When the first Android phone was released back in 2008, the smart-phone market (the tablet market did not even begin to emerge until after the release of the first iPad in 2010) was to all intents and purposes a one horse race, with Apple possessing an almost total monopoly on both sales and innovation. This meant that, in the face of almost no meaningful competition, Apple could not only charge whatever price it wanted for its (admittedly very good) mobile hardware, but could exert unprecedented control over what owners and developers could do with it.
Enter Android: although developed by Google, with all its vast resources and technical knowhow, it is an open source platform, allowing handset (and later tablet) manufacturers the ability to build their own devices powered by it, and developers to tweak and change the code to suit whatever purpose they desired. It was a simple strategy, tempt the manufactures with a cheap but high quality OS, and allow them to flood the market. The result? A perfusion of low cost handsets that put the power and versatility that was previously the preserve of the iPhone, into the hands of the masses.
Fast forward to 2013, and Android commands a worldwide market smartphone share of over 75% (May 2013), with over 900 million devices activated worldwide (with over a staggering 1.5 million activations each day!) Although total app downloads from the Google Play store have yet to catch up with Apple’s 50 billion, at 48 billion and growing , they are estimated to overtake Apple in Q3 this year.
Part of Android’s recent growth in popularity has been due it to shedding its early image as a ‘cheap and nasty’ iPhone alternative, with premium phones such as Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S3/S4, and HTC’s One, arguably being the most powerful, innovative and luxurious smartphones ever made.
VPN service (as the recent revelations about blanket surveillance by the United States NSA on its own innocent citizens has just served to highlight).
In addition to government spying, the popularity of P2P file sharing apps such µTorrent for Android mean that protecting yourself against anti-piracy enforcement agencies and copyright legal trolls should be a high priority.