Thursday, 13 January 2011

The Mobile War: Google vs Apple

One of the most repeated questions over the last couple of years has been - which mobile-based operating system is best to use. There are many OS’s (Windows Phone 7, webOS, Symbian, etc), but you don't have to think hard to see that Apple iOS and Google Android are the most talked about mobile operating systems and seem to pretty much lead the "Mobile War".

I'm going to start off by telling you that I can't (nor can anyone else) tell you which is definitively better. The reason for this is that they are totally different systems. They were built from the ground up in completely opposite ways and have developed in opposite directions. Apple’s iOS is a “closed” system and Android is an “open” system.
Left: iOS (closed)         Right: Android (open)
This means that there are a lot more applications (apps) available for download on Android. But this sounds very confusing. How can Android have more apps than iOS, when it's app store has only 200,000 compared to iOS's 300,000? This is because on Android you can download an app from virtually anywhere, whereas on iOS, you can only download Apple-approved apps from either the iTunes Store on your computer, or from the App Store on the device itself.

The official 200,000 apps on the Android Market do not include the apps which people have simply posted to their websites ready for download by anyone who wants them. Google do not have to approve the app before it is posted. Android is open! This is great from the developers perspective - you are sure to have your app released. But this prospect also opens up quite a few problems...

Firstly, you are completely open to viruses and malware, and even though Android has a tight and reliable security system, there is no knowing if you are totally safe. And also, there is no guarantee that you are actually downloading the app that the distributor claimed you were. This is really a problem. But it's pretty rare that such a thing should occur and if it does, it wouldn't be so hard to deal with it.

Because Android runs on a number of different kinds of devices (all from different manufacturers) Android has had to be optimised and very often, slightly rewritten in order to run on those devices. There are many different versions of the Android interface that have been created to run/look better on specific kinds of devices.

But for Google, this is a huge advantage. Android (although more than a year younger than iOS) is a much more popular OS. This fact is not related to the capability or functionality of the OS’s. It is more to do with the fact that iOS only runs on Apple devices - you can't have one without the other. Android runs on tens of devices not manufactured by Google (you can even run it on a device that wasn't designed for Android). That raises Google's chances of gaining more users. If the customer doesn't like the Android phone he/she was offered, then the customer can simply chose a different one. If you don't like the iPhone, you simply can't run iOS.

The biggest divide between these Operating Systems is the fact that Android runs (without a fuss) Adobe Flash Player. Apple claims that iOS simply can't handle it, that it would drain the battery in a heartbeat, but nobody knows how true this is, and just how quickly it would drain the battery. Skyfire showed that it was possible when they released their browser app for the iPhone and the iPad, but even so, they haven't been able to create a browser that embeds the content, and it only works for Flash videos. You can't even interact with Flash elements in any shape or form.

Conclusion As I said at the beginning of this article, I'm not here to tell you which one of the Operating Systems is better, I have simply outlined the differences, and the ups and downs of both systems. Having read this, it should become obvious which OS appeals to YOU more, which OS is right for YOU. And the truth is, they are both incredible platforms. The question has many right answers depending on who you are.

If you have an opinion or an addition to anything I have said here, please feel free to add a comment. I am also pleased to have released a mobile version of this blog which allows for easy reading on smartphone devices.



Anonymous said...

Yes agree with your analysis here. I just can't decide. Time will tell I suppose. I could always buy an iPhone and jailbreak it.

Anonymous said...

As a woman I bought an iPhone. That way the phone is locked down and if I have trouble I can get someone to help me. What about Blackberrys - you didn't mention them? That's a closed system surely?

Raffi Maurer said...

Blackberry's OS is also a closed system. I chose to mention Android and iOS mainly because they are generally grouped together. Blackberrys interest me a lot - perhaps they will be a topic for a future post! Raffi

Anonymous said...

I am also a woman who needs no help! I have an android phone and I am very happy. It's all a matter of taste and also one thing you may have missed - cost.

Daniel Ehreich said...

Interesting post - a very clear and dispassionate comparison. The "flash" debate is particularly interesting as it clearly illustrates the difference in philosophy and the strengths of each point of view. Perhaps a topic for a future blog?

Raffi Maurer said...

Just thanking everyone for their comments! Some really great points and suggestions! Raffi

James Nash, Singapore said...

This is not going to be simply a battle of the VHS and Betamax systems - there are many other competitors waiting in the wings which no doubt will give users the choice of a fixed app store with guarantees AND an open system for those who want to take a chance with their security. The market is much bigger than just apple and google.

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