Android Open-Source vs. Non-Open-Source
Few things ignite as much debate among Android app developers as open- vs. closed-source systems. Operating systems, frameworks, applications—each side has fierce proponents of the advantages of open or closed. This debate has emerged front and center in recent years as iOS and Android have dominated the mobile landscape as two examples of the competing philosophies.
iOS has become well known for its walled-garden approach. As a closed-source operating system, Apple controls not only the OS itself, but even what applications can be installed on it via the App Store.
In contrast, Android is much more open than iOS, although critics will point out that it is not completely open-source. The Android operating system is based on the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), which gives anyone the ability to take the base code and create their own versions of Android, such as Amazon’s Fire OS. In spite of its more open nature, there are large parts of Google’s Android that are not open-source, such as the specific Google APIs and add-ons that many think of as Android.
Once we move to the realm of applications, the debate continues. Some apps on the Android platform are open, while others remain firmly closed-source, with Android app developers falling on both sides of the debate.
The Benefits of Open-Source Apps
Like open-source software in general, open-source applications have a number of benefits on Android. Chief among these is the likelihood of finding and fixing bugs, adding features and evolving the app at a faster rate due to other Android app developers having access to the source code and being able to improve it.
Open-source software often has a greater chance of widespread adoption. People sometimes have a greater sense of security in an open-source app, in terms of its long-term survivability. On the other hand, a closed-source app can disappear if the company behind it goes out of business.
Open-source software also offers the possibility of it being adopted by a larger project or organization, bringing significant recognition to the developer.
Benefits of Non-Open-Source Apps
In spite of the advantages open-source software brings to the table, non-open-source is not without its benefits too. One of the biggest benefits of closed-source applications—for the developer—is an easier, more obvious path to financial gain. With a closed-source app, developers have unrivaled freedom to license the app however they see fit and charge whatever they believe the market will bear.
Another benefit of closed-source apps is the ability to tightly control the app and the user experience. Developers who have a very specific vision of how their product should look and function may find closed-source to be a better option. The same is true for developers who want to make sure their app is the only available option. Whereas there is always the chance that someone may take an open-source app and create their own version, a closed-source app remains firmly in the control of the owner/developer.
Open-Source vs. Non-Open-Source: The Choice Is Yours
While the open- vs. closed-source debate has raged for years, and will continue to do so, the fact remains that both approaches have clear advantages in certain circumstances. The key is to choose the approach that fits best with your project’s goals and then find a qualified developer once you’re ready to create an Android app.