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Why aren't all Androids the same?

Discussion in 'Android Lounge' started by Craigmill, Jan 8, 2013.

  1. Craigmill

    Craigmill Newbie
    Thread Starter

    Hi, with that title, I am obviously new to Android, and trying to understand the range of functionality over the vast range of tablets.

    There are many many tablets with a very wide price range, so I am trying to understanding their functionality limits.

    e.g. with a particular Windows version, PCs will all have the same basic functionality. The hardware will be differentiated with processors, Graphics, Disks, Screens, Cooling, etc.. However they "should" be able to run the same software albeit better with fast processors, and slower (or not at all) with slower processors and graphics.

    The tablets I have looked at appear to have the much the same processor speed and some with better screen definition. I do see a big difference in product quality between the low and high cost tablets. I also appreciate that support is more readily available for the high end products.

    These differences apart, if they all run the same version of Android can they all run the same apps/functions? If not why not? What are the limitations of the low end product?

    Sorry if this has been asked before, I did search the forum and couldn't find an answer.

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  2. Brian706

    Brian706 I like turtles!

    Hey Craig. In short (which is probably about the best I can do at explaining) because android is open source. Every company who develops android based products build them based around android. This means that they are not all just running stock android. Each manufacturer adds their own unique user interface and features.

    I assume you might be more familiar with apple products. Their operating system is locked down and only apple develops their software and own hardware. This is why the devices are all the same. Same with different PC's running windows. They may have faster processors, etc. but they are running the same version of windows.

    Every manufacturer (for the most part) does this on android. HTC adds HTC sense to their phones. It is their Graphic user interface unique to them. A google device such as the nexus, runs stock android i believe. It's sort of like if you always get a phone from the same manufacturer it will be the same or similar, but if you change brands, they have implemented their own ideas on top of android that will differ from another.

    As far as running apps and such, most devices can run any app from the Google Play store. Some apps will list in their description that it won't work with certain devices but for the most part, you shouldn't see too many apps that you can't run, especially on a high end device.

    That's about as much detail as I can get into. I'm sure someone will come along with a more technical answer than I could provide! Anyway, hope that helps :)
  3. jhawkkw

    jhawkkw Chinchillin'

    Much like computers, android devices differ mostly based on hardware, but also every device has a different "theme" which we phandroids refer to as an oem skin. This skin mostly affects how it looks because OEM's have a desire to differentiate their devices from each other, but also can add or change additional features to the device as well. Just like PC's, you have entry level, mid range, and high performance devices based on their hardware, and usually price is a good indicator of that.

    As far as running all the same apps and functions, not all devices are considered equal. Certain apps have been optimized to work on certain hardware, such as nVidia Tegra chips and should be denoted if they do. Also, some apps are only optimized to work on certain screen resolutions as well. Generally if an app isn't compatible with your device, it won't even show up in the play store.

    If you have any other questions, don't be afraid to ask :)
  4. ArcDatum

    ArcDatum Newbie

    Edit: I missed that you said that they run the same android version (and thus deleted everything I typed in lieu of this edit). In that case, we go to a lower level. Hardware drivers might not be supported. Like jhawkkw said, if it was designed to run using a particular type of hardware accelerated chip then chances are it'll only run on those. I'm not sure if this is a thing now on Android but on your normal PCs, say an app is designed for a fast single core but provides no concurrency on slower multi cores then it too can suffer in performance.

    Edit2: I guess it's also worth noting that the developer can decide which devices his/her app supports (screens of certain size, of certain density, etc) whether it will actually run in real life or not. Maybe it just looks ugly and the dev doesn't it out there lookin ugly :).
    Craigmill, ocnbrze and Brian706 like this.
  5. Craigmill

    Craigmill Newbie
    Thread Starter

    Many thanks for your replies Brian706, jhawkkw, ArcDatum

    From what I have gathered so far one of the differentiating areas is the interface/theme/skin, but I cannot see how that would justify the wide range of prices.

    I had not thought of the idea of specialised applications that need additional hardware, firmware, and drivers (HFD). My problem with this area is that I assume that a version of Android has been released to meet specified requirements by some sort of controlling body. Then along comes a tablet developer and releases an application along with its HFD to meet a specific need. At best the developer is just releasing new application and HFD without changing the released Android OS, but given that Android is open source they could also be changing the OS as well. In addition every time a new version of Android is released the developer will have to re-engineer its product. Maybe that why I don
  6. ArcDatum

    ArcDatum Newbie

    Well a lot of the price can be part of the hardware in some cases andbin software for others. Great screens dont come cheap especially in R&D. Have u seen the resistive screen android 2.2 tablets? In most cases they are cheap but terrible to use. On the other hand, ppl like samsung might put in stupid amounts of money designing touchwiz, something that may or may not increase value in the users eyes. This accounts for some of the price differences. (Disclaimer, I dont actually kno how much time/money samsung puts into that, just an example). Also, frankly this is a large market. Some devices might exist solely to undercut other devices so Its not so clear cut.

    From a performance standpoint like for games, developpers dont really get to pick what devices are released right. U are correct, if they design their software for such a narrow variety of devices, they very well might be starving themselves of an audience, but thats a risk some developers take to try to hedge bets on being 'most advanced' or some other latest greatest thing. We (ArcDatum) personally prefer coverage of dvices over using the latest hardware accelerated things (just as an example) using features that may or may not become standard or widespread. That ofcourse totally dependent on the app. Its like developing a really great piece of software using webgl. It just hasnt been tested thouroughly with consumers yet.

    Also, not sure if im misunderstanding u here, developers dont change the android OS. Atleast not that we're aware of. Thats reserved for the custom rom guys and OEMs.
    Craigmill likes this.
  7. Italo

    Italo Android Enthusiast

    The price of tablets varies for the same reason as other electronics (pcs, tvs, phones, etc.). Not all Android devices use the same screen technology. Tablets with nicer screens (AMOLED, tempered glass, etc.), larger screens, or higher resolution screens will be more expensive. Just because processor speed is similar does not mean that processing power is equal. Newer, high end CPUs will be more costly, as will tablets with high end GPUs. Other things like amount of storage and RAM, number of cameras, NFC, docks, and size of battery would factor into the cost as well.

    I'm not sure if the cheaper tablets you're talking about are name brand or knockoff. You'll probably pay more for name brands. The more expensive tablets could have better build quality and use better parts. The bigger OEMs probably put more effort into porting Android to their Hardware and getting it to run smoothly; as well as putting their own modifications in the OS (for better or worse). The more popular (usually high end) devices typically receive better support from the manufacturer, and from devs. You may have trouble finding accessories for cheap tablets.

    So, the difference comes (mostly) down to hardware. Tablets running the same version of Android should be able to run the same apps, with the exception of some games. The difference will be in the user experience, and the long term performance.
    Craigmill likes this.
  8. Hadron

    Hadron Smoke me a kipper...
    VIP Member

    You also ask "if they run the same version of android". That's very much not a given, especially if you think longer-term. A cheap tablet is probably not only running an old version of android, but will probably never get an upgrade, since the upgrade has to be built and distributed for the tablet by the manufacturer, and the people who make the cheap tablet are unlikely to do that (it doesn't pay them to do so). This is part of what Italo says about getting better support from the high-end devices (and "devs" means custom software provided by enthusiasts, again more likely with a popular, high-end device).

    If keeping the software up to date is important to you, a Nexus is your best bet since Google will provide updates for those for as long as the hardware is up to it.
    Craigmill likes this.
  9. egDonald

    egDonald Well-Known Member

    on a similar topic....

    let's say currently a phone has an official release: 2.3.4 (just as an example :p). why wouldn't it be possible to install the stock android OS version of gingerbread? Or is the "skin" or drivers on the phone the "glue" that makes the phone work in general?

    That is, I always hear about all the bloatware that carriers install or the skins that manufacturers put on the phone that may/may-not clutter up the overall experience.

    More details surrounding my question - so I have the Motorola Atrix4G (and trust me, I'm not asking for a "How To" - more like a "Why not?" type of question), and as you may know Motorola uses MotoBlur.
    I'm not saying I like or dislike MotoBlur - I'm not sure to be honest - this is my first Android phone.
    But I see a common trend among Android users is they they either like to Root and/or install a custom-ROM.
    So my question is, if the Stock Android OS is "good" then why couldn't I just wipe the phone out and install the relative gingerbread stock OS on the phone? Similar to a PC, when you want to re-install Windows or something.

    For example, the Atrix4G has the microHDMI port - but to output it to a TV or monitor, I'd have to use the Atrix media docking station. My assumption is that Motorola purposely locked users out from using the microHDMI port for entertainment/sharing purposes so that they'd have to buy the media docking station.
  10. chanchan05

    chanchan05 The Doctor

    It's possible to install "almost" stock Android. CyanogenMod is an example of putting stock Android on almost all supported phones. However, these ROMs are custom because of the difference in hardware components. Unlike Windows where the drivers are commonplace, easy to download on the internet and are separate from the system, Android drivers are embedded into the OS, meaning the Android installer for say, a Galaxy Nexus won't work on a Nexus 4 because of the difference in embedded drivers. And since Google only releases the official Android for Nexus devices, ROM developers have to get these files and alter them for specific devices.

    As for the docking station, yes you are correct. Manufacturers often add stuff so that you will have to use their products.
    egDonald likes this.
  11. MorriDoom

    MorriDoom Lurker

    Pretty much, the customs skins are the manufacturers' ideas to differentiate their hardware/software from their competitors.

    Ironically, consumers look towards the customizations as a con and would much rather have the stock Android OS on their devices instead.

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