumb glass and the intelligence is in the cloud, but for Apple the cloud is just dumb storage and the device is the place for intelligence.
When Apple “gets” the cloud, goodbye Google, because Google doesn’t get devices.
Wham, bam, “thank you, ma’am.”
Android’s biggest problem isn’t Apple, it’s Google. The company that’s spearheading the Android movement is getting bored. Google’s ultimate goal isn’t the survival of Android, but rather the acquisition of information for advertising.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m okay with that. But Google’s quest also leaves Android users feeling conquested — a little “wham, bam, thank you, ma’am.”
For instance, Android users thought we had something special with Google Now. “Finally a rival to Siri,” we jested, “and it’s only available for Android.”
Until Google announced Now for iOS.
Well, thank you, Google.
Google’s doing similar things with its Maps, Gmail, Calendar, and other applications. Of course, these cross-platform releases broaden Google’s users’ access to their information, but sure leave the rest of us feeling a little cheap.
The rumors of Silver, the Nexus replacement, and our lack of a second generation Nexus 10 tablet, nail the coffin closed on whether Google really cares about Android. I’m speculating now, but if I had to guess, Google wants Chrome more than Android, so we’ll see Google move in that direction.
And I can’t help but complain about Google’s other innovations, like Chromecast or Google TV (soon to be Android TV, ironically). I thought Chromecast would evolve into a useful tool for business, and especially lawyers. But without desktop mirroring or even a way to cast Slides presentations, Chromecast’s a cheap cable box. Don’t get me wrong, I love Chromecast, but I feel like Google went to the very edge of greatness, and then sat down.
Google as a leader
Android’s dealing with fragmentation issues because of Google’s laissez-faire attitude toward development. Google really only wants the data derived from the devices. Thus, Google creates the product and releases it to the masses with the “let’s see what you’ll do with this,” philosophy.
That’s great, because the company encourages its users to innovate and create. Unfortunately, unrestricted access to Android created the fragmentation problem in the first place.
But Google has another problem, as we see with Glass.
Until recently, Google restricted access to Glass. Google (rightfully) believed restricting user access to Glass would create the same buzz as the iPhone did — fancy device equals coveted item. Or even the idea that Google could control its own product after release. Gasp!
Except we saw an opposite effect.
The public panicked. Glass users became “Glassholes,” and states started legislating. Chaos, at least for Google.
I’m sure Google still makes money from Glass, but the Glass and Android experience showed Google that there’s a fine line where users unabashedly accept a product (Android) or wholly rebel (Glass). Or even more specifically, the actual amount of control Google has over its own products.
Unfortunately, control and Google’s laissez-faire Android policies bring us back to the issue of fragmentation. Apple’s meticulous control over iDevices gets mocked, but the simplicity and universal acceptance is enviable.
So, perception matters, and Google struggles to identify the right approach for Android.
“Smoke if you got ’em”
For lawyers, Google’s Android identity crisis, the lack of control, and the innovations in iOS 8, effectively signal the death of Android for lawyers. The Android lawyers market is too narrow, so developers aren’t interested in the niche. Yes, we’ll still see general productivity and game apps, but you won’t see specialized ones like TrialPad.
P.S. if you didn’t get the heading reference, check this out.
Does it really matter?
Ultimately, iOS 8 won’t kill Android all together. There are still plenty of Android “fanboys” — including yours truly — who recognize the worth of Android. But for the average lawyer, whose only desire is to pull up Facebook, and read his/her stream in the bathroom, Apple’s going to win. Not that it should, and even though the title says otherwise, I’m not admitting defeat. Google can still save Android for lawyers, and here is how
Beef up Android (and Google account) security
This includes committing to zero Drive and Gmail scanning, even though it’s so tempting. Trust me, you’ll still get plenty of information from the Google searches lawyers perform.
Nexus is dead, but Silver is emerging. Having a variety of devices is good, but not when manufacturers load them with worthless “utilities” and applications. Google needs to back 2 or 3 (perhaps more) high-end smartphones and tablets that receive Nexus treatment. Screen size isn’t so much a factor with the new Android SDK, but Google should strongly encourage uninformity on base specifications (RAM, storage, processor, etc.).
Incorporate Chrome and Android
Whether Google Now, Hangouts, or some other integrated application to pushes desktop notifications between devices, Google needs to get on board.
Time to weigh in
What do you think? Am I totally loopy? Is Android on life-support, or will we see the rescue party at Google I/O 2014.
Let me know in the comments.