A very huge article. Please bear with me. I’m not sure if I should even call this a review, but you can read on. It’s very informative!
The roots of the battle
The whole thing started when Apple launched its App store back in 2008, which took the mobile app world by storm. It was the first time third-party applications were given such a large platform on the mobile, and something which turned the consumer’s focus from hardware and in-built software to third-party apps availability, since that was the future. Not only did it increase people’s interest in app development and its benefits, it also was a way in which people could show their creativity and entrepreneurship skills in a totally different and untouched market, meaning infinite opportunities. And people did go for it. They made apps, and they made a fortune from them. The only problem was that the iPhone – the only device which had app store support back then – was too expensive for everyone to buy.
Then came along Google, which had bought android. And using the immense power of the internet at its disposal, it quickly gained popularity and support for Android. Developers started flowing in, and making apps. But Google’s approach to Android was different from that of Apple. Since Android was open-source and Google did not produce hardware of its own, other companies looking to enter the market and compete with the iPhone, such as Samsung, HTC, and Motorola adopted the platform and gave it their own look and feel. Samsung created TouchWiz, HTC came up with HTC Sense, and Motorola created MotoBlur.
Android became immensely popular due to its reach and affordability, since it could be used even in low-end devices, making it available to the bigger market. Google released Android Market, which was the Android counterpart of App store. It was a runaway hit. Even normal people would buy it and talk about it, since they could lay their hands on it without burning a hole in their pocket.
Apple recently announced its 50 billionth app download. So did Google. It took Google a whole year less than Apple to reach the milestone. Apple announced they had paid $10 billion to developers, while Google said that more money has been paid out to app developers in the first half of this year than it was in all of last year, marking the growth of the Android app market. Here we can say that the competition is still tough. But when we get into details, we see that they have a very different consumer base, and it depends on the funds people have available, because even after you buy the phones, the prices on both the stores differ. And as is obvious, consumers of price sensitive markets will go for products which will, in long-term, cost them less.
The Apple community
The Apple community is comprised of mostly Americans, though it would be wrong to say that people outside America are not interested in the iPhone. But since it costs so high and is not available on contract everywhere, people choose to go for the cheaper option. People who own an Apple device keep it with care partly because it is very delicate and partly because they paid so much for it. The App Store makes much more money than the Play store, since people who buy an iDevice know that they have to spend on apps too, because there is no point buying such a high-end device if you don’t load it with high quality apps.
One thing I can bet on is that the overall quality of paid apps in the App store is superior to that of the Play store. But this doesn’t mean free apps are bad. Most of the hit game titles on the App store are free. On the other hand, no one can deny that the number of free apps on the App store are less than that of Play store.
iDevices are jailbreakable, which means you can install Cydia – the unofficial hacker app store, which gives you access and power which Apple wouldn’t want you to have. Many people choose to go for it, since it increases customization options by multifold. The warranty is void once the device is jailbroken, but if you remove the jailbreak or upgrade iOS (since that also generally clears the jailbreak), your product gets back its warranty.
The Android community
The Android community is much larger than the Apple community, because more people can buy and use Android. Also, since Android is open-source, anyone can create an app for it. Even the customization options are more. The two things people love about it is that its highly customizable, and that it is available in all price ranges. Two things developers and companies like about it is that its open-source and that it has a huge user base, meaning that even if they price the device low, they can earn huge profits.
Of course, high-end Android device prices have now come close to that of iPhone, it is not very hard to say that people might consider putting in those extra 100 dollars and buying an iPhone. Because at the end of the day, if you carry an iDevice, you feel proud too. Apple’s hardware quality is extremely good. No doubt about that.
But there is one factor which may keep Android users from switching – Rooting. Rooting is the same as jailbreaking, except this term is used for Android, since it is based on the Unix architecture, and requires root login (admin login) to carry out administrative tasks such as installing software. Rooting expands the already huge customization options, stepping things up with the ability to boot custom ROMs. These can include ported versions of Android which have not been officially released for that product. This voids warranty too.
Good features of both
I’m not really in a mood to write the bad features, so let’s discuss the good features of both Android phones and iPhones. I doubt I’ll even write the cons in the article.
One thing about Apple which is very respected, is its security net. There are hardly any malicious apps on the App store, and if any app is found to be so, it is immediately removed.
Harder to pirate
How often do you see someone downloading an iPhone app from the internet instead of the App store? It’s nearly impossible to install apps on any Apple device outside of the App store. This comes as an assurance to developers who can rest assured that if someone wants to use their app, they will buy it from the App store.
Android, on the other hand is open-source, so this guarantee does not exist. You can find almost any app on 4shared, and if it’s not there? Torrents. Everything is there. The photoshop app (PS Touch), for example, costs Rs.270. I have it, and I didn’t buy it (sorry Adobe).
I’m not sure if I should even write this, because one can’t judge the quality of apps in two different app stores unless they check out a survey or something. But in my personal view, Apple seems to have better apps. If you look at it more closely, it is actually the vertical integration in the company which creates such smoothness in apps. Since developers know exactly what kind of device they want to run their app on, it makes their job easier.
Devs get paid well.
It is inarguable that developers love coding for Apple because they have a sort of assurance that they are going to get something out of it, since as I already mentioned, it is extremely hard to get apps installed from outside the App store. With their 50 billionth app download, Apple also declared that it had paid $10 billion to developers. That means more than a fifth, since not all apps are paid apps.
Android has an edge over Apple. The main reason is it is open-source. If someone knows how to code it, people who have a million-dollar idea can make it come true without spending even a single buck. The Eclipse IDE (the most popular Android IDE) is downloadable free of cost. Tutorials are available on Google Developers website. The number of people is so high that the idea can be catapulted to match even the biggest players if it is good enough.
Seriously, Android devices range from Rs.5000 to Rs.42000. Whatever your budget, there is one for you. It may not be the highest end, and it may be running the 3 years old Gingerbread, but it still is an Android. And as far as low-spec models are concerned, they are generally the best in their price range.
This is the same for all price ranges now, since BlackBerry is losing customers at an alarming rate thanks to Apple and Google’s corporate friendly efforts, Windows Phone is gaining pace but far too slowly, and iPhones are probably costlier than even the most expensive Android phone out there.
Android is unparalleled when it comes to customization options. Many widgets, custom launchers, et al are already available in the Play store. They are generally free, though the good themes do come for a price (which is not very high). Rooting creates new dimensions in the category, with complete phone overhauls like unofficial ROMs come into the picture.
Size of consumer market
The number of people using Android is so high that even if an app does not cost much, the developer will earn a lot thanks to the sheer number of purchases. This has a perk with it: developers don’t have to sell their app at high costs since the number of potential buyers are is already so high. This keeps the overall prices down.
Ease of development
The reason there are so many apps on the Play store is because it is pretty easy to develop apps for Android. Just yesterday, I was taking a tutorial in Eclipse and I was able to create a kind of application immediately. It had no purpose, and all it did was take a string and display it in the next window. But it was a good experience. For one, I was able to brush-up on my Java skills.
Support from a huge community
I think 90% of all people who own an Android device must have visited XDA Developers at least once. It is that community which actually shows us the reason people love Android – no proprietorship. People keep throwing in mods, and if you go through the mods available for your device, you will be thrilled. Everything from custom kernels to custom ROMs and apps are available. What else can I say? Pay them a visit and check it out!
I’m not going to elaborate much on this, but I am going to state the points
- No customization options
- No file system viewer
- Expensive App stores
- Malware prone
- Lesser quality of apps due to wide variety of devices.
- Bad app performance on low-spec devices
- App compatibility issues
What the future carries (or may carry)
There are different rumors about Apple coming up all the time. We have talks about a cheaper iPhone nowadays, with disgusting looking so-called prototypes. Personally I would hate to see that come to life. It’s going to spoil Apple’s image of being unmatched in the industrial design area. No company has managed to bring another laptop like the MacBook Air to the market.
Android, on the other hand is said to be focusing on low-spec devices now, and rumors are that Key Lime Pie (or Android 5.0) will be optimized for low-power devices. Google is still trying hard to standardize Android to the Holo look.
Let’s see what the future has in store for us.
- Comparing Apples and Googles: the App Store vs. Google Play (infographic) (venturebeat.com)
- Android vs iOS: Google Play Store Reaches 50 Billion Downloads a Year Faster Than The App Store (hngn.com)
- Report: Android app market growing faster than iPhone apps (reviews.cnet.com)