iPhone vs Android is the new Mac vs PC
After spending 18 months with Android, I am now back to an iPhone and likely here to stay. While Android isn’t necessarily bad, it more boils down to iPhone simply being better. After a while, I started looking at iPhone vs Android as largely a repeat of the Mac vs PC comparisons.
Mac vs PC
Just look at it. Apple is doing what they’ve always done. They control the hardware and the software. They have a solid, unified experience. You can pick up any iPhone, old or new, and still be at home.
Android is repeating the history of PCs. Google makes the OS, as Microsoft did with Windows. Then OEMs offer a wide variety of different hardware, with their own shitty customizations layered on top of the OS. Even worse, you have the carriers layering on their customizations and restrictions.
You can go from one Android phone to another and have it be completely foreign. Even baseline apps can have different names and a completely different look and feel, such between the “Email” vs “Mail” of vanilla Android and HTC Android.
With Android, the phones have a very short shelf life. I bought a Thunderbolt from Verizon back in April, just 6 months ago. About a month after I bought it, it was no longer the hot model they were pimping. In fact, there have been 2-3 phones to come out since then that became “king of the mountain.”
With iPhone, they release a new phone about once a year, and that one stays the current phone. Older phones are still pretty well supported. The iPhone 3GS is over 2 years old, still got updated to iOS 5, and likely will until iOS 6. My original Motorola Droid that is nearing 2 years old is pretty much forgotten already.
Updates with iPhone? Available right away to everyone. AT&T or Verizon, you get the update when Apple makes it generally available.
Updates with Android? Have fun. Google has to release it, your OEM has to customize it, then the carrier gets to tweak it, and decide when to finally roll it out. Google released Gingerbread back in December 2010, nearly 10 months ago. Verizon just started rolling out the update last month, then pulled it. Even then, they decide when you can upgrade with a phased roll out. And since it was pulled, looks like they seem to skip over adequate testing.
Most Android users who want recent releases end up rooting their phones and use unofficial ROMs put together by an informal group of people. Have an issue with your phone? Limited options.
I definitely agreed with my friend Joe in his post about the Droid Bionic. Android phones are being pitched like PCs. They give a bunch of technical specs that are meaningless to consumers. It echos the “Golden Circle” idea by Simon Sinek. Apple is still doing what they do best. Verizon sells like PC manufacturers. Lacking inspiration.
False Sense of Market Share
Overall the numbers are comparing apples to oranges. They are comparing the sales figure of a single phone to a whole group of phones. There are many different Android phones, and individually, iPhone is spanking them in sales figures. No single Android phone has a chance of elipsing the iPhone or gaining any meaningful market share, especially with their overall short shelf life. I’d be very interested to see sales figured of individual phones and see how long they really last. All the manufacturers are still struggling to get a sliver of what the iPhone is capable of.
The numbers may hold some weight for developers because it represents the size of your audience. But at the same time, Android is many phones vs iPhones entire existence is now just 5 phones. Less “your app doesn’t work on my Verizon Droid Mumbojumbo” and you don’t have a Droid Mumbojumbo to test on.
Falseness of Open
Many people tout Android as being open, however the actions of Google with Honeycomb’s source code seem to be heading in the direction of more closed.
While Google said part of their goal was to try and unify the platform more, as Honeycomb was intended for tablets and not handsets, the ability to control a platform is difficult while also keeping it “open.” I think Google is right in closing it, since in order to further the platform, they will need to have some control in order to maintain a consistent direction.
However, the “openness” usually just comes from developers. What do most of then define the “openness” as? Being able to write apps and put them on their phone without paying $99. They tout the source being open, but the truth is that isn’t what they really care about. Very few Android developers likely dive into the OS code, they just want to install their own apps for free.
Personally, if I prefer one platform over the other, a $99 fee to build apps isn’t going to a stopper for me. But I also don’t mind paying for the tools I use in my craft if they are worth it.
Most average people care more about how well the phone works. iPhone simply works better. Since software and hardware are more married, the experience is more consistent. In my own experience, apps crash less on iPhone. The phone lags less. Scrolling and browsing is more graceful. My wife is still on her original Droid for another month, and every day I see her struggle with the phone.
iPhone has better customer satisfaction ratings than Android. While the reasons aren’t mentioned, I wouldn’t be surprised that part of it stems from “it just works”.
Apple has a strong emphasis on usability. Google and the OEMs aren’t as much so. This particularly stuck me with a post I read about a guy talking to a girl who had an Android phone and an iPod Touch. In particuar, “nothing happened when I plugged it into my computer.” To the average user, the simple integration is important. They don’t know why the phone shows up as a “Mass Storage Device” when they plug it in.
The future for Android will probable improve. The OS is maturing and hardware getting better, however the ecosystem of manufacturers and carriers will likely stay the same. The reality is that Apple is doing what Apple has always done and they’ve gotten really good at it.