Android and iOS: spot the difference

It has been a while since I wrote anything of length on the site and so I thought I would address where we are in regards to how iOS and Android have developed over the past couple of years. I must say that I believe I could use either quite happily as my daily smartphone OS and not have any concerns that I was missing out on important apps or functionality. They are effectively converging as each update is released and becoming the same thing.

People complain that Apple borrows features from Android and that Google borrows features from iOS, but both companies are merely filling in the gaps because they have reached a point where both OS’s are so feature-rich and usable today that incremental changes are the way to go. Complaining about such things makes little sense in a world where iOS just chugs along and where Android has a more natural feel than ever with Lollipop, and even more so with Android M.

Apple could, as has been rumoured, open up a little and reduce the amount it charges for certain services. This may open up iOS users to be able to buy Kindle books within the app and also music from a variety of competing services. It could also allow users to change the default app for certain activities and it would be nice to see this appear in iOS 9. However, I do wonder if this would move many users away from what Apple wants.

For example, if I would change the default apps on my iPhone the following would happen. Mail would become Gmail, Calendar would become miCal, Maps would become Google Maps and so on. If I had the choice, Apple’s services and apps are not likely to survive in great numbers. 

I am finding myself using non-Apple services for so many activities these days that the iPhone is merely the hardware that everything runs on. Dropbox is my choice for cloud storage, Kindle for eBooks, Evernote for notes, Amazon for music, Netflix for video, Carousel for photos and so on. It may be time for Apple to realise that the way to compete in a world with so much choice available is not to lock in users, but to either improve the Apple services or allow customers to use whatever they choose to.

As an iPhone user, it can feel constrictive to have to use certain Apple services, or to have to jump through hoops to use a competitor product, and one sure way to make me look closely at Android again is to make it difficult for me to do what I need to.

Apps have also reached parity. There is not one app that I would miss out on no matter which of the platforms I chose, and Apple’s recent change to iOS which means that I can no longer manually add apps that are no longer on the App Store to my phone is the only real difference. This is potentially a big problem for me because I would lose access to a couple of very important apps and again that pushes me towards Android.

And then there is the hardware. Yes, I like the iPhone and find the camera, speed and everything else to be adequate, but it is far from perfect. I look at the LG G3 or G4 and do wonder if these are 2 potential devices that offer all that I need. Now that I no longer rely on iCloud for photos or anything else (because it isn’t very good), I could quite happily use an Android device for my photos and have them all back up to Dropbox in the background. Another example of Apple not backing up the hardware with decent cloud services at a competitive price. 

Don’t get me wrong, I have no real complaints about my iPhone in terms of reliability and how it serves me every day, but now and then I stop and think about it. Is it still the best device for me or is there something better out there? It is all too easy to use the same apps in the same way every single day and to not even consider anything else, but the differences between Android and iOS are now so minimal that it makes it easier than ever before to switch platforms without blinking an eye.

The mobile world in 2015 is one of multiple cloud services, millions of apps and a diversity of media products that can cause confusion, but it is also one that should relegate the hardware to merely being able to give us access to all of it whenever we want. I have to say that the gap between iOS and Android is smaller than ever before and it will only get smaller.

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