It has been a long climb for Android. When the operating system debuted in late 2008, with the G1, it seemed to have little hope of overtaking the iPhone. In the previous year and change Apple had changed how we defined smartphones, and it appeared that Android was just trying to play catch up. Combine that with a strong BlackBerry market, and it became difficult to see where Android fit.
Three and a half years later, the picture has become much clearer. Android has spread far and wide, and in many periods it has, with its growing arsenal, outsold the iPhone. Yet the best is probably left to come. It’s not hard to imagine 2012 being the year of Android. Here are a few things we can look forward to this year.
Features turn into benefits
When it comes to specs, Android is at the top of the game. The hardware from its best handsets tops even the iPhone 4S. There’s a good chance that Apple won’t even match Android’s power with the iPhone 5.
There’s just one problem: People don’t buy a phone for its specs.
People buy phones for all sorts of reasons, but only a small percentage do so based on processing power and other under-the-hood features. Yet those features are what power the phone. With more powerful phones in 2012 — we could have half a dozen quad-core phones on the market by the time the iPhone 5 drops — Android stands to do more.
More coherent software design
Android has been, for the most part, pretty lenient in its developer guidelines. Those freedoms have led to some pretty innovative software design, but it hasn’t been kind to a consistent user experience. That’s apparently important to people, so Android has released a developer style guide that will in a way homogenize the platform.
This goes hand-in-hand with the development of Ice Cream Sandwich. The latest iteration of the Android OS is meant to bring together as many devices as possible, shedding the “fragmented” tag and making life easier for developers. It should also make life easier for end users, since they get consistency from device to device. It will make upgrading Android devices a bit more appealing.
Replacing physical media
While more powerful specs (and the resulting benefits) along with the consistent software design might sound more important, this one has all of my interest. Essentially, replacing physical media is one area in which Android and Apple are in fierce competition. The more functions they can have their phones perform, the more customers they’ll get.
For example: Android might not be big with business right now, but what if Android were able to offload a lot of paperwork? What if businesses could buy airline tickets online and send them to employees via phone — and the employees could just show their phones to the gate attendant? That would save time and effort, two things all businesses wish to save.
It extends far further, too. A phone becomes much more powerful if it can replace anything physical. It means fewer things to carry, and it means fitting more into a pocket-sized device. That’s inspiring on a number of levels.