Note: This is a point-counterpoint article style. If you want to see 5 ways Android beats iOS, click the link at the bottom of the article.
If you want to start a flame war on the Internet, there are a few topics to try bringing up. One of these is iOS versus Android. Even just a news article about a minor update or rumor about one OS or another is likely to summon anger and hate. That being said, there are a few ways iOS is better than Android. Here are 5 of them. These reasons do not revolve around downloadable apps except where it applies to the debate. Also, the arguments are not listed in order of importance or effectiveness. Jailbreaking and/or rooting is also not being taken into consideration unless explicitly stated otherwise.
SECURITY: McAfee certainly finds iOS more secure than Android. For better or worse, Apple tightly controls the experience of iOS, including the flow of apps into the App Store. Apple’s examination process means increased security against malicious apps making it onto your iDevice. We have seen proof of concepts where the App Store has some security bugs or apps have gotten through Apple’s screening process, but overall nothing like the malicious attempts against Android.
This goes deeper than just apps though. Apple has the Find My iPhone app available for all of its iDevices in case yours gets lost or stolen. I can’t tell you how many times in my job I have used or have seen this used to track a student’s stolen iPhone. Of course you can get free or paid third-party options in the App Store and some of them offer more features. But Apple’s own offering provides a very simple experience that you can access from any computer or iDevice that allows you to track your phone, send messages, or erase your entire phone. Android has no solution of its own for this.
Both stores have apps that sometimes grab things that they probably shouldn’t be meddling with (why do some games need access to my contact list?), but with the recent iOS 6 update, Apple has allowed finer controls. Now apps that want to access your Address Book, Location, Facebook or Twitter account, among other things, have to actually ask permission to do so. Admittedly this whole thing started after a few scandals, but better late then never.
MULTITASKING: iOS multitasking was implemented before Android got their own solution and has done it better since day one. Just a double tap on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch’s home button brings up the multitasking bar. You can slide through all of your open apps, or slide to the left and get access to your music controls. Pause, play, fast-forward, and rewind, or jump straight into the app playing the audio be it Pandora, your Music app, or whatever. You also can control your iDevice’s AirPlay streaming controls and whether to lock the screen’s rotation. iOS users also got the ability to kill apps from that multitasking bar, even if they didn’t actually need to.
Android users get most of the same multitasking features like background audio or voice calls, but application switching didn’t get any native solution until Android 3.0 “Honeycomb”. Android users had been using app-killing solutions from the Android Marketplace, but it took Google until Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” to actually implement that feature natively. Admittedly the way Android 4.0 does it looks pretty slick, but it seems like something that could have been included so much earlier. And speaking of apps…
APPS, APPS, AND APPS!: If there was one thing any smartphone or tablet has to have these days, its apps. While Steve Jobs may not have initially liked the idea of iOS apps, it’s pretty safe to say that he was wrong. Today, Apple’s iOS has the largest marketplace for apps of any mobile OS (and maybe even some desktop operating systems). iOS has over 600,000 apps with almost half of them for the iPad. If you’re looking for an app, chances are you’ll find it there. Apple does place some restrictions on how apps may function, some of this for security while others seem downright controlling, but as a whole, the Apple experience works fluidly, and many developers have figured out how to use the rules of iOS to their needs, especially with the lack of a file manager like Mac’s Finder. On the user end, many people are leaving the standard computer for the iPad, including the elderly, students, young children, and more.
Some of the limits also factor in to quality control. Apps on iOS seem better built, more stable, and less resource intensive than their Android counterparts. This certainly seems like a factor in why iOS users are more willing to retain apps than Android users. To be fair, some apps are great across platforms, while others are coded badly no matter the platform (I’m looking at you Facebook), so Android and iOS are not completely responsible for apps or their entire quality experience. It’s also fair to note that the amount of free apps on Android is greater than iOS.
This also affect developers too. Many developers publish an app hoping to make some money for the time they put into it. This varies from developer to developer and the reason the developer makes an app may not be solely for profit. It’s not uncommon for popular apps to come out on the iPhone or iPad first before making the leap to Android. Why? Android developers don’t make the same amount of cash as iPhone users do. Macworld reports about how developers make less on Android than iOS.
RESPONSIVENESS: This is where we get a little technical. Hardcore Android users love to talk about the hardware specs of their devices. These can include 2 gigs of RAM, quad-core CPU and graphics, NVidia chipsets, etc. For any tech geek, those are fairly impressive mobile stats. Here’s something Android users never seem to talk about though: why does iOS run just as smooth, if not smoother, then the majority of Android devices while having generally lower stats (save for the graphics processor and the resolution of the screen on the latest models)? Android and iOS users can play the same games, like ShadowGun, but iOS tends to play it so much more cleanly than Android.
Let’s look also at touch response. The response time of an iPhone or iPad is consistently faster, more fluid, and better tracks your finger’s motion than Android. This is what it breaks down to: iOS was created from the very beginning to be a touchscreen system, meaning that responsiveness to your touch needed to be a top priority. So iOS sets a user’s touch command as a “real time priority”. When you touch your iPad or iPhone’s screen, the device puts your touch and the corresponding commands at the highest priority. It focuses all its attention on you like a puppy on a new toy.
When Android was first developed, it was competing against BlackBerry, so Android originally used a physical keyboard and mouse like BlackBerry. Then the iPhone came out, and Android had to adapt. But they implemented touch as a “normal priority”, treating it the same way as all the device’s other processes rather than the most important. Google could fix this, if they wanted to have almost every app in the Google Play store rewritten to support the change. Chances of this happening in the near future are pretty slim, so Google and manufacturers will likely keep sticking with more powerful hardware. You can read more about this at Redmond Pie’s article.
FRAGMENTATION: OK, I saved this section for last because it’s a very sensitive point in the debate and is probably the most detailed. This argument also tends to be the go-to argument when people comment on the negatives of Android and I wanted to show there were other legitimate reasons before coming to this one.
With that out of the way, Android has a huge fragmentation problem, partially as a result of its openness and partially because of Google. Android is available on many different devices running different hardware specs, screen sizes, and versions of Android. It’s only recently that Google has tried to reign in on Android’s fragmentation problems.
Let’s start with the user interfaces. You get a different user interface per manufacturer: Motorola has Blur, there’s HTC’s Sense, the stock Android experience, etc. If you switch manufacturers, say to the Samsung Galaxy series from a Motorola phone, you have a little bit of a learning curve. Some of these interfaces are downright ugly, though that’s a comment directed at the manufacturers rather than Android. Different user interfaces aren’t a problem if a user chooses it because that’s their choice, but it’s a different story when you can’t customize that (which has always been a strong point for Android).
While we’re on the subject of manufacturer differences, let’s talk about stock apps. Every OS comes with stock apps, such as the browser, calendar, etc. But Android, like Windows on the desktop, generally has extra apps that the manufacturers put on the devices to make extra money and they have the right to do so. However you don’t hear Windows users cry out in the same way that Android users do over third-party stock apps. Why is that? On Windows, you can always uninstall these apps, but not on Android. If you want to uninstall the third party stock apps like security services, office software, etc., you have to root your device. Plus, mobile phones don’t have the hard drive space that a full computer does. You can eventually uninstall these apps, but you have to wait until there is a way to root your device (basically putting you in complete control over your device), and these aren’t always stable activities and can end up breaking your phone if you use the wrong one. It’s one thing for Google to have their stock apps, but it’s different from those apps that a manufacturer puts on there.
Apps are also a problem on Android. I’m not talking about the quality or range of apps on Android, I’m talking about not being able to install apps. Let me explain: there are apps on every operating system, desktop or mobile, that won’t install on certain versions or devices or lack of requirements. Some apps don’t update and require older operating systems, while some are new and don’t support older versions. Likewise apps aren’t capable of running on some systems because of the lack of hardware requirements (this is especially true for media intensive apps like games). No use using a camera app if your device has no camera. So why am I picking on Android? It’s the way Android handles this issue. If I run into an app that I can’t run on my iPhone or iPad (which is rare indeed), the App Store will tell me that this app isn’t compatible with my device. On Android, I don’t get this pop-up for incompatible apps. In fact, I don’t get anything. If an app isn’t compatible with my device, looking it up on my device won’t tell me that. It just acts like the app doesn’t exist. I have to go to the Android Marketplace website to see this for certain. I want to be clear here: I’m not talking about screen size limitations. There are apps that are only available on my iPad that aren’t available on my iPhone and vice versa, and this isn’t something I hold against Android. This is specifically when I’m look for an app on two different Android devices the app will show up on one device but not others.
But by far the worst thing about Android fragmentation is updating the OS. In the iOS world, so long as your device is at least 2 years old or younger, you’re guaranteed to get the latest version of iOS. You may be lacking some features due to hardware or Apple limitations, but you still get the majority of the patches, features, and fixes for your device. The latest version iOS (6.x.x) already is on a majority of iOS devices. If you’re waiting for an Android update, join the club. The current version of Android (Jelly Bean, 4.1-4.2) is still only about 10% of the market. The hardware manufacturers are doing a pretty lousy job at upgrading their devices, even their latest devices. They aren’t making the grade. The only devices that consistently get the latest and greatest Android updates are the Nexus devices running the stock version of Android. Those are released yearly and are run almost entirely by Google, who also controls the design of the Nexus devices, though they outsource the actual manufacturing to one of their hardware partners. Funny, does this sound a little like Apple?
CONCLUSION: I’m not an Apple fanboy, despite what you might think. There are things I sincerely like about Android, and some things I wish would change in iOS. All that aside, I know that my iDevices will always have the latest software for at least a few years, have a wider and better selection of apps, and will work when I need them too. Apple and iOS aren’t perfect, but this is a case where the vertical integration style of Apple just works, and that’s what I really need. If you care to hear 5 ways Android is better than iOS, another post will come out soon detailing 5 ways Android is better than iOS. I encourage you to read both sides of the debate.
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If you haven’t been out of the country, you need to go. I especially encourage you to go somewhere that doesn’t speak your native language (but at least have some way to communicate, whether by translator or by learning the language).
I recently got back from a trip to the Dominican Republic. I stayed in a mountain region outside Jarabacoa called Piedra Blanca. Two things you need to know about the Dominican Republic.
- It’s beautiful; the mountains are covered in lush trees, and there’s almost alway a wonderful breeze. Even in long pants, it didn’t feel hot at all.
- Once you leave the main cities, you realize how much of modern society we take for granted. In the mountains, we had water, but could only bathe in it. Drinking of the tap water wasn’t safe. Electricity was not consistent either. Since it was election week in the Dominican, the power only went out once on us, but the missionary and hosts we were staying with told us that once the elections were over, power would like be go off several times a week. And while we had WiFi, it was a slow satellite connection, and was quickly bogged down or inaccessible if two people tried to pull up their email. This was nothing against the hosts at all, I actually was kind of glad to be away from the constant updates of Twitter, Facebook, and email.
This is something I realized quickly in the Dominican Republic. I didn’t feel rushed, I didn’t feel compelled to constantly check my email or Twitter, I felt relaxed. I admit I did feel a little out of the loop in terms of news, and I did check back in every couple of nights to make sure I hadn’t missed anything too important. But while the lack of things like WiFi weren’t surprising for me, two other things about technology really struck out at me.
When we talk cell phones, we talk generally about smart-phones: iPhone versus Android, the falling of BlackBerry, the underdog rise of Windows Phone 7. We talk about the latest model, the amount of RAM, and how fast the Internet is. All of this conversation is surrounding the idea that we are becoming a more mobile world, where the laptop and desktop is no longer everyone’s go to system. It’s the smart-phone in your pocket or the iPad in your bag. Mobile technology is the new thing.
That’s not necessarily the same in the Dominican Republic. While I can’t say that I saw a lot of iPhones among the Dominican population, the use of cell phones as a tool was visible. Many people, though more city dwellers than rural people, had cell phones that they used to do everything. In a place where we still saw Internet cafes, the cell phone was still a tool of choice. If we want to talk about mobile revolutions, let’s look at the D.R., where the use of a constant communication device is becoming more normal than a owning a full blown computer. In the developed world, we are so used to everyone having a some Internet connected device, whether it is a standard computer, a phone, or a tablet. Many people have some combination of the three, the majority having a desktop or laptop as their primary system. But for developing nations, I don’t see this being the same trend. I can see the developing world leap-frogging over the standard computer, and embracing the mobile world, full of tablets and smartphones. This certainly isn’t the type of thing that will happen overnight, but it is something that we’re already seeing, which brings me into my next point.
I was part of a medical mission trip to the Dominican Republic. One crew was a licensed medical providing free medical care for any family who needed it. I say families, because it was usually a mother with several children coming in for herself and her children. If you’ve ever been around children, however, you know that they would rather play around than sit and wait. Get enough of them in the same room, and
you might as well have a small riot on your hands, which is not good in a medical room. Thus there was the second crew, college students whose primary job was to keep the children entertained with games, tricks, and lessons. It also involved attempting to stay on your feet while several young children were trying to throw you to the ground in various games. These children crave attention, and just enjoyed any attention would could give to them as we played. They could be rough, they could be rambunctious, and overall very silly and playful. They loved to move around as much as possible.
But their demeanor completely changed if they saw anything that resembled a camera. They wanted pictures, lots of pictures. While the younger children were happy to have their picture taken, the older children loved to pose for the camera. They wanted to look like the celebrities they adored in sports and movies. More than that, they wanted to take pictures of everything else. The lush mountains, their friends posing, the one kid hanging in a tree, or the silly American watching them use his camera. They didn’t care about lighting, color correction, or the rule of thirds; they just wanted to take pictures and show them to their friends. Sometimes the things we get passionate and technical about are the things other people just want to use, play with, and remember their lives with.
I was particularly caught by the use of the iPhone in the Dominican Republic. One girl had brought her iPhone to use as a camera, while setting the phone itself into airplane mode to not get any roaming data charges (which if you’ve never heard the stories, the rates are ridiculously high). On the very first day working, she pulled it out to take some pictures of and with two young girls. As soon as she did, of course, the children wanted to use it. What really surprised us was how easy it was for the children to use the iPhone to take pictures. Without any attempt at direction through our language barrier, the two girls were able to take a picture and then immediately view them and flip through their other pictures. Some of them did quite well. At this point, I could remark about the simplicity and ease of use of the iOS system. I can also point out that the girls might have already had some experience with an iPhone or iPod Touch, so they could have already had the knowledge to use it. But I will not bother with either. What I will remark on is how the children and my teammate were able to use such a small device, a phone nonetheless, to connect with each other, even with a linguistic barrier; how such a tool can be used to start conversations and expand each others’ worlds. How far we’ve progressed with cell phones, cameras, the Internet, and bringing it all into an easy to use package, and how we as people can so easily learn these things.
As I returned to the United States, or at least the WiFi enabled airport, my tablet came alight with Twitter updates, emails, and the other things I have come to expect. There was several stories I caught my eye and I read while in layover, but I still thought of the Dominicans. I couldn’t help but think about the pictures I had taken, the people I had met, the things that I saw, and the time that was spent just being with other people. I kind of enjoyed my time without technology, but I hadn’t entirely left it. What I saw was people who didn’t care about what version of Android or iOS they were using. They didn’t care about how many megapixels were in their cell phone’s camera. They had a life to live, and technology was just an assistant to that, if even at all. We’ve taken technology for granted, whereas for many of these people, technology is still something fresh. I say this not to demean the Dominicans, I only said it put it in perspective. We in the modern world have come to expect technology everywhere, anytime, and to always work. We get mad when it doesn’t live up to our expectations. But for many people in the world, technology hasn’t fully come to them, and neither has the spread of information. I know it’ll take time for these things to happen, but here’s my hope: that we in the modern world whether it is Asia, Europe, or the Americas, will realize the wonderful things we have been given with this technology. Whether it is an iPhone, an iPad, a MacBook, Droid, whether it’s a Windows computer or Linux server, that we do not abuse it or be consumed by it. Let us remember that the goal of technology is to make the human race better, in mind, body, and spirit. So the next time you send that picture via text message or Skype someone across the country, remember to be thankful for what we have, and use it for a greater good. And don’t be afraid to let someone else take that picture.
Tell me what you thought of this blog post: did you like, do you agree? Disagree? I want to hear your thoughts. Let me know in the comments below, or by sending me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org You can also check me out on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube by hitting the buttons on the top of your screen. You can also check out my Google Plus. Thanks!
This is my final review of the iPhone 4S and iOS 5. Should you buy it, should you upgrade?
And yes I know this is overdue.
When you install a new app for the first time, your first thoughts are usually judging whether or not it’s worth keeping and using, especially for the inevitable day you get a new device. It is not everyday, though, that an app makes it to your personal "top 10 apps" list, especially in the first 5 minutes. But this week’s app, Dropbox, did just that.
Dropbox is a file synchronization tool, that can also acts as a backup tool, and a file sharing utility, all in one program. After making a free account on Dropbox’s website, you download the apps, and install it. The app logs your computer into your Dropbox account, and makes a folder on your computer. From there, any files you put in there are copied and uploaded onto Dropbox’s very secure servers. You still have the file on your hard drive for anytime use, but also one online that you can access anywhere, anytime by logging into your Dropbox account through a Web browser. Even better, it works for Mac, Windows, and the major versions of Linux. They also have an iOS, Android, and Blackberry app (other systems on the way), that work a little differently, but we’ll discuss that in a bit.
You can also make folders within your Dropbox folder to organize your stuff. There is also a pre-made "Photos" and "Public" folder that allow you to share files with other people. The Public folder is especially useful; once the file has been uploaded to the Internet, you can copy a link from Dropbox, and share it with anyone by email, social networking, anywhere you can put a link. Once they click on the link, the file will start downloading to their computer.
Since it is cross platform, you can install Dropbox on multiple computers in your own house or across the world that will sync to your web account, so you have the same files everywhere. You can tell Dropbox, though, to only sync certain folders to certain computers, which is nice if you don’t want to mix home and work files, but still want to keep them backup and access anywhere. If Dropbox sees that your multiple devices are on the same network, it will sync over the local network first before the web syncing (which is many times faster). I wouldn’t suggest syncing applications though, only files like documents, pictures, etc., as they won’t necessarily install across devices (not to mention the legal issues).
The mobile apps work a little differently compared to the desktop apps: mobile apps only show you a link to the files in your Dropbox, but don’t download them to your device unless you manually tell Dropbox too. A bit of a hassle, but makes sense given the small hard drive space of a mobile device compared to a full computer.
What’s the catch you might ask? Dropbox is free, but it only gives you 2 gigabytes of online storage, or the storage size of a small flash-drive. For things like school papers, documents, etc., this is still a lot of space, but people with large photo or music collections this certainly won’t solve their problems. You can pay Dropbox for 50, or 100 gigs of online space. However, Dropbox gives you several ways to get more space for free including:
Following thier tutorial after the first installation,
Connecting it to your Facebook and/or Twitter accounts
Having a .edu email address (college students and professors).
Sharing Dropbox with your friends
And many more
That’s where my apology comes in: Last week, I went to Charleston to go help rebuild some houses for those in need (I highly suggest everyone does that many times in their lives, though don’t everyone fly to Charleston). Because of my leaving though, and the purposeful leaving behind of my Macbook, I did not get a chance to upload an "App of the Week" post like I usually do. For that I am sorry. To make up for it, I have a special Dropbox link for you all. If you don not yet have a Dropbox, and you want one, hit the link below. Once your register, Dropbox will give you 250 megabytes of free space (about 1/8 the size of Dropbox by itself). It’s not much, but it’s free space. Can’t argue with that can you? I didn’t think so.
Here’s the link: http://db.tt/AMoy7pj
And for those of you who don’t like the free space: www.dropbox.com
If you have an app that you would like me to look at, feel free to shoot me an email at email@example.com, or leave a comment. And don’t forget to check me out on Youtube by hitting the Youtube button at the top. Thanks for reading.
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