You Choose an iPhone or Android Phone?
Part 2 : The controls and
constraints imposed by Apple - but not by Android
It can be frustrating to
find things you want your phone to do, things you know your
phone could do, but things which Apple won't allow your
phone to do.
This article is part of a
series comparing Android based phones with Apple's iPhone
and helping you choose which would be the best option for
Please read through other
parts in the series - see links on the right.
Apple has always chosen a
different approach to the design and marketing of its products
compared to that of its competitors.
Whether it be with computers,
MP3 players, or now iPhones and iPads, Apple ring-fences around
their product and forces you to stay within the boundaries they
impose on you in terms of what you can and can't do with the
products you've purchased.
They say this makes for a
better, more reliable, more consistent user experience.
But they would say that, wouldn't they, and in reality their
approach is a solution to a problem that few of us encounter or
Depending on your usage and
expectations, the artificial constraints imposed on you by Apple
will either have no impact on you at all, or will continually
frustrate you and prevent you from getting full use out of your
Apple's Restrictive Software
Selling Policies - Good or Bad?
One of the distinctive
features of Apple's strongly controlled approach to managing its
iOS world is that new applications have to be submitted to Apple
for approval and, allegedly, quality control.
Only those apps which meet
Apple's quality standards, which are consistent with Apple's
general interface standards, and which conform to Apple's
sometimes prudish moral standards are allowed to be sold
through their iTunes Store. The hassle and delay in
getting an app approved, and in subsequently getting updated
versions of the app re-approved, is something that many
developers complain loud and long about, and slows the time it
takes to get fixes and new versions released.
Apple says this is necessary
in order to maintain standards and to ensure applications are
On the other hand, the
Android Market is very much laissez faire, and allows just
about any app to be listed and distributed.
Critics of this approach
fear that Android software is likely to be more buggy, less well
written, and may contain hidden viruses or other harmful
In surprising fact, Apple's
so-called 'quality control' does not operate reliably.
iPhone users have suffered from approved/released software
products which simply 100% do not work; and others with major
bugs and limitations. One can not even start to guess how
Apple's so-called quality control fails to detect a program that simply crashes every
time it is launched.
At the same time, Apple's
overly protective and overly restrictive approach to deeming
which programs may be unacceptable due to 'moral' concerns
places it as self-appointed arbiter of what we may and may not
use our phone for. In doing so, Apple is behaving at least
as inappropriately as the programs it refuses to allow.
Imagine if DVD players
started to selectively only play movies which each different DVD
manufacturer deemed appropriate for us. That is exactly
what Apple is doing at present in controlling, limiting and
censoring the apps it allows to be sold to us.
Another Dimension to Apple's
Restrictive Software Policies
Although there are something
more than 200,000 apps of almost every possible type available
through Apple's iTunes store, there are some significant
Apple does not allow apps to
be sold that would compete with its own core services, and is
also very protective of AT&T's ability to charge for services
that perhaps otherwise could/should be free.
In the past this has meant
restrictions on bandwidth-intensive apps (such as, for example,
Skype over 3G calling).
It also means that the
automatic synchronization feature offered by Apple through their MobileMe service has no competitors. If you want to
automatically synch your contacts and appointments (ie other
than by way of cable connection to your computer and manually
synching), there is only one way to do this - by paying the $99
a year MobileMe fee.
In comparison, Android
offers various forms of synchronization of your data between
your devices, many of which are completely free. This is a
subtle but important point of differentiation - a feature which
could be free and which many people would expect to be available
either for free or for a very moderate fee (perhaps a $5 - $10
app) will cost you $99 extra, every year, via Apple, and Apple
refuses to allow other companies to provide competing services
(at almost certainly massively lower prices).
It might not surprise you to
also learn that MobileMe is not only a cumbersome clumsy service
which at one stage deleted all my contacts, but it also has no
live customer support. I was unable to get any resolution
to my synchronization problem, even though I spent many hours in
glacially slowly paced chat sessions with support
representatives, and eventually gave up entirely.
Alas, when Apple thinks it
can get away with it, you don't get much for your $99 a year.
Apple - an Enemy of Our Freedom
to Choose Wireless Carriers?
There's another interesting
issue that seems to be developing. Apple capriciously
decided to turn its back on the long before accepted universal
standard for SIM cards (the tiny chips that contain the user
account information that are used by wireless companies to know
who is using the device and who to bill) and chose instead a
differently sized SIM for its iPad, making it much more difficult
to swap SIMs between other devices (requiring a regular sized
SIM) and an iPad (requiring a smaller sized SIM).
Apple followed that up by
making the SIM size in the new iPhone 4 also the smaller and
It seems these
actions were motivated by Apple's loathing for any element of
'openness' and their desire to lock their users as tightly into
an environment controlled and defined uniquely by Apple itself.
Rumors are currently suggesting that
Apple might go one step further in future phones and iPads,
essentially abandoning the SIM concept entirely.
The ability to exchange SIMs
whenever one wishes to has been one of the cornerstones of user
freedom when using cell phones and choosing which wireless
companies the user wishes to link their cell phone with.
Apple's attempts to take
away our freedom of choice in this respect is lamentable in the
extreme, and more than sufficient reason for us to boycott Apple
and their products.
One final note on this
point. If you'd like to be able to swap SIMs between
regular devices and new Apple devices, we, ahem, have a
The solution is a special
punch/cutter that allows you to cut down a standard sized SIM to
the new smaller size required by Apple, paired with an extra
piece of material that allows a small size SIM to be bulked back
up to normal dimensions to fit in any regular phone.
The Other Side of the Coin -
Apple justifies its tightly
controlled approach by claiming it is necessary to tightly
manage the user interface, hardware and software so as to create
a reliable consistent experience.
Additionally Apple - and
some industry commentators - have criticized the Android
environment for having gone to the opposite extreme - too
uncontrolled, with no rules or standardization at all, with the
result being a terrible mess of different variations on a vague
theme, with compatibility problems, and with reliability
Apple has further said that
it is a developer's nightmare to be writing programs for Android
due to the huge range of different hardware variations out
there, with many different screen resolutions and other
On the face of it, there
might seem to be some sense in such criticisms, and it further
seems that a part of Microsoft's strategy with Windows Phone 7
is to attempt to exploit a middle course between these two
extremes. Apple has a closed operating system, hardware
and software. Android has everything open. Microsoft
seeks to provide a closed operating system but to an open
But the reality is far from
as scary as Apple would wish us to think. Their comment
about programming complexity (a comment with no relevance to us
as end users anyway) has been roundly rebutted by none other
than programmers, who said that it required only a very minor
amount of extra time to make their program work across the broad
universe of differing Android handsets.
It is also relevant to note
that some of this diversity is inevitable, and indeed is also
present with Apple. Currently an iOS product needs to
support three different screen resolutions - 480x320 (earlier
iPhones), 960x640 (newer iPhones) and 1024x768 (iPads), and
other 'under the hood' differences between the different
hardware and iOS versions have also caused a flurry of program
patches and updates as developers have scrambled to make their
Apple programs more truly functional across the broadening and
increasingly diverse iOS platform - something Apple is strangely
It is probably true that not
all Android programs work on all Android phones, and it is also
true that some Android programs may have bugs in them which leap
out unexpectedly from time to time. On the other hand,
programs written for Apple's iOS environment are far from
universally bug free, and it is hard to get a handle on whether
the overall standard of software development is better or worse
on either platform.
One thing which is true is
that due to the easier development and publishing process with
Android there are a huge number more 'amateur' programs written
by enthusiasts, many of which are offered completely for free,
and some of which are fairly disappointing in their design and
functionality. But if you've downloaded something, for
free, which you don't like, simply delete the program and forget
about it. (Deleting programs on both Android and iOS is
very simple, unlike in Windows.)
And, again, there is a
dismaying amount of junk for Apple phones too - some of which is
free, and some of which is sold on a non-refundable basis and
which is absolutely not worth the money you pay for it.
When choosing software, it
pays to read the user reviews of the product, to look at the
screen shots, and to try and understand something about the
program first. Unless it is free, in which case, why not
download it, try it, and delete if needed.
Another issue is that not
all software is compatible with the earliest versions of Android
and the earliest phones.
In truth, the first ever
Android phone - T-Mobile's G1 - was basic and limited in terms
of what it could do and how much it could be upgraded, and we
recommended against its purchase when it was first released.
But even the original G1 has
been able to accept updates to its original 1.0 version of
Android, although it is now unable to progress beyond version
1.6 (we believe due to it lacking sufficient processor memory
for newer and larger versions of Android subsequent to 1.6).
On the other hand, to be
fair, the same can be said of the original iPhone as well.
It is unable to move beyond iOS version 3.1.3. The newer
iPhone 3G can only accept a partial implementation of the newer
version 4.x iOS, and even the last but one generation 3GS is not
completely supported by the latest version 4.x.
This situation can not be
fairly used to criticize either the operating system or the
hardware. It is inevitable and universal, and is something
we've all become familiar with in the past, for example with
regular computers (try loading Win 95 on an older computer).
With the massive advances in
both hardware capabilities/configurations and the ongoing
development of operating systems and application software to
take advantage of such advances, inevitably 'state of the art'
software will not work on hardware that lacks the necessary
components - be it a sufficiently powerful processor, enough
memory, or other specific hardware add-ons (eg GPS, gyroscope,
screen size, front camera, or whatever else).
Whenever you buy any type of
computer equipment, you need to base your decision on its
present capabilities and you need to accept that any subsequent
enhancements are a 'bonus' you should appreciate, and if they
can not be backwardly added to the hardware you purchased, such
Perhaps this is part of the
reason why phones tend to be replaced so quickly - they become
unavoidably technologically obsolete well before they stop
The Uneasy Relationship between
Apple and Google
To start with, Google and
Apple had no problems whatsoever in working closely together to
develop Apple's iPhone and to integrate Google functionality
closely into the iPhone.
But that was then.
Since those earlier times, Google has spearheaded the alliance
that develops and manages Android, an activity which places it
in a competitive situation against Apple. For a brief
while, Google was also (and somewhat inexplicably) selling its
own phone hardware too (the Nexus One), making it 100% a direct
competitor of Apple in both phone hardware and phone software.
You can imagine how less
than enthusiastic Apple has been about such actions, and there
are rumors that it might replace Google as its primary default
search engine on future iPhones (choosing the Microsoft Bing
product instead, although of course Microsoft is now becoming a
stronger competitor of Apple's in the phone marketplace too).
At the same time, Google has
had to make some interesting business decisions about which
products and features it makes available to iOS devices as
compared to which it exclusively leaves with Android only.
On the one hand, Google
makes no secret of its overwhelming desire to be a ubiquitous
solution to everyone's data needs, everywhere. It wants as
broad a market penetration as possible, and can't afford to
ignore Apple; but on the other hand, it is pleased to allow its
Android products to have some competitive advantage in the
market. Deciding which consideration should overrule the
other is a difficult process.
Apple, in turn, views some
Google products as competing with core functionality of the
iPhone itself - for example, Google Voice which could make an
iPhone into a completely different type of phone.
This has meant that some
Google products (notably Google Goggles and Google Turn by Turn
Navigation) have been slow or yet to be released onto iOS
devices for whatever reason (presumably of Google's choosing),
and other products (ie Google Voice) have not been approved by
Apple and so can only be used via a clumsy workaround (ie
accessing Google's website through the iPhone's browser).
So if there are must-have
Google products you seek, you're more likely to get them, in
their fullest and most up-to-date form, on an Android based
phone rather than on an iPhone.
This article is part of a
series comparing Android based phones with Apple's iPhone and
helping you choose which would be the best option for you.
Please read through other parts in the series - see links at the
top right of this article.
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published 5 Nov 2010, last update
21 Jul 2020
You may freely
reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes
as long as you give credit to me as original writer.