As cell phone technology advances at nearly exponential rates, an interesting conflict expands as well; namely, the individual merits of the iPhone by Apple as compared to those of the Google Android. The devices, seemingly engaged in an “arms race” in the enormous smartphone market, generate fierce loyalty among their advocates and consequently heated argument affirming one as far superior to the other. There are differences between the devices, certainly, and it is arguable that each has certain features better designed than its competitor. When all the relevant information is examined, however, the reality presented is that, largely owing to the market rivalry itself, the Android and the iPhone are both excellent devices, and superiority is ultimately only a matter of user preference.
In a very real sense, the debate between the iPhone and the Android transcends the devices; it reflects the larger conflict between Apple and Google. The sheer size of the Internet market is such that the smartphone “war” is a lens through which the clash of these industry giants is most realized. For example, Steve Jobs, late CEO of Apple, was incensed when Google released the Android, insisting that it literally stole features from his company’s iPhone, which set the stage for the extravagant lawsuits filed back and forth between the companies. The stakes are virtually inestimable and, as the future of the Internet is perceived as mobile, the smartphones are the battlefield and settlements go to the billions: “Apple’s global patent offensive against Samsung, HTC and other Google partners is really a proxy fight against Android” (Gustin, 2012). As this occurs, both companies rapidly advance new models with new features, seeking to edge out the competition in the billion-dollar smartphone market.
What will likely render the smartphone war as enduring is the reality that the iPhone and the Android represent very different models of computing, and this goes to perceived advantages and disadvantages of each. iPhone supporters have a distinct benefit, in that the Android requires extensive customizing before it may be used. A significant component of the iPhone’s appeal, and one very much in keeping with Apple marketing, is out-of-the-box accessibility. Conversely, the Android must be configured before usage. Ironically, this “limitation” of the Android is due to its multi-platform capabilities; a wide variety of software may be downloaded and configured, whereas the iPhone is geared to accommodate only Apple programming and applications tailored for Apple specifications (O’Connor, 2012, p. 59). Put another way, the primary difference between the devises is that of “closed” or “open” computing. The iPhone is Apple; from hardware to software and mobile applications, everything within it operates on the Apple platform. The Google model, or vision of the computing future, is to present the Android system as a template on which limitless developers may contribute (Gustin). Consequently, the iPhone offers, generally speaking, the security of a single brand, whereas the appeal of the Android lies in flexibility and user options.
This difference in operational platforms, however, does not necessarily translate to significant differences in the devices for the user. Certainly, Apple and Google are directed to opposing views of large-scale computing, but the relevant reality here is that, for either company to succeed, each must offer a smartphone meeting the needs and expectations of today’s users, and both iPhone and Android do precisely this. In terms of design, the basic parameters are the same, although the Google agenda equates to a multiplicity of options lacking in Apple. There are three iPhones from which to choose, all of similar size and identical design; there are thousands of Android smartphone models, ranging from the Samsung Galaxy S4 to the inexpensive Moto G, and design specifications vary proportionately (Gilbert, 2014). The higher-end Androids, nonetheless, very much resemble the sleek iPhone in size, weight, appearance, and basic functionality.
Regarding other elements, the iPhone will do only what is within the Apple iOS parameters, but its software is famously intuitive and easy to use. At the same time, and importantly, only applications made or sold by Apple may be downloaded, and adding video or music not within the Apple iTunes catalogue is difficult at best. The Android has recently developed an operating system as smooth as the iPhone’s and, while Google encourages Android users to download applications from its Play store, software from other companies is compatible. It is also much easier to upload music and video from a computer to the Android (Gilbert). It is noted that the quality of Apple applications is superior, possibly because game and app developers are tailoring their products for the iPhone. Nonetheless, Google now offers over a million apps for the Android, many of which are versions of the Apple iOS products. As to pricing, the limitations of the iPhone products go to greater expense, and these premium brand phones typically sell for several hundred dollars or more; as the Android is the system and not the smartphone itself, consumers enjoy a vast range of pricing options, permitting them to lease or buy the phone most suiting their needs and budgets (Gilbert).
There is no escaping the fact that the iPhone and the Android are different devices, if only in terms of how Apple and Google frame the computing parameters of them. This basic distinction, however, which in turn goes to other differences, does not lessen the utility of either smartphone; rather, the issue is far more of whether the consumer wishes to rely on Apple or have access to software from a variety of providers. As both phones offer the basic needs of computing and communicating, each difference is defined by user perception. For example, the advantage of the iPhone as slimmer and more lightweight than many Androids becomes a disadvantage for viewing video (Gilbert). Consequently, in the “great phone wars,” the combatants are well-matched and the consumer is the true winner. In the final analysis, the Android and the iPhone are both excellent smartphones and superiority is ultimately only a matter of user preference.
- Gilbert, D. (2014). “iPhone vs Android: Which Smartphone Should You Buy?” International Business Times. Retrieved 17 May 2014 from http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/iphone-vs-android-which-smartphone-should-you-buy-1432464
- Gustin, S. (2012). “Why Apple vs. Google Is the Most Important Battle in Tech.” Time. Retrieved 17 May 2014 from http://business.time.com/2012/10/12/why-apple-vs-google-is-the-most-important-battle-in-tech/
- O’Connor, J. (2012). Pro HTML5 Accessibility. New York: Apress Publishing.