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Tech-Recipes Debates: Apple’s iOS vs Google’s Android

We geeks here at tech-recipes are constantly arguing about something or another. We have decided to post these internal debates for everybody to enjoy. One of most recent and lengthy discussions was exploring which mobile OS was the best — iOS or Android.

Brief introductions:
David Kirk and Quinn McHenry are the original founders of tech-recipes. Jimmy Selix (seamonkey420) and Rob Rogers (shamanstears) are two of our infamous authors/moderators.

David Kirk: It’s hard to discuss the mobile operating systems without briefly discussing the hardware. I believe iOS sits on the the best hardware. From design to polish, the iPhone is the best designed mobile phone (and the iPad, the best tablet) on the planet. From the combination of battery life, accuracy of the touch screen, resolution, and durability — the iOS devices are much better than the Android devices.

Jimmy Selix: Android’s ecosystem of devices allow the lower income sect to have access to a smartphone and in turn allow for a wider variety of devices. Not everyone can afford a $200 phone. Have $75 and if you want a keyboard, you can get one.

David Kirk: Ouch, you know I want an iPhone hardware keyboard. Low Blow.

Rob Rogers: Android has more carriers to choose from: you are not just locked into AT&T and Verizon (thankfully!). Also, there more hardware choices with greater options and different cost levels.

David Kirk: I’m unsure that different cost levels is a selling point. Do you say a Ford is better than a BMW because it has cheaper options?

Rob Rogers: I’m not sure how opting for a larger or smaller screen, or a slide-out keyboard equates to a Ford/BMW comparison.

David Kirk: Although personally I couldn’t care less about screen size, I do see how some people might want a different size. Of course, the different screen sizes have caused a lot of problems for developers. There are devices running a huge range of resolutions… which leads to more fragmentation. Dang, you guys with your slide-out keyboards!

Speaking of fragmentation, Angry Birds developers have mentioned it several times:

“So many different shops, so many different models. The carriers messing with the experience again. Open but not really open, a very Google centric ecosystem. And paid content just doesn’t work on Android.”

Rob Rogers: As Apple increases hardware features, iOS fragmentation will increase as well. It’s unavoidable. Android is more fragmented because it can be run such a diverse range of hardware.

How much have you used an Android device? Both Jimmy and I have put in plenty of time using both operating systems. David Kirk: I used an Xperia X10 for several weeks. The screen wasn’t very sensitive and I didn’t like how it tried to integrate my life with google, facebook, twitter, and other stuff. The screen was almost as pretty as the iPhone. The camera was better in some ways and worse in others. Some of it was a software issue, some of it was hardware issues. Sadly, I couldn’t update the software because the Xperia update wasn’t available. I couldn’t imagine if I was trying to develop for the device only to learn that the phone maker hadn’t made an OS version for that specific hardware yet.

I’ve used several other devices for brief periods of time. Several of my friends have Android devices as well. I’ve helped them fix things and such. The experiences are very different among the various Android devices. Trying to explain to people why their Android device doesn’t run Angry Birds very well is always an interesting discussion. I will concede that you and Jimmy have used iOS devices more extensively than I have used Android ones.

Jimmy Selix: As for the Xperia, I can’t say that its a very high quality Android phone to compare to an iPhone. A Nexus One is a much better comparison as is a Droid X or Evo 4g. HTC hardware can compete to Apple in terms of quality and fit and finish.

David Kirk: Moving away from hardware, Apple’s customer support is superior to all other hardware companies. If you have a problem with your iPhone or want to learn how to do xyz task with your iPad, the Apple store provides excellent customer support. For example, Apple ranks super high in customer service.

Jimmy Selix: I have no rebuttal on customer service since Apple’s is top notch. Bar none. The developer/hacker community on the Android side is hard to rival though; the innovations and features they introduce to older phones are amazing.

David Kirk: App safety on Android is a concern to me. The rigorous application process insures that fraudulent, evil apps are not placed into the public. Android market (markets?!?!) certainly can contain evil.

Jimmy Selix: True, but there have been reports of bad apple approved apps too though. Consumers have to be wary of apps and what permissions they are granting to them. Just like in life, one can’t just assume.

In regards to app piracy, iOS has the same issues with jailbroken devices. It’s just as easy if you’re that type of person. Android does see a few malicious apps in the wild, but also in turn users see some amazing apps that normally wouldn’t be approved on iOS device! One example is clockwork mod which a custom rom and recovery manager. You won’t see as many power tools like that for iOS devices.

Rob Rogers: I love the complete customization of the Android homescreen. You can truly make your phone your own instead of having the same “generic look with a wallpaper” that iPhone offers. Plus, the homescreen widgets give you quick access to information without having to open an app. The non-invasive notification system is superior: Android notifies, iOS interrupts. ‘Nuff said. Jimmy Selix: The notification system on android makes iOS look like WM6 except WM6 even had a better notification system. My biggest complaint with the iPhone invasion was the elimination of exterior color leds to notify one of a message or missed call. It’s turned us into OCD phone checkers. Android hasn’t really pushed this either. The Nexus One and a few of other select devices use a trackball notification LED. However, the drawer notification bar in Android is very nice for instant notifications and also missed ones. Whats Apple’s solution? A popup? Really? What year is it again? 1995? Can we get the BLINK tag back too? 😉

Oh yea, +1 for Android on out of the box usb mass storage mode. Also, iOS doesn’t even know what its missing in the Google line of apps: Skymap, Gmail, Reader, Voice, Tracks, and a free and good turn-by-turn navigation with some offline cache options and traffic overlays.

David Kirk: I agree that the Google’s turn-by-turn navigation on the Android rocks. There is no technical reason why they couldn’t port that over to iOS. They’ve just decided to use that as a marketing ploy.

Jimmy Selix: I view Android as the more hacker friendly platform. The fact that my HTC Nexus One is still in the top tier of premium phones and its over a year old says a lot. It still rivals the iPhone 4 in specs. On tmobile it even has a faster 3g connection w/hspda support. I love features such as true image backup of your device via NAND backups. I can switch from a fully setup customized rom via Rom Manager and a recovery image on the fly in less than 5 minutes. Again, this probably is a null fact for the general public but its a beautiful thing for us phone geeks.

David Kirk: Older iPhones will still run the latest versions of iOS. Both OSs have done a good job keeping older hardware usable. That being said, many Android phones can’t be upgraded because the hardware manufacturer has decided not to take the effort to port the latest version of Android for their device. This gets us back into Android fragmentation.

Quinn McHenry: From an app developer’s perspective, people who want cheap/free devices aren’t going to shell out even a buck for an app. Despite the inevitable flood of cheaper Android devices, high end developers are not going to be as motivated to dig through the mess of different screen resolutions, dozens of OS revisions plus carrier customizations, and a shoddy SDK to write killer apps. The net for Android users is a draught of creative and professional apps.

Jimmy Selix: ‎ Agreed. Android users often are looking for the free, ad supported type apps. This does deter quite a few good apps from making it to Android. However, cross platform development has started to become more and more standard with startups such as springpad, dropbox, etc.

David Kirk: For the iPhone or iPad, I can get Korg apps, for example, that do the exact same thing as their musical instruments. Twenty-something dollar app that performs like a $200-$500 piece of hardware!

Android’s market doesn’t make squat:

“According to a chart making the rounds from UK-based research firm IHS, Android Market revenues in 2010 came in at an estimated $102 million, up from $11 million the year before. And how did that compare to revenues from Apple’s App Store? Apple App Store revenues came in at an estimated $1.7 billion in 2010, almost 20 times bigger than Android.”

Jimmy Selix: Very good points. Android market is not a money market for devs and probably never will. However, as overall phone intelligence rises in consumers using Android, this could change. We also should see a defragmentation of the OS’s ecosystem soon too w/2.2 being a base and honeycomb/gingerbread. At some point, Android will have to cut off the older devices/OSs like all other mobile OSs have. The fact that you can still upgrade a phone that’s considered to be greatly outdated in this market is pretty cool.

David Kirk: Speaking of money, how do you feel about Apple’s subscription model?

Jimmy Selix: The new subscription model is pretty ugly and draconian. That is one thing that I’ve noticed quite a bit in the last 3 years is that apple is locking down its ecosystem of software more and more and dictating what devs and users can or cannot do with their devices. I personally think they are going to alienate several online music services and web services. I don’t like where they are going at all with this subscription model. Imagine if amazon got fed up with it and said goodbye and abandoned iOS as a platform (very unlikely but just imagine). Google is still the lesser of the evils in my opinion. Basically, with the subscriptions they are just saying “you make an app with a purchase system, you have to make it also be purchasable in the app, and in turn we can make small percentage on each of your transactions.” Seems like a double-dip type of thing.

David Kirk: Apple is locking down the subscription model just like it locked down the music market. The fact that they can do this shows how little money people with Androids are willing to spend for apps. If google has the same service and doesn’t take 30% cut, why aren’t all the developers fleeing to Android? It’s because there is no money there.

Plus, all of us at tech-recipes should know how tough it is to produce great content for ad revenue alone. Don’t be scared of people trying innovative ways to make money on what we do.

Jimmy Selix: For me, its more of a personal thing in regards to iOS vs Android. There is great difference in the ideologies of the companies. I feel the mobile phone industry is much like the original home pc market (which really was started by hackers since IBM / HP never thought consumers wanted a home pc but saw mainframes as the end solution).

Apple knows profits, bar none. No one can argue against that, but they are not indestructible. They’ve fallen once and could fall again. Jobs is a key reason why they are so successful; he is full of an all encompassing vision that he can actually employ.

That being said, we’ve seen some big players fall after owning the sect/market (palm, nokia, aol, apple in the 1990s, etc). I still find it ironic that Microsoft saved Apple.

David Kirk: Apple is indestructible as Google is. Apple has hardware, OS X, iOS, and the music store. That’s as good of a foundation as it gets. Google has Android, search, maps, and gmail. Both have a bunch of extra stuff, but those are really the foundations.

Speaking of Google, they make most of their money via advertising. Some people believe the more they know about you, the more they make. Should it bother us that they know everything in our email and everything in our mobile devices? That’s as potentially evil as Apple’s wanting a percentage of everything.

I see a lot of comparison between Windows and Android. Both are more customizable and cheaper than the Apple equivalent. It’s like American muscle cars… easier to tweak, easier to mod, easier to break. Comparing a muscle car to a Honda; the Honda just works and works and works.

Jimmy Selix: I like the car analogy. And I drive a Honda even. hehe.. 😉

David Kirk: Let’s conclude with a reversal. Tell me what you like about iOS devices such as the iPhone and iPad, and I concede the positive points about Android in return.

Jimmy Selix: iOS is superior in that it has a fleshed out ecosystem of apps, music, video delivery. Quality of hardware is bar none the best and in turn since apple controls hardware it allows for one app to work on all devices and makes developing for so much easier.

Ease of use of the OS is another one. iOS set the bar in regards to a mobile OS UI and also in its accurate touchscreen. Nexus One is close but the iPhone still just feels better.

iOS has a wider range of apps and you see a ton more of the premium, full blown software. There is also a much greater return for developers too.

iOS is a more closed (minus jailbreaking) and controlled system for apps and approvals. There is less likely chance of a malicious app making its way around the market.

Lastly, the fact that the technologies that apple introduces in their phones and OS actually get used and are well done is very impressive. Tons of phone makers add apps to their phones but most of them are not well done or just aren’t useful. Apple educates it users on what their software/hardware can do and users actually take advantage of it.

David Kirk: Android is open. As a developer if you want to release an app to the entire Android world, it’s very easy to do so. You can write apps that tweak the device without limits or even applications that are tasteless and uncensored. Android developers are not limited by Apple’s aggressive rules and limits.

iOS devices are purposefully limited by Apple in order to provide the best user experience. However, is Jimmy’s or Rob’s desired “best user experience” exactly the same as mine? For example, many Android devices have Adobe flash capabilities while iOS devices do not. Even those flash may be buggy and drain battery life, at least Android users have that freedom to choose. iOS devices, by design, are limited.

Apple devices are all premium hardware and thus are relatively expensive. Apple is consistent and predictable. However, the openness of Android allows it to be installed on a huge range of devices that greatly vary in quality, features, and price. Such devices, for example, provide internet access to many groups of people who previously could not afford it. Likewise, Android has premium hardware providers that design devices that do rival and exceed Apple’s specs.

As we discussed, “iOS versus Android” or “Apple versus Google” are complex decisions for many people. I’ll try to conclude with an analogy.

Microsoft previously crushed Apple in the world of computer operating systems. Most people would agree that Windows is more customizable, more tweak-able, and offers more variety that Apple’s operating system. However, as the Windows OS grew more complex, more people wanted a computer that “just worked” without needing to get under the hood and fix problems all the time. As Apple’s software and hardware simplified and focused in this direction, it has rapidly grown in popularity.

iOS takes the simplified system even further putting limits on all aspects of the mobile experience in an attempt to perfect it. Google’s Android system, interestingly enough, is more similar to the Microsoft Windows OS. It’s more open, it’s more free, and consequently the user experience is not as polished, not as perfect.

The correct balance is likely a personal, even philosophical, decision. It’s certainly open for discussion.

Jimmy, Rob, Quinn, and I can be found discussing other topics like this over in the tech-recipes blogs. Thanks for reading. Feel free to continue the discussion in the comment section below.

David Kirk
David Kirk
David Kirk is one of the original founders of tech-recipes and is currently serving as editor-in-chief. Not only has he been crafting tutorials for over ten years, but in his other life he also enjoys taking care of critically ill patients as an ICU physician.


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