Sweet And Sour Androids: Google Being Shut Out From Chinese Phone Market

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Usage of Android-powered smartphones is on the rise in mainland China.  So why is Google — who theoretically controls the Android OS — crying into its wonton soup?

Because the Android version in question — a Chinese-centric flavor called Ophone — circumvents the licensing policies and technical mechanisms that Google has traditionally used to exercise control over the platform.  The G folk, who built their OS on licensed Linux code from GPL and Apache, have used their own licensing arrangements with Android Market coders in an attempt to guarantee/compell cross-platform compatibility.

The movers and shakers behind Ophone, on the other hand, are focused on the Chinese market alone.  Their apps don't need to be in the Android Market, and their phones won't require interfacing with Google's search or other online services.

(Ironically, if you look on the Android Market's own list of supported locations for free and paid apps, China isn't even mentioned.  The closest you'll get is Hong Kong, back under mainland rule, in the free-app list.)

Compare and contrast Apple's experiences with the iPhone in China. The House of Jobs' Chinese phone sales figures have been hamstrung as of late by a combination of black-market iPhone sales and a government ban on Wi-Fi functionality (since lifted).  Plus, Apple has complete control over iOS and app development, as well as a fully-functional Chinese version of the App Store.  And, if the rumors are true, Apple's interest in Chinese game developer Handseeing Information Technology — who are combining game apps with social-networking hooks — could help the iPhone make more inroads into the Chinese user community.

We don't know what will be the end result of the smartphone landscape in China, but Apple's approach is more sound: even if a non-Google Android variant becomes the dominant phone OS, Apple still stands to walk away with a bigger slice of the revenue pie as Number 2.

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