As of February 2023, the Android operating system (OS) has captured an estimated 70% of the global mobile market share.
Additionally, by last year, there were more than two million apps, games, movies, TV shows, and books on the Google Play App Store.
In short, the Android ecosystem’s rich and continuously expanding range of services and products attracts new users and keeps experienced ones staunchly loyal. The question is: how did Google do it?
In the latest Google Decode session last Feb. 28, the tech giant’s representatives shed light on the company’s accessible, open ecosystem vision that shaped their OS and app Store as well as revolutionized the world’s mobile phone market.
Unlike a closed system that only interacts with technology on or compatible with its platform, an open ecosystem supports integrations with other technologies.
Google began laying the groundwork for the latter type of system in 2005 when it acquired Android Inc. At that time, smartphones were prohibitively expensive and their cost was magnified because manufacturers either had to develop an OS from the ground up or purchase a license for one.
Mahir Sahin, Asia and Pacific director of platforms and ecosystem partnerships, stated “We wanted to build Android as an open source platform so that anybody could access, download, and modify Android source code at no charge.”
“The benefits were immediate. App developers could build helpful apps and access a global audience independent of [the country] they were based. Device makers were able to install Android on their devices at no cost without having to license or develop their proprietary OS. This allowed them to cut development costs, launch their products much faster in the market, and drive down smartphone costs globally,” Sahin recounted.
Sahin then detailed how Google is sustaining its commitment to accessibility, particularly in Asia Pacific.
Besides partnering with different Asian manufacturers like Xiaomi to constantly improve Android users’ experience, they have also worked with local companies and telcos in India and Thailand to make high quality smartphones and 5G devices available at lower costs.
Moreover, devices running on Android do not compel users to rely on Google products. Android devices usually come with two or more app Stores.
The Google Play app Store, however, is a crucial component of Google’s open ecosystem. It enables consumers to find apps that make their lives easier and empowers developers of any size to easily reach over 2.5-billion monthly active users spread over 190 countries.
The Play Store also maintains a suite of services and tools to assist developers in smoothly launching, testing, and updating their apps as well as targeting users.
Google Play’s provision of these tools and services mean that developers do not have to bank on tie-ups with gaming companies, payment partners, or local service providers to get their app to market.
“By doing all the heavy lifting here on behalf of developers, Google Play allows them to unlock opportunity at scale,” emphasized Kunal Soni, Asia Pacific director of Play partnerships.
Zeroing in on Play’s impact in Asia Pacific, Suni touched on how they have furnished the region’s startups have access to promotional and distribution opportunities on the Store.
Suni added: “Making sure that the [approximately] 9 million developers in Asia Pacific have access to tools on the platform to test and launch and scale their apps and games and make Asia Pacific a mobile app powerhouse has been one tangible area where Play has contributed.”
“By opening up the mobile industry to more competition, Android has enabled a diversity of devices and apps that reflects the billions of people who might use them,” Sahin further asserted.
Notably, though, while an open ecosystem gives a chance to small developers and supplies consumers with more choice, it is more vulnerable to malicious actors than closed ecosystems.
For instance, as recently as February 2023, the Securities and Exchange Commission worked with Google to take down 33 online lending apps on Google Play that violated its regulatory requirements.
To protect users from harm, Google constantly updates its review process that all apps must go through to be published on its digital Storefront.
Furthermore, Google has trust and safety teams that work with local policy-makers and governments to take into account and adjust as needed to any changes in local laws and regulations.
Google maintains its app Store’s developer services and globalization tools as well as upgrades its security through service fees charged only to the developers who ask for payment for their apps on Google Play.
The amount of fees charged vary since Google acknowledges that different developers require different levels of support.