As a mobile evangelist at Perfecto, I spend a lot of my time observing the mobile and web space and following major iPhone and Android device trends.
Recently, I crossed the aisle from iPhone to Android after being an Apple user for two years. I replaced my iPhone 6 Plus — which I had been using as a personal and work-related device — with a Google Nexus 6P phablet.
While the Apple faithful may strongly disagree with my move, I have no regrets about it for the following reasons:
1. Android quality and innovation
2. iOS platform restrictions
3. Android’s future plans
Quality and innovation: My Android device wins
In terms of innovation, I found that Apple’s iOS was consistently struggling with the quality of new features and the user experience. Over the past two years, Apple released 10 versions of iOS 8, stopping with a stable GA of iOS 8.4.1. For iOS 9, Apple released at least 10 versions, stopping at the recent 9.3.5 GA release that addresses security issues. iOS 10 has just been released with the iPhone 7 devices.
Let’s compare this trend to the Android platform. Android 5.0 Lollipop released in November 2014 and was enhanced until the latest version of 5.1.1 (five versions in two years). Android Marshmallow 6.0 was released in October 2015 and since then has only had an additional version of 6.0.1 release. Last month (August 22nd) Google released its new Android Nougat 7.0 OS that’s available to users (like me) who use a Nexus device.
In Android’s history, we’ve seen major enhancements around sensor-based capabilities for payment, for logging in and for user experience (UX) features such as multi-window support (see image on left) and Android Doze (battery saving capability). With iOS, we also see enhancements around sensors like Force-Touch and Apple Pay. However, in my opinion these features come up short due to iOS’s platform constraints that I’ll highlight in the next section.
iOS storage and syncing restrictions
From the user’s perspective, important platform features cover the ability to customize the UX and look and feel of your device. It’s also important to easily manage media files such as photos and music with enough available storage.
Apple’s device with the most market share is the iPhone 6/6S with a default storage (un-expandable) of 16GB. I hardly know a person with this device/storage size who is happy with it, and does not have to constantly delete files, cancel auto savings of WhatsApp media files, and the like. In addition, it’s a pain to continuously work with iTunes software for media/songs sync. I often find myself losing my favorite music files or seeing them get duplicated when I switch from one PC to another (there are procedures that might have prevented this outcome, but still).
By comparison, most Android devices that don’t come with an external storage option are, by default, coming with 64GB of internal memory. In addition, working with Android’s music file system is easy and straightforward.
Switching from my iPhone and iTunes to a Nexus device via my Gmail account was also a simple thing to do. My music, photos and apps easily “followed” me to my new Android device running Android 7.0.
Don’t get me wrong: iOS is not all bad. Given Android’s device/OS fragmentation, iOS is a better managed platform. Google’s fragmented approach of rolling out its latest GA Android version to a non-Nexus device (example: Samsung) four to six months after GA release is quite annoying. In addition, iOS tablets are still a leader in the tablet space. Five-year-old devices like iPad Air and iPad 2 are the most commonly used tablets and can still run iOS 9 versions. Android tablets, on the other hand, tend to be replaced by users much more quickly than iPads.
Android’s brighter future
Android 7 and iOS 10 will go head-to-head throughout 2017 in a market that becomes more and more dependent on mobile activity. Both consumers and enterprises transitioning to digital care about improving quality and innovation with less restrictions. I believe Google is in a good position to maintain its global market share advantage over Apple and continue to innovate with fewer OS version updates.
I recommend consumers look at both Google and Apple and examine how their digital strategies will enable easier connectivity with smart devices like watches and cars, as well as how limited storage and device/OS customization affect your user experience. For me, Android is the better choice, but make up your own mind.
From a developer and tester perspective, we’ll continue to see growing adoption of open-source tools such as Espresso, XCTest UI and Appium for keeping up with OS platforms. These open-source frameworks support new OS features much better than legacy/commercial tools that are slow to introduce new APIs and capabilities.