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Operating System Battleground: iOS vs. Android

Unification: [yoo-nuf-fi-key-shuh n]; Noun. Origin: Unify, 1495 – 1505, Late Latin

  1. The process of unifying or uniting; union
  2. The state or condition of being unified
  3. iOS

Varied: [vair-eed]; Adj. Origin: Vary, 1300 – 1350, Middle English, Latin

  1. Characterized by exhibiting variety; various; diverse; diversified
  2. Changed; altered
  3. Having several different colors; variegated
  4. Android

A question as old as September 23, 2008: what mobile operating system is better: iOS or Android? More specifically, what mobile operating system is better: the current unified version of iOS or the varied versions – Cupcake, Donut, Éclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwich, Jelly Bean, KitKat – of Android?

The black and white astounding figures:

Android Devices:


Apple iOS Devices:

  • At the start of 2014, Apple had shipped roughly 700 million iOS devices to date.
  • Of the 700 million devices, roughly 200 million of shipped product – smartphones and tablets – are no longer active.
  • Quick Math: By the start of 2015, there will be roughly 500 – 550 million active iOS devices.

As a physical numbers game, Android holds the market in the present and the foreseeable future.

When it comes to operating system use, the story is one of solidarity vs. fragmentation.


Android Operating Systems:

  • According to Chocolate Factory and a few other sources, roughly half of all Android users are currently operating from the 4.1 Jelly Bean Android OS.
  • Moreover, nearly 63% of all Android users are currently operating from the three major versions of Jelly Bean or KitKat.
  • This means roughly 37% of all Android users are operating from older operating systems making development a trickier and more laborious task.

Apple iOS:

  • According to a wonderful graphical representation of all iOS versions in use, as of September 2014, 89.4% of Apple users had switched to iOS 7. Conversely, 8.8% were using iOS6, 1.4% were using iOS5 and 0.3% iOS4.
  • A bit more granular: as of September 2014, 93.3% of iPhone users had adopted iOS7 and 92% of iPad users had adopted iOS7.
  • This means the vast majority of iOS device users are keen to adopt new iOS versions and, because Apple sends top down updates, do so to ensure current status with pushed Apple iOS updates.


Varied vs. Unification.

Which OS Update Strategy is More Fluid for Developers?



Apple iOS:

From the developer point of view, the answer seems obviously clear: iOS. With operating system unification comes the ability to confidently code a new app for a singular operating system. Not only does this take the time out of app development, it allows iOS developers to spend more time on smaller details to enrich an app.

The less time spent on coding an app for multiple operating systems equates to richer app environments, faster app response time, more granular app control and apps which are less prone to failure.


Android Operating Systems:

The Android OS strategy represents all of these issues. Multiple operating systems in operation. Massive quantities of varying devices in operation. This means not only do Android developers have to account for multiple operating systems running on multiple devices, they also have to choose what OS to code for. Naturally, if a dev is forced to choose on operating system over the other, that dev is losing out on a good portion of the market.

With roughly 37% of the Android market functioning from varying older operating systems, apps coded for the most recent versions of Android KitKat squander a market comprised of 1,110,000,000 device users.

1,110,000,000 users are nothing to sneeze over.

It’s the classic NASA problem. Too many moving parts, all of which can cause mass failure.

Summary: Android has more devices operating from a fragmented OS base. Apple maintains a vastly smaller quantity of devices operating from a unified OS base. The simple answer would be iOS is better for both developers and users. That would be the simple answer.

Yet, as often is the case, the answer to mobile operating system supremacy isn't that simple.

Android: Less Secure, More Options


In terms of functioning operating systems, iOS is more steady and easier to use for developers than the fractured Android ecosystem. Oddly enough, it is for those exact reasons why the Android platform, in all its flavors, flourishes.

Both platforms have roughly the same quantity of applications – 1.358 million Android Google Play Store apps to 1.2 million Apple App Store apps – and yet, Google Play downloads, as of April 2014, track ahead of Apple App Store downloads by a massive 45%.


 

You could count this up to more devices mean more downloads or you could count this up to more devices mean more developers per device.

A third possibility – one which I side with – is that users and developers flock to Android devices over Apple devices – KitKat over iOS7 (soon to be iOS8) – for the sole reason of open source. Android OS’s, for all their fragmentation, hinge on open source coding and forking whereas Apple iOS hinge on a top down dynamic of closed world updates.

Due to the open source platform of Android, even though there exists a higher level of operating system variety, developers and users flock to the platform to experience that difference forged by open source community initiatives.

It’s the classic moral philosophy: totalitarian control vs. free living.


Conclusion: iOS vs. Android OS Variety


The story of iOS vs. Android is one of unification vs. varied. It is the story of less is sometimes more and more is sometimes best. Both have their benefits and both contain their downfalls. Both aren’t perfect yet both appeal to two different consumers/developers for two very different reasons.


Unification: [yoo-nuf-fi-key-shuh n]; Noun. Origin: Unify, 1495 – 1505, Late Latin

  1. The process of unifying or uniting; union
  2. The state or condition of being unified
  3. iOS

Varied: [vair-eed]; Adj. Origin: Vary, 1300 – 1350, Middle English, Latin

  1. Characterized by exhibiting variety; various; diverse; diversified
  2. Changed; altered
  3. Having several different colors; variegated
  4. Android

Personally, Android is my platform of choice. Which is yours?

Leave your answer in the comments.


If you dug this content, check out “The Fight for the Mobile App Market: Android vs. iOS”. Additionally check out some excellent iOS Dev content by Erica Sadun and some killer mobile design content by Cameron Banga and Josh Weinhold.


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