Over the last couple months there has been a flurry of blogs and news articles regarding the iPhone Vs. Droid or iPhone Vs. Android and while they do a good job of showcasing the good and the bad side of each mobile device, they are not really a fair comparison to either product.
The iPhone OS was developed by Apple, with the App Store created by Apple and the iPhone and iPod Touch hardware being designed by Apple. The iPhone when you stand back and look at it, is a complete platform created, developed and implemented by Apple.
Now let’s take a look at Google’s Android platform. The Android OS was developed by Google, the Android Market was created by Google and the phone’s hardware is created by several manufactures and distributed by several wireless carriers.
This provides both companies with a completely different platform for their mobile solutions. Apple has a controlled platform, one that gives them the greatest amount of security and control over what users can obtain and perform with their devices.
Google on the other hand has taken an open source approach and provided all of the manufactures with the source code to the OS, allowing them to edit the Android OS as they see fit to deliver a fully customized experience to their users when sold through the manufacturers selected wireless provider.
Until the release of the Nexus One by Google, the Android OS was only used by 3rd party companies. Apple’s iPhone OS is restricted to Apple. Any update to the iPhone OS can be pushed to users phones via iTunes and it’s guaranteed to work with each users iPhone provided the update supports the older generations of the iPhone or iPod Touch.
Google can release a new version of their Android operating system, but with so many manufactures designing custom elements to their handsets, the updates are not guaranteed to work with every mobile device on the market running the Android OS.
A tip of the hat must be given to Apple in this regard.
The other big thing I believe Apple has going in their favor is the App Store. Up until this past week I was leaning more towards the Android Market as being better than the iPhone, or at least having the potential to be. However, in light of the latest phishing scam released into the Android Market my opinions have swayed and I believe that Apple has the better solution in regards to Mobile Device Applications.
While many developers do not like the way Apple handles the App review process, it definitely works towards the consumers advantage. The mobile user can download an application knowing that they are safe from malicious hackers and that their private information is (in theory) protected from predators.
The other downside to the Android Market is the fact that an app is submitted and can be downloaded for all Android based devices. This creates more work on the developers end as they will have to test their app against several mobile devices now to ensure that any customizations done to the OS by that manufacture or wireless provider has not broken something along the way that the developers app will need to have working. While some developers are having to do this with 3G/3GS apps now, the developer can rest assured that when he tests the app within the Apple emulator, and it works, then it will work with the consumer once released. Android on the other hand does not guarantee that it will work, as what is represented in the emulator is not a good representation of the many different kinds of hardware on the market that the consumer might have and be running the app on.
What Google has created is the Windows Mobile scenario. You download your app and hope that your handset will be able to run it without glitches.
The iPhone does not suffer from this, and that is due to the fact that Apple is the sole user of the iPhone OS. If Google wants to make their Market a serious competitor against Apples app store, they will need to take steps to secure users data and ensure that all of the apps created will work on all Android based devices. Due to the fact that the OS is open source, Google has it’s hands tied and really does not have a way to ensure that each Android device released to the market will support every app and provide a solid way to protect users data. They can implement a better application review process to ensure users aren’t being victimized by a hacker, but stopping all of it will still be difficult.
Lastly I want to take a look at the hardware and software side of the Mobile Platform provided by both Google and Apple. Google’s OS is open source, which means every manufacture out there can provide users with a fully customized experience from the manufacture. This is perfect for hardware manufactures as they can ensure now that their device does not look and feel like the rest of the Android pack out there on the market. They can be different, and they can offer cool content that other devices don’t offer out of the box.
Apple’s iPhone OS is closed source and only Apple has access to it. The OS is really restricted in terms of customization, and limits users as to what they can do to it. It also means that consumers are forced to shell out the money to Apple, as there are no other hardware devices on the market that use the iPhone OS for consumers to choose from.
The Android OS currently runs on several hand held devices and provide consumers with a wide range of devices that they can choose from. The only downside to the Android OS from a platform stand point is that it is open sourced and thus there is no way to guarantee that the RSS Reader app i download on my Motorola DROID will run on my HTC Nexus One. Each device can in theory run a custom version of the OS that has the potential to break compatibility with various apps in the market place.
Apple’s iPhone OS does not suffer from this issue, as there is only one device on the market.
In terms of Hardware, Apple developed the OS and the hardware specifications for their iPhone. This gives them the upper hand as they can now produce a product that is highly optimized and get the best performance out of the device that’s possible.
The Android OS is developed by Google while Motorola or HTC create the hardware. When tested, the Nexus One was not all that much faster when processing Java and rendering HTML web pages on than the iPhone 3GS. The Nexus One has some killer specs with it, but wasn’t able to blow away a 1 year old iPhone. Third Party manufactures can create flimsy hardware, put the Android OS on it and push it out for a quick phone, and after I played with several Android based devices find myself disappointed.
Apple has control over the hardware that the OS will be installed onto, and take a lot of pride in it. Google’s OS has been put on some shabby hardware, and it tarnish’s some peoples opinions on the ‘Google Platform’ when they don’t really understand that Google’s Android OS is actually pretty solid. It’s the manufacture that drops the ball.
Now that the Nexus One is out, I’m curious how it operates. I would really like to purchase one to replace my iPhone, but I’m waiting until the 3G issue is resolved.
At the moment, I think that the iPhone platform is the better platform. Apple offers an all in one solution for themselves, developers and consumers. I think if Google wants to start competing with Apple’s platform, they will need to make some changes, and they will need to be made soon. Starting with their Android Market approval process, and enhancing the Market experience. The Android operating system is solid, all it needs to really give it a place in the wireless world is a solid piece of hardware. That’s what I was hoping the Nexus One would be, but it appears that after only selling 20,000 units, there is something else to be said regarding the device. It’s not the device that’s the problem, but the Android platform as a whole. Google needs to take a step back and consider it’s next steps for the platform carefully, because the way it’s running now isn’t going to steal Apple’s thunder away from the iPhone.