postheadericon The Android Invasion, Here and Abroad




In the universe of mobile phone operating systems, it's been a little over 5 years since the Android invasion began. For those who have been hiding under a rock since the assault began, Android is what runs most modern smart phones on the planet today, all compliments to Google Inc. 

Close to a half-billion Android phones will be sold this year, and that number has been increasing over all others each and every year since Google first released Android into the wild during 2008.


In today's smart phone universe, Android rules the world market share at 75%. By comparison, Apple's iPhone currently has only a 15% share, with all other phone operating systems (for example, Windows 7/8 phones) fighting for what's left – a meager 10%.

For today's consumer, that means that the next phone you buy will probably be running some version of Android, and that phone will do far more than just make calls, surf the web and display the weather report.

Google's first Android phone sold (code-named Cupcake) did little more than that, but today's incarnation coded Jelly Bean, will rock your socks off in innumerable features and function. For example, I just picked up a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 (the new phablet-style phone) but I don't use it to make calls; instead I bought this device to put a needed PC in the living room. That's right, by simply docking this amazing device to a HD monitor with a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, I now use my "phone" to occasionally call the wife, but more often than not, to run multiple web browser windows, handle my email and other messages, edit photos and documents, play games, and in general, compute what needs computing.

A video of how this can be whacked together is here: http://youtu.be/9nh2NSLgaII, and this setup is highly recommended for anyone looking for a mini PC replacement on the cheap.

But today's Droids (running multi-core processors and sporting multi-megapixel cameras front and rear) are more often seen functioning as phones and tablets, outdoors and on the move. For example, Sushila Rai of Kathmandu says this of her new Samsung Galaxy S3, bought locally at the World Link branded shop in Jawalakhel:

"This phone is absolutely amazing, I can log into my office's Lotus Notes to read my mail, and do something fun like watch YouTube or play a game, even if I am in a taxi and on the way to work."

Sushila is also an iPhone user, but now prefers the Samsung look and light feel over the iPhone, as well as the super smooth operation. "Not a single problem," says Sushila.

And as sales patterns here in the Valley show, she is not alone when choosing an Android phone over an Apple one, with iPhones selling for about Nrs. 15,000 or more above an equally outfitted Samsung – and with the new iPhone 5 selling for a whopping Nrs. 75,000 plus! In fact, the penetration of Android across the price spectrum of phones has proved to be it's key selling point in Nepal, as Android phones can be found for as little as Nrs. 15,000 or so. PriceNepal.com shows decent smart phones, like the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10, selling for just that.

This means that as well as well-off corporate execs, students are also being indoctrinated into the Android way of life, and just like the rest of the planet, Nepal is well on it's way to becoming another Android nation. But are all Droids the same, just as all iPhones basically are? Not really, and this is where the Android ecosystem breaks down: last year's models of HTC or Sony Ericsson phones may not be running the latest and greatest from Google - Android 4.2 - and they may never. Even with the newest phones on the Nepali market (the Samsung Galaxy line), you may have to wait months for updates, which come from Samsung and not Google.

This release paradigm is akin to Microsoft's strategy of yore, when everybody and their brother manufactured PCs with the operating systems coming tweaked by each manufacturer of the hardware, and not from Microsoft itself. In the Android universe, things operate likewise, with different flavors of Android running on many models of phones sold by all of the top phone and tablet manufacturers.

But clearly delineating itself from the Apple iPhone, most models of Android phones can be rooted and tweaked back to the way you would like them to be: running the latest and greatest - plus extras. This ability to customize your phone without voiding the warranty is what makes the Android OS a favorite amongst app developers and phone hobbyists alike. That's in stark contrast to Apple's iOS6, which is a closed ecosystem and very difficult to customize.

And just as within the PC world, the downside of mobile computing within an open system vs. a closed system is simple: security. While Android is clearly rocketing past even Apple's iOS6, the one "gotcha" here is that ever-persistent presence of malware. Nasty invaders from hacker space can more easily make it's way onto your Android device than onto an Apple one, and so says Anti-virus giant Symantec, "Google does not appear to perform a rigorous security analysis on some of its marketplace (Google Play) apps."

So, word to the wise: be careful with what you play with on Google Play, and note that after rooting your Android phone, it may be open to all invaders - malicious or otherwise.

Which One To Get...

While Nepal retailers offer limited stock amongst the top selling Android phones of 2012, here is what I would look for:

Samsung Galaxy S3 I know this phone intimately, as my wife and I both share this one to some extent. Selling in the low 60's around the Valley, this Android 4.1 phone sports the best AMOLED screen on the market, has a great camera, and is expandable in storage to a whopping 64GB using it's extra mini SD slot. The S3 is the top seller in 2012, as well as a sure winner for anyone needing a really (really) smart phone. Sells in the low 60s' all around town.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 This phone is basically an updated S3, but with a bigger screen (5.5 vs. 4.8 inch) and has a pen to boot. I use mine more as a tablet than a phone, and those with smaller hands will want a Bluetooth headset to make calls. Buyers note: The Note 3 due out soon is rumored to have two SIM slots and a better screen. The Note 2 currently sells around town in the high 60s'.

Sony Xperia S After Sony ditched Ericsson, things only got better, and the new Sony Xperia uses the same engine that drives Bravia TVs, and this phone plays media just as well, in blazing speed. Caveat: just as in the olden days, Sony is slow to update software, and the latest version of Android will be slow to get. Sells in the high 30s' or low 40s' around town, and my best buddy in KTM swears by these new Sonys. 


Google Nexus 4 This pure Google phone released just this year shakes things up price & feature wise, and is probably the best value on the market today. Great hardware (from LG) and the latest Android version is installed direct from Google. While not readily available in Nepal, this top model sells in America for half the price of an iPhone. Expect to pay in the Nrs. range of 35K - 45K if you can find here. 



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Jiggy Gaton
lives in Kathmandu and is an aging technologist - has been since the days of Woodstock - so in the words of Roland The Gunslinger "he is from a world now gone by." However, Jigs is extremely up-to-date on all things tech and is also available for hire.
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