Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Ubuntu phone:Android app support is a double edged blade

When talking about Ubuntu phones, one of the usual comments is that people say: Canonical should enable Android applications to run on Ubuntu phones.
I will admit, initially I liked the idea...until I saw the first counterarguments.
Here are some reasons why supporting Android applications could kill the platform in it's infancy.

1)Other platforms have tried it...And failed.


Windows(phone)-Supports Android applications
Blackberry OS-Supports Android applications
Tizen-is a carbon copy of Android
Sailfish-Supports Android applications
Is any of those mobile platforms a market success? No. Even Windows phone has barely a 3-4% market share. Tizen still could prove itself, but it is a carbon copy of Android.
Would you want to have emulated Android applications on your Ubuntu phone? Probably not. Let me describe you some of the horrors with Android applications on other platforms:
"The Android applications have the feeling of second rate ports, plus most of them are stripped down old versions of the same applications on Android."
"Most of the time the applications are even too confused too decide if they want to use the native or the emulated Android keyboard"

2)Supporting Android applications would be like a slap to the face to existing Ubuntu applications and scope developers

If Canonical decided to support Android applications, they would lose most of their current third party application developers for the phone. Basically you could simply say goodbye to native Ubuntu phone applications.
Why would a developer develop NATIVE applications for Ubuntu touch if he could just develop an Android application, publish it on the Google play market(to a much wider audience). And he could then just publish a second rate port on the Ubuntu application store?

3)You would either have to destroy the security features of Ubuntu touch, or the Android applications would barely work. 




Let me tell you a little bit on how application security on Ubuntu touch works:
Everything is a sandbox.
That means all the applications can not reach data on the phone unless it goes trough something called "The content hub". In other words an application has to be specifically designed for usage with the content hub to reach any data that was not created inside the sandbox of the application.
Since Android applications are not designed with that in mind, that means many Android applications(especially file mangers) would be useless.
An alternative is to destroy the security within click and snappy packages.

4)Scopes would become less-functional

Since Android applications can not communicate with the content hub, that also means that scopes would be unable to reach the data from Android applications via the traditional way, if they could do it at all.
If they hypothetically could that would be a huge hack and potentially a huge security hole.

So to summarise supporting Android applications on Ubuntu phones would probably be a tactical victory but a strategic defeat.

tl;dr Supporting Android applications on Ubuntu phones could be a bad idea, but mostly it could ruin the platform in the long term.
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