He is known simply as Charbax. You can find him on Twitter, on Youtube, and very often in the comments section of any post that trashes Android. He is in my opinion the biggest Android fanboy — fan, fanatic, believer, evangelist — in the world. His numerous first-hand, homebrew videos showcase the incredible innovation occurring across the Android ecosystem, be it in China, in Europe, or America.
What fuels his passion? Apple makes gorgeous physical products, easy to love. Android, by contrast, is a string of ones and zeros, cold, unfeeling code. There are many more questions, of course. If Android is “winning” then how does he explain Apple’s massive profits? Or the pre-eminence of iPad? Why care about an OS whose primary reason for being is not to get more people online but to capture more personal data to sell to advertisers? And what of Google’s continued moves to tighten control around this once aggressively marketed “open” platform?
Charbax arrived in San Francisco last week and did not shy away from any of my questions — though his numbers are often suspect.
Disclosure: I have followed Charbax online for at least three years. As that rare pundit who has gone on record stating that Android is, well, not very good, and almost certainly to be eclipsed by a far more functional and cohesive platform, I have faced his wrath many times over. Watch his videos, however, and you must admit that no person, no company — not even Google itself — has so well documented the stunningly rapid spread of Android throughout the globe, and into all manner of computing devices, be they phones, tablets, toys, cameras or sensors. If Android does come to rule our world, as Charbax absolutely believes it will — maybe already has — then history will lean heavily upon his work.
Author note: I have edited responses for the sake of brevity and clarity.
His real name is Nicolas Charbonnier. He is from Denmark. He tells me that he funds his work primarily through his well-trafficked pro-Android website and popular Youtube channel.
What explains the rapid global spread of Android?
Android is the first embedded Linux for smart devices platform that got enough investment to reach full usability.
What are some current examples of innovative development taking place with Android?
Android is reaching sub-$25 Phones this year and it’ll be in sub-$15 phones next year. Android has reached sub-$20 Desktop HDMI Sticks now and it’s going to reach sub-$10 desktop prices next year. Without Android, there would be nothing of interest going on in the tech world.
Android is enabling the next 5 Billion people access to smart technology. You can fly to China and buy an iPhone 5S copy on MediaTek MT6572 (dual-core ARM Cortex-A7, Android 4.2.2) for the same total price as buying a “real” iPhone 5S in America.
It seems as if only Samsung has profited from Android. What if they abandon the platform?
This is the dream of the same morons that sank Nokia and Blackberry. Samsung is hugely profitable only thanks to Android. Android subsidizes Samsung, Sony and LG’s HDTV business and other businesses. Companies make money on Android because it’s free, open source, and optimized for the most advanced consumer products.
Are you affiliated with Google?
Nope. If Google wants to give me a job, they are welcome to hire me.
Why are you an Android “evangelist”?
I’m basically an evangelist of technology. I think technology is the solution to all world’s problems and all the (latest) technology is powered by Android. I video-blog at 20 consumer electronics shows per year and 99% of what is happening there revolves around Android. Without Android, I would have nothing to video-blog about.
How do you support your globe-spanning work documenting Android?
My Youtube channel passed 25 million views and I make money from ads. A few companies pay for my flights and hotels when they want me to video-blog at their conferences. I have some 300+ members paying me $20/year on my website. I also earn money by offering advice on sourcing devices out of China.
What do Apple users get wrong about Android?
The world is bigger than Cupertino. Most technological innovation is not happening in the USA and especially not in Cupertino!
Stop believing Apple invents stuff! Apple never invented anything! Even selling overpaid hardware pre-dates Apple by millenia. Apple is simply a cash machine. They invest money wisely in components at the right time for them and they make absurd amounts of profits selling those devices.
They convince consumers that it’s worth paying $2,500+ with a 2-year contract for a device that cost Apple less than $150 to manufacture by underpaid workers in China.
While you may stay in love with your Apple plastics if you want, there is much more happening out in the rest of the world. Android has 100 times more engineers and 100x more R&D being invested throughout the thousands of Android companies working on Android innovation right now.
Author note: I did not ask Charbax if he was referring to me with his “stay in love with your Apple plastics” remark or to Apple users in general.
What is the future of Android?
Android has about 90% market share today (where it matters, growth markets and non-US developped markets). It’ll be 98% in 2 years. It’ll power everything in the world.
But isn’t fragmentation a significant problem for Android?
With retail prices for Android devices ranging from $20 to $2000, you cannot expect everything to work on all those different types of devices. On the other hand, even without “official” support on perhaps 50% of the Android device output to date, most apps and most Android features work perfectly fine on 98% of the Android devices on the market.
Author note: Again, Charbax did not offer verifiable evidence for his assertions.
Android was very ingeniously designed since day 1 for both massive backwards compatibility and forwards compatibility. The Android apps SDK enables 99.9% of the 1 million Android apps to work perfectly fine on 99.9% of Android devices being used on the market right now. Even your 3-4 year old Android device will support above 99% of the 1 million Android apps today.
This is absolutely not true of Apple iOS. iPad apps don’t work right on iPhone. iPhone apps don’t work right on iPad. iPad (2) apps don’t work right on iPad Mini. iPad Mini apps don’t work right on iPad Mini Retina.
Android is built to accomodate for just about any screen size, pixel density and any optional hardware features. You do not need to design “tablet optimized” apps for Android for example as you must absolutely do so for iPad.
What else is better about Android than iOS or Windows Phone (or any other operating system)?
Android is 100% open source. This is the most important thing. Android is like the web. iOS and Windows are like proprietary competitors to the web. Android is 100% free.
What about claims that Android or Android makers infringe on other’s patents?
All those patent lawsuits against Android are complete bullshit. Anyone who believes Microsoft or Apple have the right to sue Linux open source on smart devices is just out of his mind. Nobody must touch Linux, it’s free and open source. End of story. Nobody can patent any touch UI, any device shape, any essential user interaction idea, or anything that somebody else would have come up with.
Google appears to be transitioning away from the very open source view you espouse.
Admittedly, Android needs to be even more open source and even more free. That means open source GPU drivers, open source WiFi, Bluetooth, and other source drivers. It means perhaps 100% free alternatives to HDMI, USB, H264, Mp3, Dolby, as well as alternatives to whatever else other people are claiming licence fees against Android device makers for. That practice is just wrong and needs to stop.
Connectors, codecs, graphics engines, all those things need to be free to use for any device maker. Google needs to ramp up their involvement in providing 100% free alternatives to the market for these things so that device makers can in fact produce 100% free and open source Android devices worldwide.
But is this something Google should do? What about controlling the Android brand name, the use of Google apps, and controlling development of future releases?
(I suspect) Sundar Pichai‘s role overseeing Android may be to prepare Android 5.0+ to be totally open. Google should (and soon may) allow any third party developer access to see in real time all the future features of Android that Google is working on. Google should release dailies and accept way more third party patches and feature requests. Any improvements to Android that any third parties want to submit should get integrated in real-time.
You think Google will do this?
I think Google knows they are so far ahead of anyone else now that it really doesn’t benefit either Google or Google’s hardware partners to offer exclusive access to future Android development anymore. Give everyone equal, real-time access.
I also think Google will un-licence and un-restrict the use of their Android apps so that anyone will be allowed to ship Android with Google Play, Google Maps, Gmail, and whatever other apps Google offers, as much as they want, with no more need to ask for Google certification first.
Google should also count all Android activations in the future, and not only count certified Android devices. The 1.5 million Android activations per day are only certified Android devices being activated. That does not include the 500,000 – 1 million non-certified Android devices that are sold worldwide and activated each day.
Why are you visiting San Francisco?
I want to interview HP, Intel and others in the region. I will also be attending a Samsung developer conference. Before this, I was in Shenzhen, China and purchased some Android phones for $36, and Android-powered devices that copy both Windows Phone and iPhone.
Author note: below are some of my favorite Charbax videos: