February 17, 2014
Which is better – iOS or Android? Discussion on this topic abounds on the web, and crazy biases exist left and right as people defend their chosen platform and try to strike down the evil competitor. I’m just going to preface this whole post by saying iOS and Android are both pretty darn great. From a user perspective and from an app development perspective, they each do an admirable job, but there is a lot more to say about each than that, and not everything is positive.
I’d like to approach it from both a consumer and an app development perspective, so first let’s run through some general pros and cons from the user-end:
•Apps often come to iOS first: Despite having a relatively tiny market share, iOS devices still tend to see app releases ahead of Android.
•Strict App Policies: iTunes app store uses these policies to keep average app quality high. While great for general consumers, this does mean that Apple is free to decline/remove apps at will, which could be a nuisance to app makers during the submission process, or an outright death sentence for apps that Apple decides not to host.
•Highly Useable: iOS interface is extremely good, and the overall UX does not change drastically from what users are familiar with. On the con side, this manifests as a lack of customization.
•Quality Hardware: iOS is only available on a few devices, but Apple has high standards for those devices and ensures that each device is extremely well made and capable.
•Lack of Customization: In maximizing user friendliness, Apple has created an environment which, for the most part, assumes default settings are good enough for everyone. This is fine for users who would be overwhelmed by having too many options, but frustrating for those who want to personalize their experience.
•Lack of Device Options: At any given time, you really only have 2-3 choices for iPhone, and maybe 2 choices for iPad, and each device is so similar that it’s more akin to choosing an upgrade package than choosing a unique device. If you want, say, a bigger screen, you’re out of luck.
Summary: Apple doesn’t always make the absolute best products, but they never make the worst. The biggest advantage of iOS is that consumers can be confident that the worst aspects of their device will still be adequate, and the majority of their experience will range from good to exceptional.
•Huge Device Variety: Android phones come in all shapes, sizes, and prices. Each manufacturer even runs their own special blend of Android, providing extra features and capabilities. This leads to more competition and faster innovation on the UX front.
•Highly Customizable: Android devices are much more open to tinkering than Apple devices, from downloading a new default font to overhauling the entire user interface, changes are far more accessible on Android.
•Less Restrictive App Policies: Google Play has its own policies, which aren’t nearly as strict as the iTunes store, but Google Play is not the only way to distribute an Android app (though by far the most broad-reaching). If Google Play rejects an app, I can still easily sideload it onto my device from another source, so in a way, there are absolutely no restrictions (see cons).
•Extremely Versatile Software: Android can power many types of devices, not just phones and tablets. Android is being used to control set-top boxes, drones, and various headless devices.
•Android only really has one major con when compared to iOS, but it is spread out over multiple areas, and that is why Android does not always guarantee quality.
•App Quality: Due to lighter restrictions and the possibility to sideload apps easily, Android’s apps are simply not as dependable as iOS. Not to mention that sideloading from disreputable sources is a surefire way to get infected with malicious software.
•Device Quality: A multitude of Android devices are constantly coming out, and most manufacturers don’t have Apple’s stellar reputation when it comes to reliably releasing good products. This applies to both the hardware and the proprietary software provided by those device makers. It also means that some apps aren’t compatible with some devices (though Google Play does a fairly good job tracking this).
Summary: Overall Android simply offers more choices, and requires more research to get optimal results. There are perfectly valid reasons to avoid Android; if you’re happy with iOS, why give up your perfect defaults for the freedom to change Android’s imperfect ones? But if you are willing to put a little more effort into managing your mobile device, you’ll get more out of Android.
As for App Development?
Well, iOS apps still tend to be more lucrative, as Apple users are apparently more willing to shell out cash (insert joke about over-priced hardware here). So even though the Android market is bigger, iOS might make better returns.
A note about iTunes app submission: The approval process is great for its end result, but it’s pretty oppressive, so I can’t really give it glowing praise. For instance, it’s possible that Apple will reject the app outright for unforeseeable reasons, like if the app offers a service that Apple is about to implement natively in the OS; there’s no predicting that, and it completely screws you out of the time and money spent building the app. Obviously that’s not too likely to happen, but the fact that it’s possible bothers me. Other than that, I’ve definitely had occasions where Apple rejected apps based on stupid things like the location of a period in the app title, so that can be pretty annoying to go through and fix.
As far as ease of implementation and technical junk, both iOS and Android have extremely mature SDKs and plenty of API’s available, so it’s not likely that an identical app will be significantly more difficult to create on one platform than the other. Android’s open source nature gives it a slight edge, but in practical smartphone and tablet consumer app scenarios, that doesn’t mean much.
However, note that Android is not limited to those devices. Android is powering all kinds of things, like car multimedia systems and refrigerator displays. In any situation, Android is simply a more flexible platform, so if you need the OS to do some gymnastics in order to get your concept to work, you really don’t have a choice. The more unusual the app idea, the more Android stands out.
So from an app development standpoint, I would summarize the comparison like this: iOS operates in a narrower field, while Android sprawls out over everything. Where they overlap, it’s pretty much neck and neck (and 90 percent of apps fall here), but outside of that there are a lot of things Android can do that iOS can’t.
About the Author: Sakshi Sharma is a mobility strategist for Software Developers India, which offers Mobile & Web App Development Solutions. She really enjoys helping round out your innovative ideas. Connect with her on Twitter
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