Choose between Android and Apple
Part 4 : Differences in
Performance and Compatibility
The Motorola Droid,
released in late 2009, was probably the watershed product
that caused Android devices to power ahead and seize
marketplace leadership from Apple's 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
Please read through other
parts in the series - see links on the right.
The latest and greatest iPhone
and Android phones are all fast and powerful and capable.
Yes, it is true there is a
slight performance edge enjoyed by some Android phones compared
to iPhones, particularly with web browsing, but this is not very
noticeable or impactful unless you're deliberately testing the
phones side by side.
More noticeable and impactful
however is Apple's refusal to support the Flash web standard for
some types of graphics. Depending on the types of websites
you visit, this may significantly interfere with your ability to
view the content on some pages.
Performance and Compatibility
It is hard to compare the
overall performance and responsiveness of an iPhone to an
Android phone - particularly with so many different Android
phones out there. It is similarly difficult to try and
equate the underlying efficiency of the two operating systems if
they were to be on identical hardware (which they never are).
But by one tangible measure - browser
Android OS shows to be many times faster than the latest iOS
Note that the extreme speed
advantages of Android shown in this testing is not mirrored so
vividly in real life page browsing. Subjective testing of
with very little, showed a Nexus One phone running Android 2.2
to generally be faster than an iPhone 4 running iOS 4.1, but
never by a huge differential.
Both phones were connected
via Wi-Fi to a 10Mb/sec internet connection, and testing was
done by simultaneously clicking on the same link on both phones,
with speed being determined both at the point the page rendered
to where it could start to be read and to the point where the
page load was completed. Care was taken to visit pages
which neither phone had in their cache, and as best we could
determine, neither phone was performing any background tasks
that may have impacted on its speed.
The difference in speed
ranged from almost nothing to sometimes the iPhone being twice
as slow as the Nexus One. (And both phones remain very
much slower than a reasonably modern/recent computer, which can
render pages much more quickly.)
Note this result really
doesn't mean much in general terms, because other Android based
phones may have more or less powerful processors and different
configurations than the Nexus One. Furthermore, both
phones loaded pages at a fast speed - there was no sensation of
the iPhone being slooow, it was acceptably fast. But the
Nexus One was faster, and generally seemed to do a better job of
rendering pages suitable to view on its screen than did the
Speed in General Terms
Both the Nexus One and
iPhone use a 1GHz processor, although of different underlying
Speed differences in other
contexts and user applications are less apparent than when
browsing web pages, and one is reminded of the long time
traditional response given to people enquiring about how many
horsepower a Rolls Royce motorcar develops.
The answer, given in a tone
of definite superiority and mild disdain, was 'Sufficient for
Both the latest iPhone and
Android phones (with 1 GHz processors) can be considered to
generally have processing power 'sufficient for the purpose'.
You possibly don't even
realize that many of the more visually appealing and interactive
websites these days use a product, Adobe Flash, to create their
visual appeal and interactivity.
Most web browsers support
Adobe Flash, either 'automatically' or via a simply downloaded
add-on. Web pages display exactly as they should, and you
have a richer better web browsing experience.
In the early days of Flash,
web developers would typically code two versions of each page -
one using Flash and the other which would appear as an alternate
for browsers that did not support Flash. But these days
this practice seems to have been largely discontinued for two
reasons, first because almost every web browser supports Flash
(from memory, something like 98% of all web browsing is with a
Flash capable browser these days) and secondly because the
increasing sophistication of Flash has made it harder to come up
with an analogous non-Flash version of a page.
The Android browser in the
latest 2.2 version of Android supports
Flash with no problems. But Apple made a conscious
decision not to - and, more to the point, never to - support
Flash. If you visit a page with a Flash object on it,
you'll see the rest of the page but not the Flash object.
What does this mean in real
world day to day web browsing terms? It depends on the
types of sites you visit. Sites with video on them often
use Flash, for example. Some advertising also uses Flash,
but you probably don't care about that so much, and such ads
usually still have a non-Flash version of the ad that will
Some readers have reported
major interference to their broad web browsing experiences due
to no Flash support on either the iPhone or iPad. Others
have wondered what all the fuss is about.
Apple's Brute Force Applied
Against Marketplace Standards
Apple hopes to use its brute
force to shift the web development paradigm away from relying on
Flash to instead using other development tools. Will it
succeed, or will it capitulate and add Flash support in the
The outcome is yet unclear,
but for now and at least the foreseeable future, you should
anticipate occasional problems while web browsing if you use an
iOS based product rather than an Android based product.
More to the point, it
reveals yet again the arrogance of Apple. Android is a
product that evolves to reflect the needs of the marketplace.
iOS is a product that evolves based on Apple's view of the way
the world should be, and in a manner to best suit Apple, rather
than in a manner to best suit its users.
I don't know about you, but
I'm uncomfortable basing my technology choices and relying on a
company that builds its business on this basis.
Android and iOS - Comparable to
Lamborghini and Ferrari?
In happy truth, both the
iPhone and its iOS based software, and the panoply of Android
based competing phones, are more than adequate for most people
for most purposes.
Your decision between them
is a bit like choosing between a Lamborghini and a Ferrari.
So one has a maximum speed of 190 mph and the other will do 200.
One will get to 60 mph in four seconds, and the other in 3.5
secs. One has 500 hp and the other 550 hp, etc. Big
differences on paper, but if all you need is a daily commuter,
to drive around your neighborhood and to crawl into work in
jammed traffic, who cares about acceleration and top speed?
However, there are some
other issues that are relevant, both in the car analogy and for
cell phones. For example, for these two cars, you want to
know about spare parts, reliability, depreciation rates and
In the case of a decision
between iOS and Android, you want to instead consider not just
the present but the future. And that is where there is a
subtle issue involved. For sure, you'll probably change
phone handsets within a couple of years of buying your next
phone, but have you thought about the longer term investment
you're also making in terms of climbing up a learning curve to
get familiar and proficient with one or other of the operating
systems, of customizing the phone's layout and function to meet
your requirements, and of the money you'll spend on programs,
music and videos - time and money that would be completely
wasted if you changed OS platforms in the future.
For these reasons, it is
appropriate to choose an OS platform now that you feel offers
the best long term options for you.
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 4 Nov 2010, last update
21 Jul 2020
You may freely
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