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Apples iPhone products (and iPads too) impose arbitrary restraints and restrictions on you.  Android phones do not.

As seductively attractive as it is, the iPhone limits your ability to get best and full use out of its capabilities.

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Should 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 you.

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 worry about.

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 device.

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 'safe'.

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 features.

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 omissions.

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 nonstandard size.

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 solution.

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.  Details here.

The Other Side of the Coin - Android Anarchy?

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 problems.

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 differences.

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 hardware/software market.

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 silent about.


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.

Backwards compatibility

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 is life.

Perhaps this is part of the reason why phones tend to be replaced so quickly - they become unavoidably technologically obsolete well before they stop working.

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.

Related Articles, etc

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Originally 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.

Related Articles
Should you choose an Android based smartphone or iOS based Apple iPhone
Part 1 :  Introduction, Executive Overview, History
Part 2 :  The unnecessary restrictions imposed on you by Apple if choosing an iPhone
Part 3 :  Hardware issues between Android and iPhones
Part 4 :  Performance and Compatibility issues
Part 5 :  Market shares and trends
Part 6 :  Other OS choices for smartphones
Part 7 :  Pricing and Conclusion

iPhone 3G and 3GS Battery Replacement


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