It’s been over a decade since the first iOS and Android devices launched and, during that time, they have quickly adapted for different audiences. In some ways this is a good thing for, in most real-life scenarios, it is always better to have two unique options with wildly different outcomes than two options that you can scarcely tell apart. Nevertheless, when comparing operating systems, some advantages become apparent as soon as you unlock the device, and others only reveal themselves with time.
A key element in the iOS vs Android debate is user interface (UI) . Users often describe iOS as very intuitive, whilst Android is viewed to be a more open platform. The customisation that Android allows with its 3rd party launchers means that you can tailor the interface to your preference. You can change the app launcher (home screen), the default keyboard, and web browser on Android – things you cannot do on iOS.
According to several participants on a Lifehacker thread , this adds a lot of ‘faff’ that “only teenagers from Japan seem to have (time for)”, although one user expresses contempt for the rigidness of iOS; “I despise the fact that Apple thinks that they know me best. They don’t.”
Perhaps this suggests that the ‘openness’ of Android platforms is only suited to a younger audience, who have more time to shape an interface into what they want it to look and act like. However, this may neglect Apple, withholding the credit they deserve. Many people argue that iOS offers a more intuitive and easily-learnable experience, regardless of who the person is and what device they are using.
Firstly, the power button is in the same place on every Apple product and the apps are all in one place, on the home screen – as opposed to Android, which has it unlabelled in the corner. The settings app is very clear and easy to find, whilst on Android, even if you have the initiative to customise your phone, the first step in trying so is already problematic. Andy Orin, editor for Lifehacker, puts it perfectly; “I know that I could find solutions to every minor irk and annoyance, but the thing is, with my iPhone I never had to. There’s a reason babies love iPads and I side with the babies.”
It is fair to assume that consistency and fluidity are factors that users value, and this is also the case for developers. Being an Open Source OS, Android runs on a multitude of different phone makes and models, each with different features and UI enhancements. This makes it hard to sweep all Android devices with one brush, as one might have an incredibly intuitive interface with no lags, and another might fall short on every aspect.
This insight is more pertinent to developers than anyone else. In fact, the conflicting views about which operating system to launch your app on makes it apparent that deciding is very much like house hunting – you decide what you value the most in life (e.g. transport links, centrality, parking…) above other factors, and choose the house that accommodates for that, although this usually means sacrificing other things (e.g. space, garden, natural light).
To illustrate this; one developer may argue that iOS apps are quicker and easier to develop, due to the advanced interface builder in Xcode (contrary to the less advanced Android Studio). Add the fact that iOS developers only need to worry about two or three different screen layouts and only test on one device, whereas Android developers have to spend lots of time testing the different layouts on a vast number of devices, and they have a point.
On the other hand, another developer argues that Android apps can be submitted with much more ease and speed, as Apple has a strict-solid set of regulations on what can be uploaded to the app store. Whilst Android users can download apps from over 20 online stores including Google Play and Amazon App Store (as well as various sites that offer APK file downloads), Apple will not allow anything with downloadable code such as emulators or Flash.
The verdict – Is it all down to personal preference?
It is important to note that whilst lots of users are quick to sing praise for iOS – citing its functionality and convenience – it is also true that most people were familiarised with that platform first, and then had to switch. To put this in perspective, people who learnt to use Windows first and then had to switch to Mac will often talk endlessly about how much more comprehensible Windows is. It is fair to make such a comparison, but whether it is the platform itself or the inconvenience of having to change old habits that holds more significance, remains mostly subjective.
Decide what you value more – creative freedom or a reputable visual editor? Stable and secure apps or apps with higher reach and availability? Long-term investment or short-term?
Characterise your target audience – do old habits die hard or could your app be tailored to users that have grown bored of the predictability of iOS interface?
So, iOS vs Android? To a large extent, it is down to personal preference, but the facts stay the same. You can make extraordinary apps on both operators yet despite this, different developers are driven by different assets to create and innovate.
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