One of the fiercest rivalries in the tech world today is the ongoing feud between Google and Apple over control for the soul of the smartphone. Despite ostensibly designing the first true smartphone with 2007’s iPhone, Apple doesn’t enjoy the majority market share that Google’s Android does today. What’s the deal with the Android versus iOS feud? Which of the two big operating systems is better for you, and why?
Today, we’re going to look at the two OS’s, what makes them different, and whether you should be “taking a side” in this battle. We’ll be looking at features, phones and corporate cultures in order to give you a full picture of the battle of the smartphones.
Google and Apple have very different design strategies when it comes to their operating systems. Much like Apple’s own Mac line of computers, iPhones operate in a sort of “walled garden.” There’s less software available on Apple products overall, but the company curates the selection very diligently. Ostensibly, you won’t find shovelware on the App Store, nor will you be at any risk of ever happening upon a virus.
However, with Apple, you’re stuck playing inside the wall: you’ll likely not find the same breadth of customization and modularity you see on Android. Google’s more hands-off approach to their OS has made it very wide-ranging in appeal: manufacturers from Samsung to Huawei all create phones that run on some variation of the Android OS. The more open, customizable user interface of Android is more popular with some users who like to fine-tune their own experience.
“It Just Works”
Apple is often described as “high technology for people with low tech tastes,” and this is often true in practice. Apple’s products tend to be bleeding edge, top-of-the-line, and terribly expensive. Their user interface tends to be easy-to-navigate and aesthetically pleasing, and people who even have little tech knowledge are usually able to easily find what they’re looking for. In short, it just works.
Android is a different story. Less tech-savvy users might find it difficult to navigate Android’s more open-ended operating system: there is little structure or direction unless the phone manufacturer has installed their own proprietary launcher. Launcher, in turn, can be downloaded for any Android device to help tailor your phone more explicitly to your tastes and preferred experience.
This might come as a surprise to Android users, or be a strange statement if you’re an iOS user, but the iOS platform only has one app store. It’s just called the App Store, and it’s locked down tight. Apple strictly controls what can be put up for sale or download on the App Store, meticulously combing for any potential security threats to their users. Viruses on Apple devices are literally unheard of for this reason.
Likewise, Apple users might be shocked to hear that Android devices actually have several third-party app stores available. As such, viruses are a reality on Android devices. They’re far from common, and you’d be hard-pressed to get one unless you were being careless, but they’re still a cause for some concern. The more pressing reality of Android’s open-ended style is that more apps are allowed in, but there’s less quality control.
Cognitive Load and User Functionality
On a more academic note, researchers have found that Apple’s clean, no-frills design ethos lessens cognitive load when using their devices when compared to Android. Android home screens can be done up with tons of widgets and information, making them significantly more likely to overwhelm some users.
However, this isn’t to say Android is inferior: far from it! However, Android and iOS are simply designed for different types of buyers. In the end, Android remains more popular primarily because it’s available on a wider variety of devices. Further, those devices run the gamut from high-end flagship phones to budget handsets, while Apple’s iOS is only available on the premium-priced iPhone line.