Not very long ago, if you wanted a quality smart device that was truly designed for finger use, your best choice was Apple‘s iPhone. The slick interface and available apps made it a pleasure to use in a wide variety of empowering applications. The heart of the iPhone was the Apple designed operating system, now dubbed iOS. And since that time, iOS has crawled onto a tablet, creating a new and successful market for the truly finger friendly devices.
Now there’s a new choice in town, and it is growing seemingly by the day. That choice is called Android, and if very recent history is any indication, Android is going to soon rule the smart phone market. But not only are smart phones coming under its control – already there are many Android tablets for sale on a market that until earlier this year did not even exist.
At this point it might seem that the new kid on the block, Android, is going to take the market and run. While that is true in many ways, there are nonetheless many reasons why Android is simply not as good as iOS. In fact, there are 10 reasons that come to mind rather quickly. Let’s take a look at them.
1. The major draw for the manufacturer to use Android is a matter of economics – it’s free.
That shiny new Android phone on the market is an Android phone more than likely because the OS was free to the manufacturer. There was not a technological impetus to producing an Android product, only a fast economical one. And Android is hot right now, so why shouldn’t they hop in the Android pool. But the distinction is an important one, and something to keep in mind when the market is saturated with Android devices.
This is unlike an iOS device, where the OS itself is tweaked for each product.
2. The iOS device is a technology company’s device, not a carrier’s device.
If you go buy an Android smart phone today, you are more than likely buying a product from a telecommunications company, NOT a technology company. And what does a telecom want to sell you? More of its product. The typical Android phone is covered in the telecom’s logo, and it is loaded with bloatware that you cannot get rid of without rooting the device (and possibly voiding the warranty).
The Apple iPhone, on the other hand, is an iPhone from Apple. Through negotiations with AT&T, the iPhone and iPad stay true as an Apple product. Whether you get it from Apple or AT&T, there is no difference, and no additional AT&T bloat. It will be interesting to see if that holds true in the case of a Verizon iPhone, but I am all in favor of telecoms selling data services, not rebranded and manipulated products.
3. Android is not always designed for the device.
Let’s face it – that Android device you see on the web page may or may not have been designed for that particular hardware. The best example of this is probably the Android tablets that you can buy offshore today. Despite Google’s recommendation that tablets need Android version 3 to be practical, you can find tablets that run the gamut on their operating system version, with varying degrees of usability.
In comparison again, iOS is hardware specific on its release data. You quickly know which devices are compatible, and which ones are not, as recommended by Apple.
4. The producer of Android already has another OS in the wings.
Google is responsible for Android, that much I think we can agree upon. But what about their other OS, Chrome? Do you think that Google is going to continue to show Android love when they are pushing their latest and greatest? And why would you even consider a smartphone OS from a company that has already exited the phone business (Nexus One, anybody)? Once again, the attraction of Android is that it is free. But to Google it’s already old news.
In contrast, iOS is the current darling of one of the largest technological companies in business today. Apple has been responsive to changes, improving with each release in a consistent manner. In fact, Apple has a lot of its future riding on iOS, and it shows. But to Google, Android is only an experiment. Which one would you rather bank on?
5. An Android device will always be a moving target
So, Android is free, we’ve stated that. And it is wildly popular. So it makes sense for manufacturers to scoop it up and run with it. But six months down the road, all of the manufacturers start to look similar. So, how does one stand out in the crowd? They up the hardware, trying to outdo company X. But the basic OS is still the same as the competitors, so they have to tweak it to make it work. What version of the tweak do you need for what phone in which hardware configuration? Given the rapid change of the mobile industry, this makes hunting down drivers for Windows child’s play.
With iOS, Apple owns the hardware and the software. Both of these are built up from the ground floor for each other, so to speak. A hardware change is not reliant on a third party’s interpretation of how the OS should work, only to be potentially broken when an OS release is made. The end result? With the different hardware, you may or may not be able to get the latest version of the OS – it all depends if the manufacturer wants to tweak the new OS version.
6. Platform fracturing and resulting developer support
With all of those different smart device configurations on the market under the Android banner, it would seem that developers would have a rough time trying to write software for the devices. And that is the case – there is simply too much out there (and coming out each week) to take advantage of properly. So, the best a developer that is hoping to hit a sizable market can do, is to code for the lowest common denominator – the hardware aspects that they hope will be in the majority of devices. This ends up making the Android app market less than ideal for quality games and utilities.
Of course there will always be exceptions. The popular products that achieve decent market share will get the apps from the big names. And there will always be the brave soul that writes an app out of principle instead of profit. But overall fracturing of the devices on a given OS leads to poorer developer support and weaker software offerings.
With iOS the products are coming from a single source, which lets you tweak it to a fine degree without the fear of an unknown hardware combination. This lets the developer take advantage of the high end features, while still maintaining a good market share.
7. No recognizable brand
Quick, name a couple nice Android devices you would like to have. Chances are you may have said something like “Droid” or “HTC Desire HD”. But that is the problem – nobody buys an Android phone – they buy a branded phone from a manufacturer. Today’s Droid runs Android – the Droid III XL could conceivably run WebOS. The end user would not take note, but all of those apps they have accumulated in the 3 months in between would suddenly not work.
In contrast, iOS is at the heart of the Apple mobile strategy, and it is the one that the manufacturer of the device is going to stay with because they own both.
8. Non-standard interfaces can confuse casual users
So, Grandma has a shiny new Android with an interface that has been tweaked by the carrier that sold it to her. Not being up to date on technology, you show her how to get to her stuff, and how to view videos of the grandkids. But grandma dropped it in the toilet, and now she needs to get a new phone. But that was two months ago, and that phone is no longer available, but the new version is. So she gets it, and the interface has now been updated due to the latest OS update and new hardware. Expect a call from Grandma.
With iOS, you won’t find the fast changes from the competitors trying to outdo each other in the marketplace. Apple innovates, but at a regular pace. So chances are Grandma will be fine with the new phone. And if not – well, they call it a Genius bar for a reason (sometimes it is genius to use their free help), so you can point grandma there.
9. Open source derived market not very strong in buyers
My friends, there is no easy way to say this, so let me just put it out there. At this time, the Android market is not a great place for developers. Android, having its roots in open source (it is free to the manufacturers, after all), seems to have carried that to the users. There are many free Android apps of varying quality, but in my research the market is not friendly unless you are a big name with a lot of recognition. A small time developer with a lot of innovation may never get enough recognition (translate: money) for their first product version to warrant another.
The iOS app market, on the other hand, is well known to be friendly to both large and small developers. After all, where else can small fortunes be made from fart apps?
10. Uneven distribution of Android versions
When you buy a new Android smart device, you are not sure which version of OS the product is running without some research. And without even more research, along with a gut feeling, you are not sure if it will be able to run the next version. So, are you sure you want to buy that device and invest in some apps that may be dead in the water with your next phone upgrade? No wonder the paid Android app market is a bit on the weak side.
Tablets are even a bigger concern, with devices being released today that probably should have never seen the light of day with that OS version. When it comes to a given Android OS version, there is no sure way of knowing where you are at in the OS lifetime pyramid due to the many possibilities of market influences, hardware changes, and OS provider tweaks.
This is where iOS shines. By having both operating system and hardware from the same source, you know it is going to work together. Sure, a few years out you may not be able to run the latest and greatest, but that should be expected – it is not happening several times a year.
There are more reasons why I think iOS has the upper hand when it comes to providing the most bankable smart device, but I will stop at ten. I see Android devices much like I do a circus in town – you can definitely find something entertaining and fun to look at there, but I wouldn’t want to join the extended family.