Contrary to popular belief, not everyone loves what they get out of the Play Store, and some seeking a Google alternative for Android firmware can now turn to the Russian search giant Yandex. According to a report from ABI research, roughly 25 percent of Android devices run on firmware that does not include the Google suite of apps. If 25 percent sounds a bit high, consider the usefulness of westernized apps in China and India. Forked Android operating systems are on the rise, making room for new contenders in a Google-dominated market.
According to Yandex their original intention was not to compete directly with google, but in the process of “covering all of the bases” for their users on Android devices, they ended up with a full-fledged Android “ecosystem.” Although the Yandex.Store currently only offers around 100,000 Android apps versus Google Play’s cool million, certain features of their firmware more than make up for what they may lack compared to Google.
Essential features like a contacts search that can find Russian names in the Latin or Crillic alphabet set Yandex apart. A predictive text that guesses words while you type in Russian and corrects for case, and the option to enter passwords in both the Crillic and Latin alphabets all come together to provide a firmware that makes much more sense for these users. What the kit offers is more than just a good way to compete with Google, Yandex has created the alternative Android firmware that the people in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Turkey deserve.
For other markets the company says they are “happy to offer a set of key services that are essential for creating firmware.” Unlike Google, Yandex is not bent on plastering their name everywhere, and they have a great system for sharing and distributing profits. They give device makers the ability to customize their own app store, which can feature the device maker’s own apps and branding. The revenue scheme through Yandex.Store gives a cut to the device provider and splits the rest 70/30 between app developers and itself.
The firmware is ready to go in all the standard ways as well as some innovative ones, including a smart dialer which provides caller ID info mined from the Yandex Business Directory, synchronization with Google accounts, customizable web browser, maps, and cloud storage. Best of all, it is free. Better than free actually; since device makers get the extra incentive of revenue sharing on apps. This new approach has the potential to attract not only the company’s local market in Russia, but a number of newer or smaller OEMs.
Two well-established OEMs have already signed on with the new Russian firmware kit; Huawei of China and the Russian device maker Explay. Both are set to launch new Android devices in Russia next month. Thanks to the Android Open Source Project Foundation, competitors have a chance at providing an alternative to firmware, and in the case of Yandex, can use it to customize an experience for a portion of the market poorly served by Google’s Play Store.
By Mimi Mudd