Why iOS beats Android – part 2: Apps

Since the App Store launched in 2008, the iPhone has become much more than just an easy-to-use touch screen device that provides a great experience for the user. It’s become a mobile bank, a barcode reader, a library, a photo editing computer, it can be whatever you want it to be. I’m not saying that Android phones can’t do the same, most popular apps are available on both platforms, but the process of developing and buying apps on a Google powered device can often be a frustrating one.

Consider it from a user point of view. Last year, for a few months I carried two devices. I had an iPhone 4, for personal use, and a G2 for my work emails, calendar etc. If I wanted an app on my iPhone I’d go to the App Store, using my Apple ID and download it from one centralized location. I take the phone home, and it syncs with iTunes and backs up my data. If I ever lost my iPhone I simply get a new one, and restore it with the back up file. Et voila! All my apps are back as they were. Granted, backups are possible on Android, but it’s not as simple, or efficient. Plus, I don’t want to think about how I need t backup a file, I just want it to be done automatically when I sync my device.

With the G2 I can download apps easily. But, if some of those apps were sold from Italy, Netherlands or anywhere outside the UK, I’d get billed extra by my bank for “using my credit/debit card abroad.” This left a very bitter taste in my mouth. Since their aren’t many reputable banks in the country who don’t charge for international card usage I became hesitant to do so. Then there’s the fact that the apps aren’t really quality controlled. It is much harder to find an attractive, elegant app on Android than it is on iOS. In fact I’m pretty sure the only app I preferred on Android to iOS was Tweetdeck – which has been redesigned for iPhone in the last couple of days.

I’ve avoided using the F word so far, but now it’s time; fragmentation. With there being so many different size Android phones, apps have to be redesigned and redeveloped for each new device. Before you start the “there’s fragmentation on Apple too” argument, let me say – I know. Older devices can’t run the newest software, and some apps don’t run on them. But by and large the worst it tends to get for me is “oh, that’s not been made for the iPad yet, ah well.” Which I think is reasonable, for the iPad I expect something more polished, and better tuned for a larger display. For Android users, trying to share app recommendations can be a nightmare if the two devices have different screen sizes/resolutions/or shapes. Compare the Galaxy S to the Samsung Galaxy Pro. If I were to replace one with the other, the apps would look completely off balance. (That’s if I managed to back them up.) It’s just frustrating.

This is, apparently, an even bigger problem for developers. According to a recent set of polls, developers are more interested in iOS app development than they are interested in creating Android programs. Considering Apple take a 30% cut, have strict guidelines and have a smaller market share than Android in the smartphone world, that says a lot. There may not be a monumental difference comparing iPhone to Android phones, but take a look at iPad vs. Android tablets.

The latest market share pie chart below confirms that Android does hold a bigger slice of the pie than Apple. But with developers preferring Apple, and Jobs’ company holding almost 50% of the monetary profits (not the same as market share), I’d say Cupertino is still whooping some serious Google behind. However much I love Android, and its openness. In the app department, the centralized App Store coupled with iTunes makes it a much better experience than using Android for the same thing. This is not saying apps are better on one platform necessarily, but, the user experience is what matters most, and Android’s needs some ironing out.

I’ll leave you with this tweet. Does it confirm that iOS apps are worth paying for or not? Comment below.

Data and images from: 9to5 Mac

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  • Jon

    Great follow-up to the first article, but some details aren’t exactly true. Let me iron out the issues:

    “Granted, backups are possible on Android, but it’s not as simple, or efficient. Plus, I don’t want to think about how I need t backup a file, I just want it to be done automatically when I sync my device.”

    Backups, though less efficient than the iTunes approach, is still very easy to do. An app installer program or Titanium Backup can backup all existing applications to an Android device’s internal storage or SD card. So if there’s a need to flash a new ROM or replace the current phone, a simple batch restore of the apps will do the job quickly, and not rely on a desktop suite in order to do that.

    ” For Android users, trying to share app recommendations can be a nightmare. Taking it back to the app backing up scenario mentioned earlier. What if I lost my G2 and replaced it with a Galaxy S? My apps were backed up, but then I find they’re not compatible with my phone. Am I then left without apps that I found useful? It’s just frustrating.”

    Now here’s a big problem. As an owner of an archaic Motorola Cliq and a new HTC Desire HD, almost all apps I have in my inventory can be used on both phones. The only exceptions are intensive games and Flash 10.2, since my Cliq is physically unable to run due to hardware limitations. Everything else – widgets, home replacements, live wallpapers, other apps – run quite well on the two devices. Apps aren’t exactly as specifically designed for a certain class of phones as you make it out to be. They can easily scale according to resolution and processor performance.

    And if I recall, the G2 and the Galaxy S have an equal resolution of 800×480. I’m not sure why you’re getting incompatibilities on the two phones.

    • Cam Bunton

      Do you not find that when some are scaled that it somehow looks a bit off? It’s just not tailored to fit each device perfectly.

      One thing that sticks in my memory was when Angry Birds was released on Android, but my mother in law couldn’t get it on her Galaxy S. It just didn’t show up in the Market. So, hypothetically, if I had Angry Birds on Android and she liked it, she couldn’t get it.

      • Jon

        As I remember, the Angry Birds launch was done in phases and was experiencing some problems publishing it at first. But when it hit the Market, it soon became available to all devices within a week or so. It should be visible on any Android device, regardless of model or location.

        But anyways that issue has been long rectified, so I still couldn’t get why the SGS and G2 run into incompatibilities. Both are very capable in terms of hardware, and sport the same resolution. Heck, even the Android community could port apps not really designed for the devices they could actually support – case in point being Xperia Arc’s home launcher and the Acer Iconia’s Social Jogger app.

    • Cam Bunton

      g2 vs. Galaxy S was a poor example. I wanted to show more difference, post has been updated accordingly. Thanks for the pointers, appreciate your comments.

      • Jon

        Whoops, missed the edit. Now your point holds more ground. That becomes an issue of form factor and generational differences, like the Cliq v. Desire HD example I provided.

        • Cam Bunton

          No worries, you were right to point it out, and I don’t mind admitting was a poor example. Thanks for pulling me up on it. Comments like this really help improve the site, and our content. Thanks again.

  • Talon Meyer

    About that tweet: Maybe android just has better free apps?

    • Miguel

      I dont think there are better. Apple apps are way better and dont have to worry if they will function well your divice. Android is in many phones that not all have the same functionality to perform all the apps at its best. 

  • Brian

    *originally posted on Facebook, but the kids are playing, there*

    I agree with several points in the article. While both platforms are fragmented (every platform/OS will either fragment or disappear,) iOS is less-so. No matter anyone’s anecdotal experience, that has to mean that in the long run a greater percentage of apps will be non-compatible with a greater percentage of devices with Android. It’s just simple logic.

    I don’t see it as being an issue the way the iPhone crowd seems to.

    I also don’t see the massive app stores as big deals. I have had smartphones for years… predating both iOS and Android. In the real world, you use maybe 10 apps and maybe rotate a few games.

    The “developers are more interested in iOS” is an interesting bit, but that’s not what’s going to lead to success. What’s going to lead to success is interest of consumers and availability.

    Even though the 1st “Why iOS beats Android” article suggested iOS is winning in the marketplace, the trends make it clear that even if you take into account all the iOS devices, unless Apple addresses the issues with iOS and the iPhone (including the ones Cam has mentioned,) Android is going to relegate iOS into an also-ran.

  • David

    The single thing i prefer at android It’s the status bar because for example you are playing a game and you got a text message or a missed call.On iOS you are forced to pause the game and exit on android you just pull the status bar and you see from who you got the missed call or message or w.e. still iOS and Android are very cool and I’m interested who will win this battle.

    iPod Touch 4G (32GB)
    iPhone 3Gs ( 8GB)

  • Dweller

    I just don’t get the complaints with iPad/iPhone application switching. If I’m playing infinity blade and an email comes in I switch to the email app (press home then mail icon) read/respond to the email then go back to playing the suspended game by clicking on the IF icon. It really couldnt be more simple. ;-)

  • Anonymous

    The issue with your Galaxy/S2 example is that apps almost never lose compatibility. While replacing a G2 with a G1 would lose you a lot of apps, it would also lose you 4 versions of Android, 40% of your screen resolution, half your RAM, and half your processor clock. Replacing a G1 with a G2 would lose you maybe an app or two, but probably not.