November 26, 2012

Android vs. iOS: It’s The Apps, Stupid!

While lately I have been a huge fan of the improvements to Android, there is still one major category where iOS continues to hold an advantage: quality and breadth of apps.

While the disparity is not as bad as it once was, it is still significant enough to give one pause when considering whether to choose Android or iOS. Lately my experience with a number of apps has brought this to the forefront of my mind when comparing the two platforms.

While there are many Android apps that are taking advantage of the new tools available in Android (Pinterest, Flipboard, ESPN College Football, and Angry Birds Star Wars are good examples) in the vast majority of cases the best apps come to iOS first and Android later (if at all).

The most recent example of this is Letterpress. Take the joy you once felt at discovering Words with Friends and multiply it by 10. Letterpress is twice as addictive and even more challenging than the ubiquitous word game.

Yet don’t expect Letterpress to come to Android anytime soon. The developer behind the game, Loren Brichter, was the developer of Tweetie, which was purchased by Twitter to become the foundation of the microblogging service’s iOS app. His development work has been very focused on Apple’s mobile platform.

Another example of the dilemma often faced by Android users is CNN. The iOS CNN app looks outstanding, making full use of swipes, gestures and the powerful screen resolution on the iPhone 4. The iPad version is just as impressive. In fact most news sites such as The Washington Post, AP, and others have developed excellent apps for the iPhone and iPad that look great and perform well.

The Android version of CNN, however, is a piece of junk. The font is microscopic and is drowned out by the unused space. And like many cross-platform apps, there is no tablet version to speak of.

Unfortunately, this story repeats itself on Android, even for large companies that ought to have the resources to develop quality apps for the platform.  There are too many applications with jumbled animations, clunky interfaces and inconsistent implementation of the standardized back button at the bottom of the Android OS screen.

Again, Google is seeking to remedy this by selling its own Nexus-branded tablets, the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10. The Nexus 7 was so successful it may have been part of what pushed Apple to produce its smaller iPad mini. If more consumers continue to buy Android tablets and smartphones, developers will need to continue stepping up their game.

Android has come a long way since Google first started selling the Nexus One. It remains my favorite OS with many powerful features that trump iOS. But for most looking to buy their next smartphone or tablet, the only deciding factor

After using both ecosystems for a while, I understand the draw that iOS has. Many are willing to put up with the awful Apple Maps and limited customization options in exchange for a first-rate app ecosystem.

Given the current trends, I expect both platforms to mirror one another more closely. Look for Apple to respond to criticism about iOS becoming stagnant by pushing more features to rival Android; Google will continue to push for more and better apps to keep its OS attractive.

Image Credit: Derek Walter

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