2011.05.02

I’m often torn between the elegance of the Apple User Experience and the freedom offered by, well… pretty much anyone but Apple.

As you probably know, I’m a pretty big supporter of open source (hardware and software) and I’m also a Mac user, and more recently, an iOS user. Apple is pretty damn good at providing a great user experience with their hardware and software, and as it’s often said, most time things “just work” which is important to me, because I use Apple products to make a living.

As far as the freedom thing, I love freedom, and Apple isn’t the leading provider of freedom, so I live a life of conflict. Most of us do in some way… so be it.

As for the iPhone, there’s a lot about it to like, and truth be told, there are things to not like. I’m currently running an iPhone 3G, and I’d probably be a bit more up on the iPhone if I were running an iPhone 4. (The other day someone was recommending an iPhone to someone and said “It will change your life” which may sound far-fetched, but depending on how you use it, this can be true.)

The Android platform does hold some appeal, but I’m not sure if it’s enough for me to jump ship. I mean, Android has it’s issues as well, so I don’t even know that it can easily be said that one platform beats out the other.

Wired’s got an article about How the Android Ecosystem Threatens the iPhone which is worth a read. The graphs are worth commenting on.

Android vs. iPhone

As my disclaimer, I am not a “switcher,” and by that I mean, I was not a Windows user who eventually replaced it with a Mac. I’ve been using Apple hardware since the early 1980s and my first Mac was a IIvx. That said, I lived through the dark times of Apple in the 1990s, including Amelio, the clones, rumors of Apple’s death, etc. With that perspective, these numbers don’t look scary. There were (and are) way more manufacturers of “PCs” than “Macs” and 90% of the “PC manufacturers” made crap. Cheap crap that competed on price, each trying to be a bit cheaper than the other because they were all basically the same. Some were bigger/better than others (Dell) and most of them got around to following Apple’s innovations in hardware eventually. So the real question is, out of those 170 devices running Android, how many are awe-inspiring, and real competition to the iPhone?

Android vs. iPhone

Again, I’m no financial wizard, but to me I assume that 30% that goes to Apple helps maintain the iPhone ecosystem, the cost of running the App Store, future R&D, product development, etc. Plus, people hate carriers. I want as little of my money going to AT&T, Verizon, etc. as possible. If Apple gets it, I think I prefer that. As for the Android App Store, it goes to Verizon. What has Verizon ever done for you? What if you are a competitor to Verizon? And who runs the Android App Store, Google? Does it cost them nothing to run it? No, they’re just making their money elsewhere… (Advertising? Yup, we need more of that.)

Android vs. iPhone

This is the one I may be the most “meh” about. It seems to show the number of apps for Android increasing, until someday it will surpass the numbers of the iPhone. Again, if you’ve lived in the Apple world long enough, you probably remember back when the argument was “Windows has more applications!” and it was true, but it was also true that 95% of them sucked. Sure, there were 200 text editors for Windows, and if you were lucky, 2 or 3 of them were good enough to use. Meanwhile, Mac OS had BBEdit and tons of devoted fans. There were other text editors, but we had one really good one. It wasn’t rare to read a post saying “I’m being forced to use Windows at work, is there anything even close to BBEdit on Windows? Please??” This repeated elsewhere, and I think it shows the whole Apple cares more about quality than raw numbers when it comes to doing things. Sure, they want to sell a lot of computers, er, I mean, iPhones, iPods, iPads, but they also want them to be the best devices out there. I think it’s rare that the most popular thing is the best thing, and I think Apple knows that, and they’re fine with it. As for Android apps, I’ve read a lot of complaints about the quality of them, and the dubious nature of some of them (there’s money to be made with apps you know!) but hey, they say the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, right?

I’m eligible for an iPhone upgrade later this year, about the time the iPhone 5 is rumored to be released., but Android does have some appeal to me… I’ll get into that next time.

10 Responses to “Android vs. iPhone”

  1. Scott ReynenNo Gravatar says:

    I found that Wired article really disappointing. It doesn’t at all explain how the Android ecosystem threatens the iPhone; it just assumes it does and tells a story under that assumption. It briefly mentions at the end that we’re still years out from the point at which the two are competing more against each other than they are cooperating against the complacency of non-smartphone buyers. So in years, they might start really competing. But if we go back just as far as we’re being asked to take a leap of faith forward, neither of these platforms existed yet, and Windows was the dominant mobile platform. So how do we even know Android and iOS won’t be completely gone by then, replaced by something totally new?

    Then the article ends with “make no mistake: As is often the case in technology, only one platform will prevail.” But again, there’s nothing to back up this assumption. Apparently I shouldn’t be typing this on a Mac, because only one platform can prevail. Oops.

    Back to your decision, just like the wider market, I say it’s a false choice. You could buy an Android device, keep your iOS device, and enjoy both.

  2. I could buy an Android device and have both, but like anyone with limited income, or bandwidth, or attention, or whatever… I’d probably opt to carry just one around with me, and primarily use one. As for as a “phone” goes anyway. For the tablet world, if Android devices get cheap enough, I’d perhaps consider one and love to explore it’s “openness” with some specific uses in mind. Make no mistake, the future is unwritten.

  3. One other thing to consider: Android is “open” on paper, but not always in practice. For example, Google still hasn’t released the source for Honeycomb, the latest version of the Android OS http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/mar2011/tc20110324_269784.htm Also, carriers hold much more sway with the Android OS and devices than they do with Apple’s. In fact, they hold NO sway with the OS and device with Apple. Compare a stock Android device from Verizon or AT&T with the iPhone. The Android device will have a lot of carrier customizations, crapware, even things disabled. Also compare how OS updates are rolled out. Yes, Apple will sunset devices at some point, but you can be sure if you have a relatively recent device and a new iOS comes out, you’ll get it. Not so on Android: you can buy brand new devices in stores now that have an OS 2 or 3 releases behind with no clear upgrade path.

    On the other hand, if by open you mean freedom to tinker, I would say that Android does have a slight edge by default here, but if you want to tinker on an iPhone, just jailbreak it and the world is now your oyster. Yes there will be a little cat and mouse game every time a new iOS release comes out, but that hasn’t been a serious roadblock.

  4. Joel, yes, I’m talking “freedom to tinker” as it were… You can run Java apps on Android devices, and not on iOS devices, right? I’m hoping there’s a bit more “hackability” to Android devices.

  5. I believe so… my main desire would be to run my own Java apps on my own Android devices…

  6. If you’re defining freedom to tinker as running Java apps on your device, then yes Android is a clear winner. If you just mean run your own arbitrary apps then iOS is a candidate if you don’t mind jailbreaking (it’s super easy to do and reverse if you want). You can’t run Java apps on a jailbroken iOS device (that I know of), but you can run arbitrary iOS code. There are toolkits for building native iOS apps from .NET or Javascript, maybe there’s something similar for Java if that’s your language of choice.

    I seem to recall from your mkepug presentation that you weren’t too fond of Java though ;)

  7. Joel, yeah, I have a love/hate thing with Java… just like every other language.! :)

    I’ve not gone the jailbroken route yet, and I think it’s a shame that you have to think about that if you just want to run your own apps on your own devices. This is where Apple/iOS falls down in my opinion…

    That said, I’m having fun with Processing.js right now, and will look at iProcessing to see where that leads me.

  8. achernowNo Gravatar says:

    I had an iPhone 3GS. I hated AT&T. I made the stupid mistake of running over to Verizon and getting a Droid Incredible.

    Android as an OS is nowhere near ready for primetime. It’s slow (at times), cumbersome to use, not visually appealing, and oh yeah, sucks up my battery life just by looking at the phone.

    Oh and let’s not forget when I powered my phone off for a 4-hour plane ride only to discover it had a dead battery on landing b/c powering it off apparently “failed” and it never fully powered off. (I battery pulled for the flight home.)

  9. Adam, thank you for confirming what I had thought… everything sucks, in it’s own unique way.

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