The Android vs iOS debate has developed into quite a battle between the two best mobile operating systems to date. The main question is, which one is better?
In general, the good side of Android is that it is a wonderful open environment, which allows users to engage in high mobile customization. Meanwhile, people think of iOS as being simple, functional and beautiful.
On to the negative side, some see Android as ridden by viruses, while Apple binds and cripples iOS.
Let’s compare the two mobile operating systems in terms of the following categories (in alphabetical order): Apps, Customization, Google Play and Apple App Store, Mobile Hardware, Phone, Usability, Video and Music, and Web-browsing, sending emails, and messaging.
Both Google and Apple talk a lot to the press about the number of apps in their stores. However, there are so many apps for both stores that virtually all the favorite third-party apps, such as Angry Birds, Evernote and Dropbox, can be found in both of them.
At last count (2010), Android has around 100,000 apps compared to iTunes’ 350,000, but a recent study by Lookout reveals that Android’s market is growing 3 times faster than Apple’s App Store.
iOS and Android have essentially an equal number of apps available, numbering in the hundred thousandths. However, iOS stands out because it sets specific rules for design and follows a strict approval procedure. This keeps it from having Android’s problems.
Android has to deal with problems such as spyware, virus, copied apps, and apps that are too simple, which are due to the lack of requirements for compatibility, and there are no design rules for the general interface.
iOS only allows you to customize ringtones and wallpapers, keeping the basic interface the same for all its smartphones. In contrast, Android allows users to customize almost every important phone aspect, including screen effects, widgets and user interface designs. In addition, Android allows basic customization, such as alarm sounds, ringtone and wallpapers.
Most modern smartphones don’t rely on brilliant hardware and awesome design to stay alive. They need to have great apps. The creation of Google Play and Apple’s App market led to the clobbering of such phone brands as RIM, Nokia and HP. The question is which app market is better?
When it comes to developers, there are four times as many for iOS than for the Android market. Perhaps this is because studies show that owners of Apple devices are more likely to purchase apps.
There is a faster adoption of iOS versions, much higher than any of Android’s recent versions can. Each month, 45 percent of iPod Touch and iPhone users buy at least one app, while for Android, the number is just 19 percent.
With regards to Google’s and Apple’s cloud service, iCloud (by Apple) allows you to keep all the apps you purchased in all of your Apple devices. Google does it better on many occasions. For one, when you’re in the desktop store, you can directly install apps to any of your devices from there.
While developers prefer making apps for Apple, Android has an irresistible number of users that are attracting a lot of developers as well.
Apple now only sells three kinds of smartphones: the iPhone 3GS, the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 4S. These are the only three base models among its several storage configurations. Apple also sells the iPad tablet and the iPod Touch portable music player.
On the other hand, Android has close to 40 phones available in the United States. With regards to tablets, there are only four noteworthy brands: the Dell Streak 7, the Samsung Galaxy Tab, the HTC Flyer and the Motorola XOOM. Other devices from Toshiba, LG, and Samsung are poised to become significant tablets as well.
Both iOS and Android have awesome features to manage contacts and calls. Controls are clear, easy to use and big. For both mobile operating systems, these features sync to online accounts (iCloud for iOS and Google Account for Android).
There are many articles written complaining about the poor performance of Android devices, app usability, interface designs, and an overall lack of pleasure with the entire Android system.
Perhaps these complaints are from iOS users who switched to Android devices and were dissatisfied. Perhaps there is a deeper reason behind this dissatisfaction. The best way to compare the two devices is to set up a usability test and see which comes out on top.
In terms of usability, researchers from Spyrestudios.com concluded that current versions of iOS and Android are quite similar, given the apps used for testing. However, one must consider that for both platforms, there are well-designed apps that are very easy to use, and there are poorly designed ones as well.
Hardware, on the other hand, makes the difference. There are many Android phones with high quality hardware, but there are also poor ones with awful specs. Admittedly, Apple products generally have well-designed and high quality hardware.
Nevertheless, test results show that the right combination of software and hardware, both mobile OS can offer great usability. In many instances, it all boils down to personal preference.
Apple dominates with the iTunes music store, containing over 13 million songs. It is the top digital music firm in the United States. Google hasn’t even started yet, but for Android, the search company now has a cloud-based music service. Sanjay Jha, chief executive of Motorola Mobility, mentioned before that Google will launch a music service soon. The service is now up and called Google Music.
Apple dominates the video scene as well, with a huge selection of TV shows and movies found on iTunes. For now, Android relies on third party video services.
Both platforms use the paramount advantages of HTML 5 and highly useful Web applications. Where they differ is in dealing with Adobe Flash. Apple won’t use Flash. It prompts websites to adopt H.264 video with an mp4 wrapper. Flash is the most popular video format in the Web, but now, the issue of Apple refusing to use it is not as big as it was back then. A report by Encoding.com reveals that 78 percent of its clients encode in iOS-compatible mobile video formats.
iOS uses a built-in Safari web browser. It doesn’t support apps which replace core apps. For system-wide functions, you have to use the integrated web browser and e-mail. You can download other e-mail apps, like Gmail for iOS, but clicking e-mail links in a web browser or game will lead to the default e-mail.
One great thing about iOS is iMessage, which is free messaging to other iOS devices.
A built-in Chrome web browser is present in Android devices, though there are other browsers available in the Android market.
In addition, Android’s Gmail client is excellent, but you can also use other email clients, many of them supporting prevalent message functions. Furthermore, Android notifications make it easy to alert users about new messages and it’s easy to reply to text messages.
Just to keep track of the score, its 2 wins for Android, 2 wins for iOS and 4 draws in this Android vs iOS matchup. It’s a tie for both OS, given the limitations of this comparison (for one, weights across categories were not evaluated).
Pro-Android users argue that Android is now better than iOS for a myriad of reasons. One is that iOS is a simple, closed system, protecting users from unfamiliar apps and features, while Android has numerous options, features and lots of flexibility. They also say that Apple is just very good at marketing.
Pro-iOS users say that iOS is great because of its consistency, a well-designed, intuitive, user interface, no crapware, better battery life and management, among others.
As previously mentioned, it ultimately boils down to personal preference, and honestly, it’s hard to change the minds of iOS or Android users one way or another, because each has its own strong points and has been very successful. For Android vs iOS, better is relative.