When Android was first announced, Google’s evangelists touted it as an open ecosystem that would enable innovation—a hardware and software reaffirmation of the Carterfone decision. They spoke of a future where users would be free from restrictions and be able to install whatever software they want.
Sadly, those promises were never fulfilled and the dream of an open mobile ecosystem around Android never materialized. In reality, Android has become an insular platform developed almost entirely behind closed doors in an environment that is hostile to external contributors and is mired in a culture of secrecy that serves a small handful of prominent commercial hardware vendors and mobile carriers.
The vast majority of Android smartphones are encumbered by lockdown mechanisms that block installation of third-party firmware. Some mobile carriers even block installation of external software entirely, in stark contradiction of Google’s early promises. The availability of Android source code after each release was really the last remnant of openness in Android—and now it’s gone. The whimsical notion that Android is an open platform is a tattered fabrication that has been stretched beyond the average open source software enthusiast’s capacity to suspend disbelief.