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4/11/2014
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Israel Lifshitz
Israel Lifshitz
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5 Ways Android Won Me Over

From security to "Lego" programming, Android has more going for it than you might think.

For the past two years, my engineers have been digging deep into Android. We have uncovered a number of fascinating features unique to Android, the new kid on the block of mobile operating systems. Did you know that Android is more secure than Windows, Mac OS, and Linux will ever be? Thanks to its flexible modular system, Android is more malleable than gold. For developers, creating Android apps is somewhat like snapping Lego pieces together. Android continues to dazzle me.

Here, in detail, are Android's five most impressive features:

1. Android is more secure than Windows, Mac OS, and Linux.
How many times have you seen the "You'll need to provide administrator permission" popup in Windows? Do you look into it or just click "Continue?" Your Android device will never ask you this question. Android apps are never allowed admin rights, preventing many time-consuming problems. Can you imagine the effect on the GDP of the world had Windows avoided giving software admin rights?

2. Android handles memory better than any other operating system.
At first glance, "Close programs to prevent memory loss" seems like an Alzheimer's infomercial. It is yet another common Windows popup. Windows just isn't capable of closing unused programs on its own. Android handles memory in ways that make other operating systems jealous. Android quietly closes your apps, and when you reopen them, it returns you to where you were. While the apps are running in the background, they don't eat up any of your device's resources. Here's the clincher: When your device runs out of memory, Android will automatically kill the least-used tasks on its own. This gives Android a huge advantage in a touch-and-go world.

[Are hackathons good for business? Read Hackathons Should Be More Than A Circus.]

Android never ceases to amaze me. While most operating systems invest in supporting new hardware, KitKat is "designed to run fast, smooth and responsively on a much broader range of devices than ever before -- including on millions of entry-level devices around the world that have as little as 512MB RAM," to quote Android.com. KitKat does this by streamlining every major component to reduce memory use while introducing new APIs and tools to enable developers to create memory-efficient applications.

(Source: bejadin.info/Flickr)
(Source: bejadin.info/Flickr)

This is great news for those of us who own older devices. It's about time someone took casual mobile users seriously. Not everyone needs a new smartphone every two years. Apple and other operating system developers should take a cue from Android; new releases should enhance performance on older hardware, not the other way around.

3. Android secures app data better than other operating systems.
Android places every app in a unique sandbox. According to Android.com, "Because each Android application operates in a process sandbox, applications must explicitly share resources and data." One app cannot see the data of another app. This puts Android in a league of its own. You can download a new app, but don't worry; it cannot access your financial data in the same way that Windows software can access a DLL file or SQL database. This is the equivalent of putting every app in quarantine, thus preventing problems from spreading. Furthermore, "Android has no mechanism for granting permissions dynamically (at run-time) because it complicates the user experience to the detriment of security." In simple English, this means that Android apps cannot change permissions after installation.

4. Android is the Lego of operating systems.
Android comes with dozens of built-in modules. Some of these include the camera, gallery, contact list, and social networking. The modules are "called" and not executed -- a much easier process than in other operating systems. My Android engineers tell me that building apps is like snapping Lego pieces together. The bottom line for consumers is that Android developers never need to reinvent the wheel.

As Android has roots in both Linux and Java, it is able to borrow from the best of both worlds. For example, SELinux is a Linux kernel security module that allows administrators to define security policies to which the kernel must adhere. Since Jelly Bean (Android 4.3), SELinux is fully supported by Android. It must have been a lot easier to port over from Linux than to write from scratch.

5. iOS borrowed from Android in many cases.
"Everyone copies Apple" is almost as big as the "Elvis isn't dead" myth. There are lots of features that first appeared on Android and later found their way to iOS. Did you know that Android was the first mobile OS to allow multitasking? While other mobile operating systems were in the ice age of frozen apps, Android was allowing device owners to open multiple apps at the same time. Another common feature that showed up on Android first is the notification bar. The challenge was for your device to notify you of a new email -- or a treasure chest in a video game -- discreetly, without taking over your screen.

Do you agree? Tell us why or why not in the comments section.

Could the growing movement toward open source hardware rewrite the rules for computer and networking hardware the way Linux, Apache, and Android have for software? Also in the Open Source Hardware issue of InformationWeek: Mark Hurd explains his "once-in-a-career opportunity" at Oracle.

Israel Lifshitz is an entrepreneur and experienced CEO. Prior to launching BYOD platform Nubo he founded SysAid Technologies, a worldwide leader in IT service management solutions.  View Full Bio

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asksqn
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asksqn,
User Rank: Ninja
4/29/2014 | 5:00:00 PM
Closed source creep
All very valid reasons to use Android except that what many people think of as "Android" actually falls into two categories: the open parts from the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), which are the foundation of Android, and the closed source parts, which are all the Google-branded apps which the company has been using a reason to lock down what was once open source. 
bwalker970
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bwalker970,
User Rank: Strategist
4/14/2014 | 2:38:17 PM
Five Ways That This Article Fails to Make the Case that Android is Better than iOS
The article fails to make any measurable comparisons between Android and iOS.  

1. No app on either Mac OS or iOS normally runs with administrator privileges.  iOS apps never run with administrative rights because that it how the OS was designed.  The only way that a Mac OS app can execute a task with adminitrator privleges is by asking the user to enter a password.  It has been that way since the beginning.  On a desktop OS, users sometimes need to perform administraive tasks and Mac OS provides one of the most secure interface for allow that.

2. That is the way iOS handles background apps.  But, rather than "quietly closing" an app, iOS notifies an app that it is about to be put to sleep.  The iPhone 3G had only 128 MB RAM.  The original iPad had 256 MB.The iPhone 4s has 512 MB.

3. Sandboxing is required for all iOS apps and for any Mac OS apps that are sold through the App Store.  In iOS, the user can revoke access rights at any time and access rights are requested when access is attempted, not all at once when the application is being installed.

4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interface_Builder

5. So what of it?  Android has copied many things from iOS not the least of which was the overall user experience.  Google developers were on a far different design path in the for Android before the original iPhone debuted.  Just because iOS used a few good ideas first seen on Android does not make Android better than iOS.

Android is a mobile OS so, naturally, if your measure an OS against mobile feature priorities, Windows will fail miserably.  But, which platform would you rather use for video editing or application development?
bwalker970
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bwalker970,
User Rank: Strategist
4/14/2014 | 1:57:01 PM
Re: Android wasn't the first to multitask
iOS always had multitasking.  They simply chose to limit the amount of multitasking and background capabilities available to apps in order to preserve battery life.  They specifically did not give apps free reign to use unlimited background processing.
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
4/12/2014 | 11:29:05 AM
Re: Android: Love it or hate it?
Agreed, an OS can be better than another OS in terms of security but that does not mean that users should begin to ignore best practices in security. Antivirus software etc should still be maintained, ports should be monitored and the main gate (passwords) should be secure, if not then even the most theoretically secure OS would be useless.
kennysahrnubo
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kennysahrnubo,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/11/2014 | 5:27:14 PM
Re: Android wasn't the first to multitask
We stand corrected! Android is the first major/modern mobile OS to have multitasking. iOS didn't get multitasking until version 4 in 2010. Interesting comment, you got me to read up on those operating systems.
kennysahrnubo
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kennysahrnubo,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/11/2014 | 4:48:03 PM
Re: Android: Love it or hate it?
Jon,

You are definitely right that every OS is only as secure as the user. Why do my video games need my contacts lists and so on, as you suggest. Android permissions are a work in progress and there is much to be done.

 
JonNLakeland
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JonNLakeland,
User Rank: Moderator
4/11/2014 | 2:48:47 PM
Re: Android: Love it or hate it?
I hate to return to the old "Windows has more malware because it has more users" argument in a new guise, but if I was going to write malware it would be for the phone OS that has overwhelming market share - Android.

I do agree about being largely theoretical security though. When you install or update an app and it lists the permissions the app wants - I check it, because my degree is in IT Security, and I want to know what doors I am opening. My wife, parents, and friends at large, however, just accept it every time as a unimportant step in getting into the new program.

Any OS can only be as secure as the user.
addicted2088
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addicted2088,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/11/2014 | 2:37:03 PM
Android wasn't the first to multitask
The thing about Android being the first mobile OS to have multitasking, far from it. Symbian, Maemo, MeeGo, all had it, Symbian having it since before 2000. Symbian could launch a hell of a lot of apps and keep them in the background thanks to its low memory usage (up to 40-50 apps on 512MB of RAM on Symbian Belle on the Nokia 808 PureView, while Android has extremely high RAM consumption for apps, and that's memory used by an app, not memory used by the OS to cache apps for faster startup.) And they would be active as well, games would continue to load, file explorers would be doing their work, while on Android you'll see no game loading in the background (though that's a good thing considering how battery hungry Android is). Same with MeeGo, which could handle up to 20 apps in the background at some times in just 1GB of RAM, with two HD games included. So no, Android was not the first, and it also wasn't one to do it very nicely given how fast apps would be killed and how much RAM usage was.

 

I like Android, but again, that's false information. It should say "first modern OS to have multitasking."
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
4/11/2014 | 1:41:40 PM
Re: Android: Love it or hate it?
Android may have more under the hood in terms of security tech, but that's theoretical security. In practice, Android phones seem to encounter malware far more often than iOS devices due to Google's hands-off review policy.
vitorcavalcanti
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vitorcavalcanti,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/11/2014 | 1:06:43 PM
All about security
It's funny to read that. In Brazil many CIOs dislike Android devices because of the security issues and invest more on iOS and some of them on BlackBerry. But even though I'm not an Android user right now (used to be, but had many trouble with my Samsung devices), I do agree to the marjority points that you have listed on the article. 
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