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Does it really matter to you if an Android based phone can display a web page 0.1 secs faster than an iPhone?

Perhaps not.  But if the iPhone can't display the page completely, due to it using Flash, then the difference becomes much more significant.

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How to 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 you.

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 page rendering of Javascript - the latest Android OS shows to be many times faster than the latest iOS version.

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 a range of web pages, some with lots of Javascript and others 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 iPhone browser.

Speed in General Terms

Both the Nexus One and iPhone use a 1GHz processor, although of different underlying architectures.

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 the purpose'.

Both the latest iPhone and Android phones (with 1 GHz processors) can be considered to generally have processing power 'sufficient for the purpose'.

Adobe Flash

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 appear instead.

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 future?

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 resale values.

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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Originally published 4 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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