We’ve got new releases of both the Android and Apple mobile operating systems so everyone is forced to ask… “Who’s ahead?” As always, it’s not a simple question to answer. The interesting part about the Android vs. Apple discussion will always (or at least the next few years) be that their design goals are not the same, so there will always be advantages and disadvantages to both.
Feature-wise there are a few things Android is ahead on (Facial Recognition, Better Voice Input, Cloud Browsing, Better NFC). We’ve already seen from Apple’s willingness to copy Android features (notifications, WiFi syncing, etc…) that Android and their open eco-system of 3rd party apps will probably always have the lead here. That leads me to my next advantage, application/browser/feature flexibility. Android may not be as open-source as they’d like you to believe, but they make Apple look like a militarized city-state. You have the flexibility to load apps that are better for you (say using Opera Mini instead of the default browser or the Amazon Music Store instead of the Google one). Along those lines of openness is hardware flexibility, you can buy a phone or tablet that matches what you want in areas like performance, screen size, keyboard type, etc… There’s certainly a lot to like about being an Android owner.
On the other hand, you can’t call people who own iPhones and iPads crazy. There is a certain simplicity and elegance to their devices. On the one hand they have less choices, on the other they’re less likely to be confused by their phone. Sure, they don’t have a choice but to buy music and video from iTunes, but it is so easy to do. For the moment, they also have a distinct advantage in apps. For some reason (maybe a topic for another post), application developers find making iPhone/iPad applications more profitable than making Android ones. Because of this, most applications are released on the Android first and only slowly (if at all) make their way to the Android Marketplace.
I think the only real game changer in the recent releases of iOS and Android is Siri (Apple’s integrated digital assistant). Essentially what Siri does is provide an interface for voice commands that makes them way more intuitive than they are on the Android. There are a number of Android Apps that try to do the same thing, but Apple has a way of bringing complex features together and making them simple to use. The reason it’s a potential game changer is that even though you can do all the same things on an Android phone and the voice recognition is actually better on Android, the common user will be able to do much more with an iPhone than with an Android phone. It’s a great play for Apple to take the competition away from the technology and make it about user experience (i.e. from a weakness to a strength).
Overall, I’m happier than ever that I own an Android instead of an iPhone because of the flexibility it gives me in hardware, the cool features that aren’t on iPhone, the integration with Google Voice and the fact that I don’t have to use iTunes. That said, I still recommend iPhones to some of my friends and family because of its intuitive user experience and integration with other Apple products.