The first point that must be made clear is that the Apple iPhone is the leader in the touch phone scene and Android copies quite a bit from the Apple iOS. While the initial iPhone OS (now called iOS) lacked even some of the basic phone related functionalities, it was the sheer novelty of the iPhone that kept it going. Rather than dwelling on the past, we will look at the current scenario and see where it leads.
The first common part between iOS and Android is an ID. In iOS, it’s called an Apple ID and in Android, it’s just any GMail or equivalent (Google Apps) ID.
Without an Apple ID, the iPhone is just like any other similar phone in terms of functionality. Of course, the build quality of the iPhone is still un-matched in almost every respect, besides some other features.
Android based phones, without a GMail ID are similar in terms of functionality. The cost and build quality of the Android based phones vary greatly across vendors and even by the same vendor.
So, the first assumption we make now is that we have either an Apple ID, for iOS users, or a GMail ID for Android based device users. The moment you apply this assumption, the entire scenario changes for both the platforms.
The Apple ID opens up the iCloud, iTunes and App Store on iOS. The GMail ID does something similar for the Android platform. This is where the major difference between the two platforms starts to show.
While the iCloud backup/sync is seamless and always on, the Android GMail sync might not even work on a majority of phones (personal experience with 2 such handsets from the top 2 majors). While the iCloud services offer more features today, Android could catch up with those some day in the future.
There is really no equivalent of the iTunes store on Android. Android has a disjointed system where you can purchase music in some countries. It’s still a wanna-be compared to the mature iTunes.
While there are apps on Android, the quality of those apps is questionable. Given the large number of manufacturers and the huge variety of Android based handsets, it becomes extremely difficult for a developer to cater to the entire gamut of devices.
iOS, on the other hand, has no such issues since the devices are very limited in numbers.
While iOS apps are “moderated” for Apple “guidelines” compliance, Android has no such equivalent thereby allowing thousands of malware to be installed on the end user phones. Although Google is trying to make attempts to clean out this mess, it is a huge task.
Although iOS users have not had any such malware related issues, the downside is that Apple allows apps into it’s app store on it’s own whims and fancies. Even though Apple might have developed lame apps themselves, they will not allow a better app, that has the same or similar functionality into the app store. I would say Apple does this to protect their lame designers and programmers as this practice is obviously not in favour of the consumer, developer or any kind of creativity or innovation. Something similar to the Apple “maps” which map nothing even today, but, Apple will neither fix the mistake nor back down.
Although Google does no such thing and allows almost everything into it’s app store (called Google Play currently, the name might change again so…) it also allows other stores and malware and trojans. Googles own apps on Android and iOS leave a lot to be desired. Their app quality is currently amongst the lowest in my opinion even considering the huge variety of Android based phones. Another major drawback is apps for Android based tablets are almost non-existent even today.
So, if we look at the apps scene, or the music/movies buying capability, iOS is the clear winner for now. Besides these, Apple also offers iTunes U (University) and Podcasts as free, standard apps. This really pulls iOS way ahead of Android in terms of the overall offerings and ecosystem.
The next feature we would want to look at is the iOS FaceTime and iMessage. There is no equivalent of either of these on the Android platform. FaceTime is a one-to-one video chatting application which has no equivalent. In my experience, FaceTime is the tops and Skype is the bottom of the chart with all others fitting in between. A special mention for the voice only Viber, a third party app, is required as it is the most efficient, in bandwidth terms, and really exceptional in quality for the bandwidth used.
iMessage is a hybrid between a data based chat application and an SMS application. It will detect if the recipient of the message is also using iOS and will send the message across on data, otherwise SMS (in case of an iPhone). Of course, iMessage does more than send just a message. It can send photos, videos, v-cards etc as well.
Both FaceTime and iMessage have what could be called parallel “ringing”. All devices using the same Apple ID, be it a laptop or any other Apple device, will ring simultaneously if there is a FaceTime call coming in. You can pick the call on any device. Something similar happens with iMessage as well. All devices registered with the same Apple ID can send/receive messages in parallel.
Then, there are the other “standard” apps that come with the devices. Although they are almost equivalent on iOS (iPad does not have a calculator, weather, stocks or compass app), the variations on the Android platform are quite large. I will not get into these so called “standard” app details, excepting those that require mentioning.
The eMail app is one such app. While on the iOS, the configuration/setting of a variety of email accounts is all done the same way, on Android variations, only GMail is guaranteed to exist and the configuration/setting up other email accounts might require professional help and/or installing other apps.
In iOS, all your email accounts are configured and setup in one place and all the email comes into a single app in a seamless experience. Not so on the Android devices. The same applies to calendars and contacts.
While both platforms have some level of integration, sometimes optional in case of Android, with Facebook and Twitter, iOS keeps all of them separate. On a vast majority of Android based devices, the device would merge your GMail contacts with Facebook without warning.
To end this part of the post, the point to keep in mind is that the iOS is a controlled environment and Android is not. Both have their pros and cons. In the next post, we will look at some of the features and apps in more detail. The only apps discussed would be from either Apple or Google. Third party apps will come later.