Apple and Google have been wrestling for control of the smartphone and tablet markets for close to a half a decade. Traditionally Apple’s iPhone and iPad devices have always beaten their Android competitors in direct sales.
But in recent years all this has changed and adoption of Google Android has skyrocketed, with analyst houses across the globe listing the confectionary-themed OS as the most widely used mobile platform in the world.
However, despite being united about Android’s growth, experts and analysts are still divided about why the use of Google’s OS has increased so rapidly.
So a week after our article about the Apple iPhone’s key strengths, we’ve created a list of 10 key areas where we think Android beats iOS. Let us know if you agree in the comments section below.
10. A more open ecosystem
Like other mobile platforms, Android has an officially sanctioned app store in the shape of Google Play, which comes as standard on nearly every Android smartphone and tablet in order for users to find and download new software.
But unlike Apple’s notorious walled garden approach, Android users can choose to install applications from other sources. You can download apps direct from a developer’s site, install them from a flash memory card, or from a third-party app store such as theAmazon Appstore, Getjar or F-Droid.
Of course, there are risks to installing apps from unknown sources, but Android doesn’t tie your hands like some other platforms, and it does warn you of the risks if you check the box enabling you to install apps from third parties. The key is that it gives you the choice.
9. Apps are cheaper on Android than iOS
Apple owners must have cash – how else could they afford their devices at such exorbitant prices? So for developers and companies, charging makes good business sense with many key apps costing at least 69p.
But on Android, where the user base is much more diverse and tends to expect something for nothing, developers know trying to charge for apps may not see the same success.
With such a huge Android device user base in the market, though, a free download route that led to advertising revenue or in-app purchases could prove just as lucrative.
8. Customisable UI offers productivity benefits
Since it was first unveiled Google’s been working hard to make Android’s user interface (UI) as flexible and customisable as possible. In doing so Google’s loaded Android with a host of customisable widgets. These can be placed anywhere on the Android UI and offer dynamic updates or shortcuts to a variety of productivity-focused services, such as email, calendar and social media feeds.
The addition makes it far easier for users to tweak their smartphone’s UI to meet their professional needs on Android than it is on iOS, which features a much more locked-down UI.
7. Cross-platform nature makes it more flexible
Apple iOS is fairly hostile when it comes to other platforms and requires developers and companies to submit an application for a service they want added to its OS, so it can be vetted first. The firm has a very strict policy that forces developers to play by its rules if they hope to get any software onto iOS.
This is a bit of an issue for businesses using legacy systems or older applications as it means they may not be able to get all their essential tools working with iOS. By comparison, Android is entirely open, and has designed its software developer kit (SDK) to work across as many platforms as possible. As a result it’s quicker and easier for companies to get any Windows or Linux app they need onto Android than it is on iOS.
6. NFC-enabled for a cashless future
Still noticeable by its absence in iOS devices, the potential uses for NFC are many. The most significant use for NFC is in cashless payment systems, such as Google Wallet, which is already accelerating our move towards a cashless society, but its implementation goes far beyond that.
By checking in to an NFC tag with an enabled phone, it is possible to automate tasks. An NFC tag on your desk could, when triggered, automatically show your diary for the day. An NFC point at your reception would allow customers to obtain a digital visitor’s pass.
The simple act of two radio-enabled chips touching has endless possibilities and – as more and more devices have them, particularly within the realms of the Internet of Things – Apple is being left further and further behind.
5. Open use lets manufacturers create bespoke devices
Moving past applications, Android’s open nature also lets developers and hardware manufacturers make changes to the operating system’s core software. This is great as it makes it fairly easy for companies to tailor Android to work in very specific environments and industries. This was shown earlier this year when secure communications provider Silent Circle used Android as the basis for its privacy-focused PrivatOS, used on its soon-to-be-released Blackphone.
PrivatOS is a secure version of Android that directly integrates Silent Circle’s encryption technology. The technology is designed to let users securely make and receive phone calls, exchange texts, transfer and store files and video chat, without fear that their activities are being monitored or recorded. It does this by encrypting all data passing through the phone using a self-generating key that deletes itself after use.
4. Multiple prices for devices
With so many manufacturers using Android there is a huge opportunity to differentiate on price. This means you can get your hands on a good-quality device without weeping as you pay for it, unlike buying an iPhone.
While some may claim that cheaper devices can never deliver a top-end experience, the efforts of Motorola with the Moto G and Google with its Nexus 5 have made it possible to get a high-quality phone that costs between £150 and £300.
Chinese vendors such as Huawei and ZTE churn out half-decent devices for less than £100 and on Wednesday EE unveiled its own-brand £99 Kestrel device, which even offers 4G connectivity. All in all, there’s plenty out there to give you bang for your buck, or punch for your pound, if you will.
3. Innovations reach the market quicker
The Android platform has a proven track record of supporting the latest cutting-edge ideas. While casual apps still seem to appear on iOS first, the bigger hardware innovations almost invariably start at Google.
Android was the first to support WiFi Direct, WebP images, multiple user accounts and screen mirroring support through Miracast.
In addition, when something doesn’t exist, the open platform makes it almost guaranteed that it will be available within hours of a need being identified, rather than having to wait two years for Apple to release something.
2. Raft of wearables arriving
You may not think you care about wearables, but they are already starting to gain traction, and Android was there from the start. Earlier in March was the first London Wearable Technology Show where over 100 exhibitors demonstrated myriad devices.
It covered everything from augmented-reality eyewear such asGoogle Glass – which is already being used at Virgin Atlantic to improve interactions between customers and check-in staff – through to jackets that monitor our every move.
Wearables are all about gathering and leveraging big data, and with the announcement of Google’s specialist Android Wear version of the operating system, Google has set out its stall for what is to come. And if you still need convincing, the once seemingly niche world of virtual reality was given a huge boost this week with Facebook’s buyout of Oculus Rift designers Oculus VR for $2 billion. Maybe soon we’ll be able to visit clients without ever leaving our desks.
1. Better choice of devices
At the time of writing, XDA Developers, the portal for Android developers, had active forums for around 250 different devices. This doesn’t include the many clones, specialist devices, HDMI smart TV sticks, or the 50 to 80 new devices that we can expect to see coming out before the end of the year.
Some have 3in screens, some have 24in screens and some have no screens at all. The specifications vary dramatically as does the price. There are phones, phablets, 7in tablets, 10in tablets, bigger, smaller and everything in between. All of which means that one of those devices is probably suitable for every use case in your business. And even if everyone has a different device, they will all be interoperable, giving you an office ecosystem that all interconnects beautifully.