Android and iOS: Two Very Different Philosophies

by Ben Bajarin   |   October 19th, 2011

In this column, I in no way intend to say one of these platforms is superior to the other. I simply want to explore how they both represent completely different approaches to software and user experiences.

We have to start with a fundamental agreement that we live in a free world and support a free market. In this world consumer choice is the most powerful market driver. Competition brings choice and choice is very good.

Therefore, consumers are free to choose whatever products in hardware, software, and services they so desire. Companies compete in an attempt to create features that appeal to consumer segments, interests, and preferences. Certain features in hardware, software, and services will appeal differently to different people. There is nothing wrong with that, as I said it is very good.

The Android Philosophy
At this point we must point out that Google is a services company. It is for this reason that we should expect a different hardware and software philosophy. As I continually point out in our analysis of Android for clients, Google is a services company and all hardware and software is to Google is simply a front-end to access their services.

Android was created for the primary reason to help consumers access Google’s services on non-PC devices. Hardware for Google is just the physical object needed to run the software that is designed to access Google’s services.

Google starts with a services mindset and philosophy then works backwards on how best to make those services as broadly accessible as possible.

Google is also an engineering company and engineering companies historically struggle with making innovations accessible to tech lay-people.

With all of that context, what Google has done with Android is impressive. Those who get excited about technology for technology sake get very excited about Android. Google and Android engineers regularly show some very visionary and perhaps “ahead-of-their-time-technologies.”

This is not to say that tech lay-people can’t use Android. Many do, however, I would argue that those who have a tendency to tinker, customize, and tweak their hardware themselves, get the most excited about Android.

Android’s challenge is to take many of these forward thinking things like, face recognition, fully customizable UI, flexible widgets, Android Beam (features found in Ice Cream Sandwich), etc, easier and compelling for every day people to use.

The iOS Philosophy
Apple on the other hand is a software company, who also cares deeply about making their own hardware. Apple is on the cusp of adding robust services to their ecosystem but unlike Google they approach everything as a hardware and software company not a services company. Services to Apple are a means where to Google services is the ends.

To Apple, making innovations accessible to the masses is the underlying theme of all their hardware, software and now services philosophies. This is why they may not always be first with certain features but it is clear that if they don’t offer something the market wants out of the gate they will certainly add it and make it simple to use.

Apple’s target with their products is those to whom technology is mostly foreign. Meaning not a core and central part of their every day lives. This is why when they release new products they only focus on certain features. The features they focus on solve tangible and every day needs and strike emotional chords with consumers.

For example, when they launched the iPhone 4, they could have touted any number of features, instead they just demoed FaceTime and that was enough. It spoke for itself and showed consumers the value of the latest feature.

Apple’s goal is to make technologists out of people who never cared about technology before. Their desire is to provide these consumers with sophisticated solutions that are extremely simple to use. I can’t stress how difficult this is but it is something Apple does extremely well.

As I stated in the beginning, these two approaches represent just that–two different approaches. To each his own is the critical point I want to make.

I am in the privileged position to get to provide opinion and analysis on all the platforms on the market. To some consumers where I influence buying cycles, like friends and family, I am comfortable recommending Android devices; to others, I recommend iOS.

Where this really gets interesting is with the generations who grow up with technology, some call them “Digital Natives.” I watch my kids, for instance, who are perfectly comfortable jumping back and forth between my iOS and my Android devices.

This next generation will grow up incredibly technical and tech savvy. Because of that, their demands and expectation of next generation personal computers will far exceed anything we can imagine today.

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Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research. He is a husband, father, gadget enthusiast, trend spotter, early adopter and hobby farmer. Full Bio
  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-H-Moorhead/1436045996 Patrick H Moorhead

    Nice compare and contrast. It would be interesting to overlay Amazon into this as well.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JFQM7X25ROW4YUJU3DLZRCOCLU Rick

    So just saying” i am not going to say one of these platforms is superior to the other” implies that you are! Because you are thinking about it.

    There is no “FREE MARKET” All markets are regulated and would not exist without it!

    Just like we are free to choose which windoz computer we will use! And which google software we have to use on our google phone.

    Sorta agree google is a services company what they really are is a marketing company. Marketing the names and info collected by giving away free stuff to unsuspecting customers.

    Android was created because Apple was getting more of advertising that google wanted nothing more nothing less.

    Google finds what the marketing people need and then makes a trap to catch the people that will be their product.

    Google is an “ENGINEERING CO” WTF

    Google copied what worked and gave it away for FREE the word that will bring in more suckers than anything else on this planet.

    It is a necessity to want to tinker with android just like windoz it MUST BE TINKERED WITH TO WORK.

    Great idea to get complex things to work for the lay person then why do i still need virus software for my google?

    Apple is NOT A SOFTWARE CO apple has never sold software and said run it on any computer you like. Apple has always sold both the hardware and software.
    Why????? Because when you buy a product you want it to work and you don’t want to futz with it. The MEANS at google is to GET YOUR INFORMATION FOR FREE AND SELL IT TO SOMEONE. At apple they enhance the software/hardware.

    Wow a paragraph that sorta makes sense.

    Sorry that is crap! Apple sells to people who figured out that apple products work better than the other guys products. And i was an IT person who ran my company on apple products. Again this is crap.

    Sorry they demoed many more things i guess you were not watching.

    Sorry this article made no points!

    You should not be in the position of recommending ANYTHING as your analysis is childish and misinformed.

    And children are pertinent to this so called analysis HOW?

    NOT!!!!!! What kind of car do you drive? oh a ford!! Which engine manufacturer did you choose? Which transmission mfg did you choose? Which software mfg did you choose? oh you didnt because it all came in a package that worked!!! Most people know less about their computers than their cars and you expect them to make informed decisions based on their technical expertise?! SURE

    This article was as useless as…… well you pick the cliche.

    • Anonymous

      Rick, come back to the real world and calm down. Reading a column, which is opinion based, is really no reason to get so up tight. I shared my opinion, you disagree, no problem.

      What is childish and misinformed and at its worst ignorant and prejudice is to criticize people for their opinion.

      My guess is you haven’t surveyed my body of work over the past 12 years as an industry analyst prior to criticizing my analysis.

      I also recommend you do more research into the consumer mindset and buying process in mature markets.

      If you’d like to have a calm and reasoned debate about this i’d be happy to.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JFQM7X25ROW4YUJU3DLZRCOCLU Rick

        Sounds like you condensed all the crap everyone else said! Google still gives away stuff to get your info to SELL to MARKETING people You don’t even understand what they do! If you understood what they do then your opinion might be different!

        The consumer mindset in this country is free is better than anything else!

        This article is just one of a long list of clones that say the same thing over and over. I bet you want tax cuts for the “JJOOBB Creators” too.

        • Anonymous

          Thanks again for the comment. Comments like this give me great confidence in my job security as an industry analyst.

  • http://twitter.com/w_jackson w_jackson

    I would have said that Apple is a “product” company and Google is a “services” company instead of trying to bin Apple into software or hardware. True, they are a hardware company that behaves a lot like a software company and a software company that designs amazing hardware that is worthy of their software. To try to pick one is difficult if not impossible.

    The other major difference is that Google is at least paying some attention to the “open” world while Apple remains as tight as …. (pick your own metaphor) I for one think that will be Apple’s downfall, but when you’re the guy shipping 25M smartphones a quarter, it’s hard to argue.

    • Anonymous

      To your last point, I wrestle quite a bit with this. I think the answer lies in whether or not we believe that a horizontal model is what the industry will move back to. I think vertical or some level of vertical is the current industry momentum. That is key because owning elements of hardware, software and services is a key way to differentiate.

      I look at how consumer markets mature and how central differentiation is when they fragment. I sort of think its a hard case to make that we will go back to a horizontal model with vanilla products that all function pretty similar.

      So using that logic, I think Apple will keep a more controlled ecosystem, carve out the market for their ecosystem then defend it rigorously. Others will have to do the same and battle for the remaining market share, whatever the figure may be.

      Time will tell. What are your thoughts on whether the market will go back to horizontal?

      • the revealer

        Why do people have problem with apple being closed? When you open up your system, its very hard to give an experience that you want the consumers to have. And this fact Apple has always stressed in their statements. Those people who are technically inclined are always free to choose Android or any other open system. I just dont think that Apple should be attacked for being closed.

        • the revealer

          I am also of the opinion that product should function as intended and the design enhance the experience. There is too much speculation as to Apple being closed system, being vertical company, software or hardware company etc. There is only one deciding factor, that’s is the Product the company makes. If your product is not upto standard, people will not buy. That’s the only mantra.

          • the revealer

            And as for Apple failing as a company in the near future. I think people at Apple are more that aware of the fact that even they are not invincible, that even they can be punished if they are nit up to the task and they have been. Its a company who had a near death experience and I believe they are very aware of it.

  • Old Soul

    Thanks Ben for the analysis. One other very important point of difference between Apple and Google. When I buy an Apple product, I am their customer. When you buy a “Google+Hardware” product, the advertiser is their customer. To Apple, the end user is their end. To Google, end users are only their means.