Mobile platforms

Android vs iOS: In the end, end users decide

By Jason Tee

TheServerSide.com

In the battle of mobile operating systems, Android and iOS each have their share of loyal followers. You can easily start a flame war on any number of tech forums by stating that one mobile platform is better than the other. However, this is not a battle that will be decided by those with the software development knowledge to carefully evaluate the pros and cons of each mobile application development platform and dig into the underlying flaws that cause problems to crop up.

In this era, more than ever, perception is everything. It’s the viewpoint of the average customer that will ultimately drive improvements in this market. At the same time, the customer base for these operating systems is becoming better educated about what makes one mobile OS better than another for their particular usage patterns and purposes.

The five major features that matter to most end users are stability, security, multitasking abilities, battery life and of course usability. By evaluating the two major players along these five factors, we may be able to make some meaningful predictions about where the future of mobile application development is headed. Shall we steer more toward Android or iOS?

Stability

Much more important than the question, “Why do apps crash?” is the question, “How often will my apps crash?” According to data collected by Crittercism and explored by Chris Chavez at Forbes, iOS is the loser in this arena compared to Android.

That may come as a surprise to hardcore Apple supporters. But, as Honest Abe used to say, “You can’t fool all of the people all of the time.” Although Apple products may outperform competitors in many ways, the iOS apparently has some serious problems with keeping apps running. That’s a turnoff for individual customers. It’s also a big issue for businesses that want to provide their customers with an app. When end users experience an app crash, they are likely to blame the company that created and sold it – not the underlying OS.

Security

This one’s a difficult race to call since Android and iOS each has its own set of vulnerabilities. However, iOS does appear to have an edge over Android if you believe what you read over at techweb. As with most Apple offerings, iOS is highly resistant to malware attacks. It’s also got a better grasp on data loss and data integrity as well as resource abuse problems. Two features that the average consumer can appreciate and understand are:

  • The ability to wipe sensitive data remotely from a lost or stolen phone (including those embarrassing photos you took when you were drunk)
  • The fact that Apple actually vets any apps sold in its store (the Android market is like the Wild West by comparison)

Business customers will love the first feature and feel ambivalent about the second. Having more hoops to jump through before being permitted to release an app for sale can delay or completely prevent a company from distributing an app. At the same time, at least if that happens the company will know what’s wrong with the app and can take steps to fix it rather than releasing an inferior or risky product.

Enterprise customers are going to care a great deal about security if their app handles sensitive consumer data. Getting a black eye over creating an app that leaves consumers open to exploitation is very bad for business.

Multitasking and battery life

These are actually two separate issues but they do have some overlap in how they affect the user experience. Android tends to do more true multitasking than iOS. An iPhone will put apps to sleep and out of memory when they aren’t actively being used.  Android suspends apps in a somewhat similar way but may allow them to remain in memory. (This is all an oversimplification and you can see more detailed info over at PC World).

The bottom line is that users of Android apps that tend to send constant updates (like FaceBook and Twitter) need to manage how many apps they run at once if they want to keep their device operating optimally. On the other hand, iPhones have a reputation for quicker battery drainage than the competition regardless of how well the OS supposedly handles resources. With an Android phone, it’s fairly simple to set power saver mode to shut down non-essential features to conserve the battery based on user preferences. It’s not so simple with an iPhone and takes a lot more twiddling.

For end users, having a phone that will do what they want for as long as possible and let them run apps without interruption is going to be the most satisfying option. For businesses, it takes foresight to design an app that can deal with being treated as non-essential and put “on the shelf” during the type of multi-tasking approach used by each OS. In the end, performance between the two systems and their supporting devices is likely to even out. Neither competitor can afford to lose this battle.

Usability

This is an area where there are no good answers. Users who are familiar with one OS will always have to learn new patterns to successfully use the other. Since most people naturally resist having to put more thought into a process they already learned once, it’s very hard to say that one is better than the other. Usually, one is simply more familiar than the other.

In addition, the apps themselves rather than the operating system play the most visible and critical role in actual usability. You can see one head-to-head comparison at spyrestudios that demonstrates how tight the race is on some of the most commonly used apps. So, for consumers and business customers alike, intuitively designed apps are going to be the most attractive option regardless of the underlying OS. 

05 Apr 2012

Related Content

Related Resources

Disclaimer: Our Tips Exchange is a forum for you to share technical advice and expertise with your peers and to learn from other enterprise IT professionals. TechTarget provides the infrastructure to facilitate this sharing of information. However, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or validity of the material submitted. You agree that your use of the Ask The Expert services and your reliance on any questions, answers, information or other materials received through this Web site is at your own risk.