How Android’s openness hurts mobile gaming

The biggest innovation of Android was its open policy – every developer can license the operating system and customize is heavily to its needs. Some of the most important Google services in Android are closed, though (like the Play Store, the Google Maps and many others), so many manufacturers choose not to implement them at all, replacing them with their own.

When you consider gaming on an Android device, you are confronted with a series of possible issues.

First, there is the operating system version. Some devices, released just a few years ago, don’t offer the possibility to update to the latest version of the operating system. There are some apps – games, and others – that don’t work with older versions of the OS, so the only choice a user has is to replace the device entirely. In case of a cheap tablet this is not such a big burden, but in case of a modern smartphone it can cost quite a few hundred dollars.

The other issue you can encounter is the app’s (game’s) availability. If you use a fully licensed device – see the first paragraph), you probably won’t encounter any problems in finding what you are looking for. In case of those manufacturers that have chosen not to implement the closed Google technologies, like the Play Store, you might have problems finding the game you are looking for. It is easy for the developers to distribute their apps through the platform readily served by Google – the Play Store – and most of them don’t bother to find alternative ways of distribution to users that might not have access to it. So, when a game and an app can only be found in the Play Store, it’s out of reach for many Android users.

Another possible issue: the hardware. I have seen Android devices with Android 4.4.2 (KitKat) installed on them, when their hardware was hardly capable of running any apps that were meant for this operating system. The result: apps that hang unexpectedly, or don’t even start due to insufficient hardware capabilities. In case of a free app this is not such a big problem – you can simply delete the app, and find a less hardware hungry alternative. When it comes to apps you have paid for, though, things change a bit. If your hardware doesn’t run the software you paid for, you can’t just buy more RAM or upgrade your VGA card, as in case of a PC. Not that Android apps would be so expensive – it’s more a matter of principle.

Sometimes I feel the greatest advantage of Google’s Android – its open source nature – is one of its major weaknesses, a thing that can turn finding a game or app a nuisance, no matter if you want to waste your time with Candy Crush Saga or play online slots at Red Flush.