According to the official statistics, a million new android devices are activated every day. Introduced in 2008, the Android operating system now accounts for the lion’s share of the mobile market, comprising 85 percent of smartphone sales in the second quarter of 2014.
This unprecedented surge of users can be partly explained by the rise of China’s native smartphone manufacturer, Xiaomi, and the launch of its latest model, the Mi3. This viral global propagation reveals that we live in a world that is more interconnected than we might like to think. In the 21st century, information is king and the Android Ecosystem sits on the throne.
There is no question that the speed of information has fundamentally altered all aspects of our lives: markets trade quicker, words are vulgarized, and privacy has vanished. Even traditional human relationships have digital proportions. The removal of technological barriers has given rise to a certain fetishization of information.
This issue is nothing new. In fact, one of its first observers was the renowned French aviator and writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, who long ago pondered the complicated relationship between Man and Machine. In his 1939 masterpiece, Wind, Sand and Stars, Saint-Exupéry observes that Machine is a tool for Man to achieve his ends, but that trouble arises when the Machine becomes the end.
We are horrified at the account of a Chinese boy selling his kidney to buy the latest iPhone or that of a gamer falling dead in a Korean internet café after several days of ceaseless gaming; we are horrified at this digital fetishishism, yet we worship at the same altar.
This is the world we live in and this is the world that future generations will inherit. In order to decode the general shifts and trends of the global information cardiovascular system, we need to observe the pulses emanating from its beating heart: the Android Ecosystem.
The reason for this trendsetting is that the majority (60 percent) of Internet users are on mobile platforms, largely because mobile is cheaper and more accessible in developing countries. Coupling this statistic with Android’s market dominance gives you a hint of how information will flow for the next decade at the very least.
The design standards and philosophy of the Android OS determine how information is delivered to and acquired from users, and molds their perceptions and interactions. Allow me explain this: We have a term in the tech industry, “screen real estate,” which betrays the goal behind software design standards: maximizing the amount of information received and shared per pixel. Information is strikingly similar to energy; as an organism, you both consume and produce it.
This conception of information comes from Information Theory, which is the equivalent of canon law for computer science and which roughly states that all the events to have occurred anywhere since the beginning of the universe can be reduced to bits, 0s and 1s, or in layman’s terms, trues and falses.
The entire business cycle of the industry is founded on which 0s and 1s are worth receiving and serving the users, since “screen real estate” is limited. The consensus is that small, simple, quick and interactive information is optimal and most lucrative. Breadth is better than depth.
This is illustrated by the vast popularity of Vines, which are videos just seconds in duration, and tweets, which have a limited amounts of characters, as primary means of information sharing over much more expensive and in-depth medias such as television and books. Even diplomatic rows spill over the tweetosphere, where the jabs exchanged by Canadian and Russian delegations to NATO via Twitter made headlines. Diplomatic meltdowns can apparently be constrained to 140 characters.
The lack of depth of information being shared is not only a design feature of the Android OS but also of the applications and systems that run on it. The reason for this is the tremendous speed with which these smaller portions of information can be consumed and created by the average users. And there is a very large market for the data produced by the average user.
The industry is Big Data and its sole purpose is to collect, store, and process the information generated by the average android user and to sell it to buyers like marketers and manufacturers. The information you generate is a commodity. With smart watches and smart glasses, you can rest assured that even the rate of your heartbeat is fair game for the industry.
Whether you should be worried or not is completely irrelevant. The Android Ecosystem is here to stay and design decisions made for the OS will continue to shape how users around the world interact with reality. It is a reality in which political change, financial success, and casual sex all pass through the same pixels of the 5.0 inch screen.