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iPhone and Android are different, so stop trying to compare them

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Another trends report. More rabble-rousing about which is better. The fanboys fighting the fanboys.

Can it be over already?

Since both devices stepped on the block, there has been endless comparisons between iPhone and Android. Researchers conduct countless “head-to-head” data analyses, polls and measurements to find out which is the better phone. But, especially within the last year, a clear (if unfavorable) result has emerged: iPhone and Android are different phones with different approaches. As such, comparing the two is fruitless.

A study by mobile company Flurry shows what months of studies have proven: iPhone and Android are inherently better in different ways. Android leads slightly in global device share, and Apple commands a stronger share of apps both in volume and time spent.  The company certainly points to valid reasons why these statistics are the way that they are, including the fragmented nature of Android app development, greater dissemination of Android phones in general, and the immense push that Apple has made in advertising premium apps. But it doesn’t tell  us anything new — it just casually avoids the idea that comparing the two is moot.

Android devices and iPhones aren’t in the same race, and it’s impossible to even tell if they’re on similar tracks. Android has achieved the great feat of widespread penetration all across the world, and its unique hardware options mean that low-cost devices can successfully navigate rising markets. Meanwhile, Apple has entered the rising global hunger for smartphones with little momentum, although its recent foray into financial subsidies has worked well in India.

Android’s diversified system and widespread market appeal simply cannot be compared against the more concentrated pockets of iPhone users, and sometimes these statistics don’t actually prove dominance in a particular market. Sure, Android may get more downloads overall, but Apple’s revenue from the App Store remains unmatched. Other times, they’re different depending on what time, place and particular region of the world.

In a lot of ways, it comes down to the semantics of how we view this debate: holding a head to head between two different phones with two different aims and environments is just impossible. It discounts the strengths and weaknesses both have, and it eliminates burgeoning competition from Windows Phone and Blackberry.

So let’s agree that this “head-to-head” nonsense just doesn’t work anymore.

30 Responses to “iPhone and Android are different, so stop trying to compare them”

  1. I think everyone should stop sounding so snarky. You all really just blur the discussion or should I say bickering. Both phones can do almost anything the other can. There are work arounds for any experienced user. i.e., jail breaking etc. For the less experienced user whatever they by and spend the time learning is going to seem best, they will learn that particulr technology and get comfortable with “it”. The experienced user already knows what they want and what they are going to get. So the real discussion should be targeted at the “new” user. One example. Does the individual have a large music library in iTunes. If yes they are going to want the iPhone if having that music library on their phone is important and they want a smoother more simple solution. Although not impossible to get your iTunes library on android or windows it is a challenge for a “new” adapter of Smartphone’s. That’s just one topic the list could go on. If your just going to pick specs, (nothing wrong with that) then that’s going to change things in a different direction. I don’t think the “new” adapter is going to be impressed with things like processor speeds or pixels etc. I think if they want a really big screen and phone they are going to lean towards Android. If their music library which is most likely but not necessarily in iTunes they will want an iPhone. These are only a couple of examples, I’m sure more could be found.
    I just think we need to separate being a fan of something (nothing wrong with that) as apposed to helping someone make a decision on what would work in their own circumstances. If a camera is important to them then the new Nokia Lumia 1020p is impressive to some. Have a discussion about Smartphones not bickering about what words are chosen and who’s biased. Every sales person and every user of a smart phone for that matter has a biased that’s a fact. Set that a side and find out the the individual wants to do with the device and go from there that is what a reasonable individual does.

  2. Andoird is not a phone, it’s an OS. it’s like comparing Ford car sales with sales of Yokohama tires and concluding that Yokohama is winnign because there are a lot more cars out there using Yokohama tires than there are Fords.

  3. Anonymous

    It makes perfect sense to compare them because the audience is the same. They are direct competitors in the market. Even now I’m trying to decide between them for my next phone.

  4. I find it perfectly relevant to compare the two, as I am currently debating between them for my first touch-screen smartphone purchase. Both have their merits and I need to compare them to see which is better for my personal use.

  5. I’ve been saying this for some time now.
    Like comparing apples and oranges – they’re both fruits but they’re different. When I want an apple, an orange wont do. But I prefer orange juice over apple juice.
    Both fruits are good.

  6. winstuff

    Ask yourself: Would you rather create a product of such excellence that one person would pay a million bucks for it or create a product so popular that a million people would pay one buck for it? Which do you think Apple prefers? And which Google?

  7. immovableobject

    Except for a few rabid fans and opinionated geeks (like the people likely to be reading gigaom), most consumers don’t actually choose their phones based on operating system. They are more likely to consider things like cost, styling, features, and availability of compatible accessories. Or they just ask what their friends recommend. Only if they have a large investment in apps or media, are they especially likely to stay within the same OS when upgrading.

    Market share only matters to consumers to the extent that it is sufficient to insure the sustainability of the platform. iOS and Android both have established critical mass in that regard. Neither is likely to evaporate. It then comes down to the pros and cons of each ecosystem. Android is fragmented (a negative), but that is because there are many more choices in form factor and features to chose from (a positive). iOS is less customizable (a negative), but is dead simple (a positive). There are other tradeoffs like this that cause one or the other platform to be “better” for a particular individual.

    Ultimately, one must conclude that the the two platforms, while having significant overlap, are clearly targeted at different ends of the market

  8. hortron

    If you look at these two teams, on a global scale, by where they are at this very moment, It appears that they are playing in two different, disparate leagues. I’ll give you that.

    However, that doesn’t mean that they want to each be playing in the other’s league, or changing the fundamentals of each league, or didn’t have aspirations to be in the other league.

    You’re looking at far too much of a macro level and at market point of view to have any relevance in a mainstream technology blog :) I guess that would be my criticism.

  9. Ole I. Christensen

    I think the headline was fine and catching but when I read the “article”, I earnestly didn’t know if I should cry or laugh!
    You try to make the statement that fans of a specific OS no longer makes sense and then you turn out to be a isheeps yourselves!?
    I think you could have used your time better elsewhere, than on this post.

  10. Johny Doe

    “iPhone and Android are different, so stop trying to compare them”

    Agreed one Is a modern multitasking mobile OS, the other is an outdated none multitasking old iOS.

  11. Wow, what a load of crap, I sure as hell compare iPhone and Android when I shop for a phone, as do most discerning smartphone users. In short; this was a nice catchy title for an article that was clearly written by an Apple enthusiast that is deeply troubled by Android leaving iOS sadly slipping behind!

  12. Vance

    One interesting point is the idea of “trajectory” and the which segment each platforms caters to. The implication from the article is that it is a simple concept: Apple will supply the needs of the discerning customer who demands quality products and is willing to pay more for it, a smaller but more select group. Whereas Android caters to the masses with a more mainstream (read mediocre) product.

    While this may have been true of the Apple v. Windows options back in the day, it definitely doesn’t apply to phones for one simple reason: Android’s high-end devices are equal, if not superior, to the iPhone. The old “luxury niche” market makes no sense in this market.

    • I disagree Android phones, even the top of the line ones, are superior.

      The specs are superior, but that’s not the same thing as the user experience, which is subjective. My personal experience is that iOS is a better experience, and I had an Android phone (Droid X) that had better specs than the iPhone i replaced it with. i can’t say what it is exactly, probably a combination of a million different little things that add up to me enjoying the iPhone a lot more than the Droid.

      to argue about it passionately, as some do, is ridiculous. they’re just phones.

  13. Its not nonsense because many people want to buy one or the other, not both. One may suit you better than the other depending on who you are. But its usually not that simple. They definitely go about things differently but 99% of the aims are the same. I think a better way of putting thing is that you don’t have to declare one to be better than another or one to be the best. In fact I’d argue pitting them head to head(add in Windows and Blackberry if you’d like) and pointing out the strengths and weaknesses is exactly what you want to help people make informed purchasing decisions.

  14. realjjj

    Trying desperately to defend Apple without having anything relevant to say?
    First of all the term “fanboy ” is offensive and implies a lack of reasoning and you depart with the premise that the conversation can’t be based on logic.
    Then you seem undecided about what you are talking about , the actual product or market share.
    Yes Android offers more options,is a more flexible OS, is more open in so many ways and is cheaper and that makes it fundamentally better .
    Revenue from the app store is not a plus for the iphone user,it is for Apple and some developers but it also implies a higher TCO for the user.
    As for market share,that’s easy ,Apple does well in markets where the consumer is careless with his spending and in places where the brand is stronger.
    You don’t make any kind of valid point here, all you are saying is that you can’t compare a phone with another phone, just because.
    Wow what garbage!

    • those Android pluses all come with minuses.

      the openness makes it a less stable platform, more prone to security risks. it’s less efficient and stable than iOS. this should be obvious: you can’t expect one operating system to work great on hunderds of different devices with different screen sizes, processors, etc. . .

      it’s not optimized for any one device them. it would be like installing the same transmission in pickup trucks, econo cars, Ferrari’s and mid size family cars. it will work, and those cars may still be attractive, but performance and reliability will not be nearly as good as when the cars have transmissions built for the specific car.

      and “Android” isn’t cheaper. Some phones running Android are cheaper than iphones, others aren’t. none of the flagship phones from Apple’s competitors are cheaper than the iPhone 5.

      Android isn’t “better” it just has different pluses and minuses.

      I’ve had an Android device and prefer iOS. I don’t think iOS is objectively superior, it fits me better and based on my experience I like it more. It’s silly to insult people because of their phone preferences and these issues are not objective. it’s like arguing over prettiest girl.

  15. Vance

    So incredibly obvious that this was written by an Apple fan and iPhone user, which is ironic. A call to avoid comparisons which is just one big list of comparisons, along with why Apple doesn’t “suffer by comparison”. Apple supporters were all about the numbers, including marketshare, during the time that those numbers were very favorable to Apple. Now that this has changed and Android is dominant, they simply change the goal-posts, argue those numbers don’t matter to Apple and point to a different set of standards by which Apple can be deemed superior.

    This new cry of “stop comparing” is simply “stop pointing out where Apple falls short, and focus on where they are still strong!”

    For now.

  16. coder543

    Living in near-isolation in a small town on a mountain is different in almost every regard versus living in a major tourist beach town on the coast. This does not mean we cannot compare them. The fact that they are different is the reason we compare them. They each have their advantages, and on a person by person basis one IS better than the other.

    iOS and Android are both horrible mobile OSes, each terrifically bad in their own ways, but people will still want to know which is better. iOS is more aesthetically pleasing and has a slightly better variety of apps. Android is much more open, allowing you to actually get stuff done, and get it done on hardware that matches your needs. You want a big phone with a stylus? check. You want a little phone that’ll slip in your pocket? check. I can hook flash drives up to my Galaxy Nexus, and many other things that cannot be done on iOS. Yet iOS will run more smoothly and provide a generally pleasing experience to the user who is just into casual device usage.

    My hope is that Ubuntu Touch will combine the best of both worlds, and then some. I’ve used iOS and Android both extensively and I’m sick of all of their deep seated problems. I hope iOS 7 is fantastic, but I hold my doubts.

  17. Android and iOS “aren’t in the same race,” This is a silly statement. When I walk in to buy a phone, I have to make a choice between these two. Perhaps a certain percentage will have made up their minds (e.g. perhaps Toyota buyers won’t buy VW or vice versa), but they compete for mindshare and marketshare. Both companies think about it every single day.

    It is absolutely sane to compare them.