There has long been a debate as to whether the iPhone and it’s venerable iOS software was better than the Android operating system built by Google, or vice versa. Android is praised for being open and the ability to customize it how you want, while iOS is respected for it being closed source, more secure, and all around smoother than Android. Apple says their OS is “the world’s most advanced mobile operating system”, while Google claims their OS isn’t necessarily the best, but more open and customizable. This article will aim to help you choose which OS is best and which is not by exploring the two most debated topics surrounding the two operating systems. Keep reading for the entire breakdown. (Please note, this is not a feature-based comparison, but rather a more technical breakdown of both software offerings. For a feature-based comparison, click here.)
Open Source vs. “Walled Garden”
Since the introduction of iOS and the iPhone in 2007 and the subsequent release of Android in 2008, comparisons have referred to iOS as a “walled garden”, meaning the system itself is good, but on the contrary, what you can do on the inside of the “garden” is restricted because of Apple. Although this may equal a more secure, reliable, and faster platform, users are limited in how they can use and customize their iOS device. Android is just the opposite, in that it’s an open source platform, allowing for increased customization and significantly rediced limitations in comparison, although this comes at the cost of some malware, such as the infamous DroidDream trojan (you really only get malware if you download apps that copy popular apps with the same name or apps that seem fishy). Developers are also affected by whether or not the system they are developing for is open source or closed source.
Open source platforms give developers more freedom for their creations. They are given access to more API (Application Programming Interface) which allows for existing hardware functions or core software functions to be modified. Closed source developers (with iOS devs being a great example) are often, if not always, limted since apps are monitored and are tested, so they run the risk of being rejected if their application attempts to modify a hardware function or if it attempts to copy the looks or sometimes the function of another app. Google generally does not remove applications from the Play Store unless it contains inappropriate content, poses a threat to a users device or information, or otherwise breaks the terms of service. Apple closely monitors their application store and tests each app and their updates before being released. Malware is seldom seen on iOS as Apple has a close lock on how the OS runs and functions, while Google is not as strict.
This part comes down to whether or not you care deeply about customization or not. Android allows for a less restricted homescreen where you can put live icons called widgets, moving wallpapers, or even them the entire homescreen (some let you make your device look like iOS or Windows Phone 7). You can modify the lookand function of most aspects of your device. iOS only allows for the changing of you wallpaper behind a 5 by 4 grid of icons (and folders if you have them, although they only fit 12 icons). What you’re sacrificing when you choose iPhone is the customization factor for the fact that your device will run smooth without hiccups.
Another age old debate between Android and iOS is fragmentation and how widespread it is in the Android community. Fragmentation greatly affects the lifespan of a device and whether or not it’ll receive updates in a timely manner. Because Android is open source, it allows for device manufacturers to use Android on their smartphones (and tablets), usually in tandem with the manufacturers custom skin (ex. Touch wiz, HTC Sense) which run on top of, and modify, the stock Android experience. This causes manufacturers to go on device creating spree, as Samsung does, creating every device type you can imagine with every screen size and more. This makes it difficult for them to focus on their flagship device, and when they have multiple flagship devices, it makes it even harder. So because of this, devices are typically not supported by updates as long as they should, even though they can run the latest version. Support is typically dropped after a successor is released. Apple is just the opposite. Although iOS support will most likely be dropped this year for the iPhone 3GS, Apple has supported it with updates since 2009 starting with iOS 3 and then iOS 4 and iOS 5. Most major Android devices typically only get maybe two major upgrades, or just one and then bug fix updates. This is a huge problem surrounding Android and it’s a reason why people are shied away.
In the end, it really comes down to what you want your device to do and how you want it to function. do you want an open platform where you customize things how you want (to an extent) or do you want a more simpler platform with minimal customization, but a more secure and developer supported platform.