Android and iOS: Two Very Different Philosophies

on October 19, 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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