Why Android is Important

Via Horace Dedieu (by way of Matthew Yglesias) comes this chart showing the explosive growth of Google’s Android operating system over the last several years:

In describing the chart, Yglesias makes an important point that’s worth repeating: The wide availability of a free, solid mobile operating system is a game changer for the developing world. Technology writers like to argue about Android’s influence in the United States and other developed nations, but it’s real impact will be felt in places like China, India, and the countries of Africa, where mobile connectivity is cheaper and more reliable than its wired counterpart.

Android allows phone manufacturers to produce relatively advanced devices without worrying about software—this makes them cheaper and gets them into the hands of more people. While smartphones are ubiquitous in the United States and Europe, they amount to only 30 percent of all phones sold.

This is obviously a huge topic, but it suffices to say that widespread internet adoption in the developing world has the potential to change everything from markets and education, to politics and governance. It’s an exciting thing to watch, and there’s a good chance that Google—or at least, its software—will play a big part in the change.