In January 2007, Apple unveiled the iPhone, which would later go on sale in June of the same year. It wasn’t until late-2008 that the first Android phone was released, giving Apple a head start in the mobile market.
Despite arriving more than a year later, Google’s Android quickly became a serious threat to Apple’s growing empire through time and hard work. The threat soon became apparent to Apple’s then-current CEO Steve Jobs, and he proceeded to threaten the growing Android ecosystem in any way he could.
Steve Jobs felt that Google had taken the product from Apple, and he even threatened to wage “thermonuclear war”. By this point, Android had become an entirely different animal and the platform began to dominate in terms of global market share.
Despite many advantages, there are areas where Google’s Android can continue to improve
Looking at today’s market, Android phones hold many advantages over Apple’s iPhone, including more hardware varieties with more screen size options and more software flexibility (including rooting, different keyboards, widgets, custom ROMS, etc). Many Android hardware options still offer expandable storage and removable batteries as well.
Despite all of the advantages, there are areas where Google’s Android can continue to improve. There are also areas where Apple still holds key advantages over Android. With that in mind, let’s walk through some of the areas where Apple arguably holds at least a small edge, while discussing what Google and its partners can do differently to dissolve any of these remaining advantages.
Security: lack of malware threats
Android faces a growing number of malicious threats, primarily due to Google’s large market share. After all, it is typical for hackers to focus on platforms that are prevalent to make the most of their work. Just how much of a threat malicious software is to Android is debatable, especially if apps are downloaded from the Google Play Store, which rarely allows malware to be downloaded.
However, one of Android’s biggest advantages is not being tied down to the apps in the Play Store, unlike Apple’s iPhone and the App Store. So malware is certainly a concern for Android, especially when it comes to public relations and consumer perception.
Just how much of a threat malicious software is to Android is debatable
Too much negativity around Android about security issues could hurt business adoption rates and possibly consumer adoption rates. It is possible that lack of malicious software for Apple’s iPhone could result in more businesses and consumers sticking with Apple’s iPhone instead of switching devices.
An article posted on Android Authority details that Google is working to strengthen the security of Android for business owners. Even Samsung has created its own security system for its Android phones called KNOX. All in all, better security systems (much like Google’s continuous malware monitoring) and malware control in apps found in and out of Google’s Play Store will help enable Google to ditch the “unsecure” tag, even though the level of threat is debatable.
Ease of use
The ease of use of a phone can be highly subjective and vary from person to person. With so many varieties of Android phones, much of Apple’s remaining base are comfortable with the user interface and are hesitant to try a new operating system.
Part of Apple’s success, in terms of ease of use, comes down to its simple interface that doesn’t shove on tons of extras. Of course, not all devices are overloaded in special features, and devices like the Google Nexus 5 show that it is certainly possible to offer a simple, easy to use interface that arguably rivals Apple’s iPhone.
The rumored introduction of an “Android Silver” program will further eliminate some of these ease of use issues (and fragmentation claims) by providing a consistent experience across all Android Silver devices. Additionally, manufacturers like Motorola have also put a great deal of focus into improving ease of use and the customer experience.
High-end tablet market share, for now
When building an ecosystem to compete with Apple’s admittedly solid ecosystem, it is important to have all segments in order. Following Apple’s release of the iPad in 2010, the Android community struggled to answer with a tablet that could compete in terms of profit and sales. However, with a stronger effort by Google (with Android 3.0), some serious Android tablets began to rip into Apple’s market share.
Today, Android leads the worldwide market, but Apple still has a very strong presence in the high-end tablet market. Samsung’s Note series are among the best to challenge Apple for its market share, particularly in education and business.
Unfortunately, Samsung and other Android tablet makers are still behind in terms of support for education and business-centric features such as Office, upgraded security, and better management tools. Thankfully, devices like the NotePro and TabPro series are looking to address some of these decencies.
Android leads the worldwide market, but Apple still has a very strong presence in the high-end tablet market
Samsung actually holds one potential advantage over Apple in the high-end tablet market: the S-Pen. By taking advantage of its special S-Pen features and continuing to push business tools and software, Samsung is in a good position to take the crown from Apple — particularly among business users.
Perceived quality of apps
Although Android has a larger number of apps than Apple at this point, it is generally believed that Apple’s store offers higher quality apps due to their stricter restrictions and a larger base of iOS developers. The topic is often considered debatable and highly subjective, but it appears to be the common understanding.
One of the reasons behind this perceived lack of quality could be that the Android universe is so diverse, making it more difficult to optimize the applications for the different types of hardware and custom interfaces. Additionally, according to developer John Evans — also a writer at TechCrunch — Apple’s Xcode is a pleasure to work with when compared with “the current state-of-the-art IDE, Eclipse”.
Due to the complexity and subpar debugger, developers are likely to prepare an iOS app faster than on Android.
Due to the complexity and subpar debugger, developers are likely to prepare an iOS app faster than on Android. The faster preparation leads to a cheaper initial investment in an app and getting the app to the market faster. On the bright side, Google is in the early stages of preparing Android Studio to help cure this issue.
Of course, even if Android Studio makes it easier to develop apps for Android, there’s still the question of profits. There is substantial data that suggests iOS developers are paid more than Android developers. In fact, according to Forbes, Apple paid developers $5 billion over 12 months ending in August, 2013. Over the same relative time period, data suggests Google paid about $900 million to developers.
These figures suggest that iOS developers as a group made well over 5 times more money. While there are more iOS developers, this data suggest coding for iOS is likely easier and more lucrative. Even with Apple’s difficult approval process, developers are willing to put in the time and money to perfect their applications.
If Google wants to raise the quality of its apps and become a priority for developers, they must find a way to better lure developers. A possible was to do this is lower the 30% fee it charges for purchases to raise the incentive to code for Android. Capturing a larger segment of the high-end smartphone and tablet market will also have a major impact on app usage.
Although Apple still holds some advantages over Android, Google has done a lot to address some of these deficiencies in recent times and things are only getting better by the day. Whether Google has done enough, however, is probably a matter of debate.
Do you agree with these deficiencies? Are there other areas where you feel Apple holds the advantage, or vice versa? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.