The debate rages on regarding which smartphone software is the best. There are only two powerful players in the market worth giving the time of day to, and those are Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android.
As if it were a political election, some companies and their respective fans, mock the others’ views and devices in an effort to propel their own. Android hardware manufacturer, Samsung, which is ironically being sued by Apple for copying its product, is the biggest culprit with their Galaxy commercials. Then there are always the “Apple fanboy” comments, which can be found in most comment sections below Apple/Android articles and even in news sources on the internet. But, let’s put all the bickering aside and focus on the real issues. What really matters is which software is better, and how it interacts with hardware. Here is the analysis:
Android’s software is open source technology that anyone has access to. If you can design/manufacture hardware, you can install Android on your phone – for free. There are caveats to this, but we aren’t going to dig into those details now. Because Android is open source, many, many companies have installed it on their devices and are now selling it to consumers around the world. Samsung, Amazon, Huawei, Barnes and Noble, Motorola, Google, and HTC are the top Android providers currently.
Since Android is open source technology each of the companies using it have tweaked and configured the software to their liking. This has some benefits, but a major downfall. The upside, the consumer has a little more choice; they can select from several different homepage/UI designs as a result of the tweaks completed by the manufacturers. The downside, what you buy is what you get. As an Android user, you are not guaranteed access to the major upgrades of the software which means you do not get new features, and in some cases new apps. Reason being, although the “foundation” of all these Android products is the same, the tweaking has literally turned them into different versions that are no longer on an ever-green platform. Android is slowly but surely moving towards the Apple iOS strategy of uniform updates for all devices, but this will likely take a couple of years. Also, because Android is open source it means it is more vulnerable to malware attacks.
Android is not responsible for launching new phones. This is strictly up to the manufacturers’ discretion. And since more companies use the Android software, Android phones are popping up like weeds in a garden. The new phones attempt, and sometimes succeed at pushing innovation further. For instance, Android powered devices were the first to support 4G LTE. This is excellent in theory, but when the sun goes down, the quality of Android devices will always be a hit or miss. Some phones (namely the Samsung Galaxy SIII) make your mouth drool with excitement, but others phones have significant issues or lack or support.
APPLE iOS SOFTWARE:
Apple’s iOS is proprietary software that is locked down, which makes it very secure – yet less configurable. Apple has very strict policies on what applications they will allow into their app store.
Apple’s technology, while not being the most widely used, is the most popular software for developers to create content for. Why? Because developers can easily make their apps backwards compatible, meaning most apps are available to just about 100% of people that use iProducts (iPod, iPhone, and iPad). That means a massive market to buy the apps, which means more money for the developers, and also better apps for iPhone users. While the iOS is locked down, there are few limits to what developers can do or include in their apps – namely porn, malware, and illegal streaming of information.
Apple releases 2-3 major software updates a year to keep their products fresh, and these updates are typically available to most Apple devices, if not all.
Since the first iPhone was released in June of 2007, Apple has released an average of one per year. Their hardware technology has always been top notch as well as reliable. Until the release of the Samsung Galaxy SIII (released in summer of 2012), no screen could match that of the iPhone with regards to clarity and quality. Apple’s strategy towards hardware is to focus on a few essential elements for their phones, and make them perfect.
They have succeeded at being ahead of the curve, but only where it matters. An example of this is support for 4G LTE. The lack of LTE in iPhones has been a point competitors won’t let go of. But why did Apple not include LTE in their phones? Well, because their market research – which was right – helped them understand that a better camera or faster phone is far more important than LTE. Yes, LTE is faster but you can already stream Netflix and YouTube on 3G with little to no buffer. Apple’s iPhone 5 will support LTE.
As a result of the different software strategies pursued by Apple and Android, 80% of Apple iOS users are on the latest software available, compared to 4% of Android users.
Who wins this battle? Apple. As phones are supposed to last two years (per most contracts) your phone should be able to last that long without its software being overly outdated. To date, Android cannot provide this, minus a several phones (out of the hundreds of Android phones and devices available).
For this battle, Apple wins by a slim margin. While more Android operated phones are released at a quicker pace, the uncertainty of the product compared to the high reliability of iPhones trumps the advantage of more devices. It is important to mention that Apple’s iPhone 4 had a serious issue with reception when held a certain way which was resolved in a completely unorthodox matter, traditional to that of Steve Jobs. Regardless, Apple’s products have consistently been more reliable.