Over 20% of the population of the United States does not have a physical phone line any more. They rely solely on cellular phones for their telephone communications. (Which is part of the reason why opinion polling so rarely represents the opinion of the actual public… but that is a topic for another post!) The percentage of cell-phone-only households in Europe is far higher.
Recently the Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed piece by Holman Jenkins that takes the position that Apple and Google are the titans squaring up against each other in the cell phone market, and that the battle will be won by Google because the Android platform and store are open and unregulated.
I think the exact opposite is true.
Any number of complaints can be pinned to the iTunes Store and the process developers must go through to get their apps into the store – “capricious”, “opaque”, and “aggravating” are the family-friendly words developers use to describe the process.
But no matter how flawed the process, the content on the iTunes store is reviewed, edited, and must meet basic standards.
The same is not true for the Android apps market.
Follow the three simple steps on the Android market site and anyone can publish anything.
Putting hardware aside for a moment, the key element in the Apple vs Google battle is going to be their relative application stores. And this is key because the thing that I think Mr. Jenkins misses in his WSJ article is, What happens when the first malicious Android app gets out there? Or, maybe it isn’t malicious, it was just written poorly. And suddenly your Android phone is completely disabled.
To be sure, no apps like this have emerged yet, but anyone will tell you it is only a matter of time. And once it happens – once people’s contact list, telephone, text messaging, navigation, Twitter feed, etc, is disabled – people are going to look at their phones and where they get their applications a lot more carefully.
This doesn’t happen to cell phones now, because the only software that runs on cell phones is closely monitored. It is either written by the manufacturer of the phone, or is vetted via the Apple employees overseeing the iTunes store.
But what happens when a new popular Android app (probably a game) turns out to be sending private data in the background? Or it intentionally wipes your phone? Or it has a fatal bug that wipes your phone out?
I think we can all imagine what will happen in the media, blogosphere, and tech communities when some high profile person gets disconnected from their electronic tethers…
I know I have said it before, but I think this is one more example of how important Editors are in this wide-open world of the Internet. Nobody can be an expert on everything, and most of us are not experts on anything at all! So how do we decide which one of these 138 Twitter applications are right for us? Or safe for us to use?
Someone we trust – an editor – has to do the leg work, and produce a “Top 5” list. Then we can look through these top five and decide which one fits our fancy.
So while the wide-open nature of the Android applications market sounds like a good thing on the surface, I think the sheer avalanche of untested and unproven applications from unknown sources will make it easier for the malicious and inept to hide their work in the crowd.
A lot of people bag on Apple for the tight reign they maintain on their platform. It provides stability and consistency, which are two features that my phone and computer simply cannot do without.