The big question: which is better, Android or iOS? With Microsoft continually failing to make Windows Mobile a success, the two big choices in the mobile game are Apple and Google.
But since smartphones are such an essential part of life these days, you need to make sure that whichever one you choose is right for you. From visual design to apps, we put the two mobile operating system titans head to head.
- Android vs iOS: latest news
- Android vs iOS: hardware choice
- Android vs iOS: design
- Android vs iOS: features
- Android vs iOS: apps
- Android vs iOS: ecosystem
- Android vs iOS: verdict
Android vs iOS Latest News
Google steps up pressure on Android manufacturers
Google plans to apply more pressure on Android manufacturers that do not update the operating system frequently enough.
With many device makers not rolling out updates within desired time frames, the Alphabet Inc company is looking to ensure more smartphones equipped with Android OS feature the latest security and features.
Recently, Google has ramped-up efforts in a bid to improve the slow update issue – releasing technology workarounds, accelerating security updates and reducing phone testing requirements.
According to Bloomberg, Google is now also preparing a ranking system designed to “shame some phone makers into better behaviour.”
It is reported that Android’s latest iteration – Marshmallow – is present on a lowly 7.5 percent of devices – a stark contrast to the 84 percent of Apple devices that run the latest iOS.
This leaves devices running older versions of the operating system vulnerable to potential security attacks.
Unlike Apple, the majority of Android handsets are not made by Google and the slow release of upgrades to users has been a headache for the company since the operating system’s introduction in 2007. This has created a “fragmented market”.
Hiroshi Lockheimer, senior vice president at Android, said: “It’s not an ideal situation,” stating the update issue is “the weakest link on security on Android.”
The Android chief also says that Google is making progress with the problem and is pushing manufacturers to install the updates quicker “for the good of users.”
Last year, the Stagefright bug left a billion devices vulnerable to hackers, prompting Google to introduce monthly security updates.
Microsoft opens Skype for Business up to Android and iOS
Skype for Business App SDK Preview is now available for download on Android and iOS, Microsoft has announced in a new blog post.
The new software development kit will allow Android and iOS developers to integrate Skype features such as instant messaging, audio and video features into their own applications.
The Skype for Business App SDK was initially previewed at Build 2016, where Microsoft explained its aim of “seamless integration” of Skype into native mobile and tablet applications.
Microsoft used MDLIVE as an example of this, showing off a telehealth application that allows doctors to offer patients virtual care and consultancies via video calling.
This opened up a range of possibilities – including allowing patients to book virtual appointments, the reviewing of medical records and lab results and more.
Randy Parker, founder and CEO of MDLIVE said: “Skype for business will provide MDLIVE with a much more scalable architecture, so we can accommodate even higher volumes of video consults daily.
“The adoption of Skype for Business also enables us to deliver a significantly improved user experience for both patients and physicians.”
James Skay, senior product marketing manager for the Skype for Business team, said: “Businesses can leverage the power of their existing Skype for Business Server and Skype for Business Online infrastructure – including the familiar native clients they use today – to reach customers never before possible.
“Whether you are looking to add voice, video or chat functionality into a new or existing application, the Skype for Business App SDK Preview makes it easy.
“The availability of these features is an important step in our Skype Developer Platform roadmap to combine the power of cloud voice, meetings and messaging with new cloud APIs and SDKs that work across a range of web and device platforms to drive new scenarios and help developers and partners re-imagine how they engage and win customers.”
Microsoft added that Skype for Business Server or Skype for Business Online users can download the SDK for no additional cost.
Google charged for Android OS competition law breach
Google has been hit with charges after being found to have abused EU competition law with its Android operating system.
The investigation by the European Commission found that Google has been favouring services and applications over rival equivalents– by insisting on handsets hitting the market with its apps pre-loaded.
European Commission antitrust officer Margrethe Vestager announced the charges at a press conference in Brussels this week, stating that Google “imposes unjustified restrictions and conditions on manufacturers of devices.”
Vestager explained: “Dominant companies have a responsibility not to abuse their dominant position by restricting competition. Our preliminary view is that Google has abused its dominant position.
“The Commission is concerned that Google’s behavior has harmed consumers by stifling competition and restricting innovation in the wider mobile space.
“Rival search engines and mobile operating systems have not been able to compete on merit.”
She added: “Google may have to change the way they do business and they may face fines. We believe this is necessary to effectively protect European consumers.”
Google has responded on its Google Europe blog, stating: “The European Commission has been investigating our approach, and today issued a Statement of Objections, raising questions about its impact on competition.
“We take these concerns seriously, but we also believe that our business model keeps manufacturers’ costs low and their flexibility high, while giving consumers unprecedented control of their mobile devices.
“Our partner agreements have helped foster a remarkable — and, importantly, sustainable — ecosystem, based on open-source software and open innovation.
“We look forward to working with the European Commission to demonstrate the careful way we’ve designed the Android model in a way that’s good for competition and for consumers.”
The investigation may last “many months” and could see Google fined up to £5.8bn, according to The Guardian.
New iOS to be unveiled in June
Apple is set to announce details of its latest iOS incarnation at WWDC 2016.
The Worldwide Developers Conference – which traditionally involves previews of software updates set to arrive later in the year – will give developers and users a first glance at the next iteration of its operating system.
This operating system is widely expected to be iOS 10.
As a result, the announcement could also bring some insight into potential features and capabilities of the iPhone 7 – which will be powered by the new software.
The news was originally confirmed this week when Siri began answering “when is WWDC?” with the response: “the Worldwide Developers Conference will be held June 13 through June 17 in San Francisco. I can’t wait!”
A press release has since followed, announcing that WWDC 2016 will indeed take place on between these dates – with events kicking off at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Francisco.
Philip Schiller, senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing at Apple, said: “With four innovative operating systems and a new, intuitive programming language powering over one billion devices worldwide, there has never been a more exciting time to bring our developer community together.
“WWDC 2016 is going to be a landmark event for developers who are coding in Swift, and building apps and products for iOS, OS X, watchOS and tvOS.
“We can’t wait for everyone to join us in San Francisco or through the live stream.”
Apple also announced that developers across the world will be able to stream conference sessions from its website and via the WWDC app.
Android patches under attack
Google recently released patches that set out to tackle the latest Android security alerts, ten of which have been classed as high priority. However, some believe even these attempts to ensure the security of users’ devices fall short of the vulnerabilities they are faced with, as for now the patches only apply to Nexus devices.
According to Tom Lysemose Hansen, founder and CTO at Norwegian app security firm Promon, developers should protect each app individually, rather than only “relying on the unstable protection offered by Android”.
He comments: “That the user is still made to rely on inconsistently released patches is absurd. Instead app developers must pick up the slack left by the inadequate security offered by Android’s OS and ensure multiple layers of defence so users are not made to bear the brunt of future malware.”
He continues: “Effective security can only be achieved if the defence is multi-layered, in particular by adding security at the level of each individual application. In the current climate, app developers should regard their applications as the first and last point of defence and ensure that these are self-defending and self-regulating from the outset. Operating systems like Android will always be inherently insecure, which no level of patching can cure. Hence, adequate protection is only offered when threats are dealt with as and when they appear, by in-built protection offered by the application itself.”
Ransomware biggest threat to UK Android devices
Ransomware was the largest threat to UK Android devices in 2015, according to a new report.
According to security vendor Bitdefender, 22 percent of Android malware threats in the UK in the second half of the year came from the Android.Trojan.Slocker malware.
Although not as advanced as its Windows counterpart, Android malware can still cause disruptions and financial losses.
However, ransomware is not the top threat globally, accounting for just four percent of total Android malware reported in H2 2015. Bitdefender says one reason for its proliferation in the UK may be due to the higher-than-average success rate of ransomware attacks on British targets. The firm’s research recently found that 44 percent of those infected by ransomware in the UK have paid to unlock their files.
“Due to the popularity of Android devices, malware developers will continue to write code specifically targeting them. Android malware is not only a lucrative business for hackers but also a gateway for other malicious actions,” says Catalin Cosoi, chief security strategist at Bitdefender.
“Users must avoid installing applications from unofficial vendors, instead only using those found on trusted marketplaces. Non-reputable apps have a high chance of containing malware such as ransomware or data-stealing Trojans, resulting in significant financial or data loss.”
Unlike PC operating systems, it’s very difficult for users to switch a phone’s OS for an alternative. For most people, this means that they’ll make their decision based on the hardware, and simply take whichever operating system the device comes pre-packaged with.
If you’re dead set on a particular OS though, this means you’ll have to limit your choice, particularly in the case of Apple. The company’s full smartphone release cycle – including both standard and ‘s’ model iPhones – comprises just four devices at present.
Android, by contrast, has absolutely heaps of choice. Google’s software runs on everything from barebones budget handsets to the very finest in top-shelf premium Apple contenders, so you’re guaranteed to find an Android phone to suit your needs.
Apple is slightly more varied in its tablet portfolio. Containing the iPad Air, the iPad Mini and now the iPad Plus, users now have an adequate sufficiency of form-factors and performance levels from which to choose.
Of course, Apple still can’t match Android for choice, but it’s not quite as clear-cut as with its phones. While there are still a substantial range of Android tablets, again spanning various price points, there are few we like as much as the iPad range.
Art, beauty and aesthetics are admittedly in the eye of the beholder, but we think you’d be hard-pressed to argue that Apple has been consistently nailing the visual appearance of its software for years.
iOS’ rounded app icons set an industry standard that has yet to be challenged or equalled. Each successive redesign of Apple’s stock apps inevitably heralds a wave of ‘me-too’ updates as companies rush to fit in with the iOS design language.
It’s not hard to see why. iOS 9 looks clean and crisp, with attractively minimalist sensibilities. The frosted glass of the drop-down menus also lends the software an edge of class.
None of which is to say that Google’s Material Design is bad, however. It also has minimalist elements, although the bold primary colours adopted in recent years are less understated than Apple’s palette choices.
iOS and Android both have some excellent features, and in many ways are now neck and neck with each other. The release of Android Marshmallow and iOS 9 has brought features to both that the respective competitor had been sporting for years.
Android, for example, now natively supports fingerprint readers. It’s also introduced individual app permissions, meaning an app won’t request specific permissions unless it needs them. If you only use Skype for messaging, then the app won’t ask to use the camera or microphone.
iOS has had a similar system for ages, but on the other hand, it’s taken a leaf out of Google’s book and given Siri a turbo-charge. It’s now much more context-aware, and can recognise what you’re looking at on the screen and relate it to your question.
This has been compared to Google Now, which has added even deeper context-awareness with Marshmallow, and the introduction of Google Now On Tap. By long-pressing the home button, users can summon Google now to ask it natural, relevant questions, like ‘how old is he?’ when watching a film, or ‘how far is it?’ when looking at a restaurant.
iOS 9 has introduced split-screen functionality for iPads, too. Select Android devices have had this feature for a while and it’s included with Marshmallow, but Apple is the first to roll it out as standard. It’s also made improvements to the keyboard, which can be used as a trackpad for controlling the text cursor – ideal for editing longer documents, and a feature we wish Android adopted.
Both OS’ now have mobile payment systems built-in, in the form of Android Pay and Apple Pay, respectively.
Broadly speaking, neither operating system has objectively better features than the other. Android has more fine-grained options for customisation, but iOS feels like a slightly more polished user experience.
As Microsoft has found out to its cost, an operating system lives and dies on its apps. For a while, Android was the poor relation in terms of software, with major apps and updates coming to the Google Play store after a months after the App Store, if at all.
Thankfully, Android development has now caught up with iOS, and both feature well-stocked app stores, including games and entertainment as well as office and productivity apps.
Google also consistently trounces Apple in its range of first-party apps. While Apple’s offerings are functional enough, Google’s Drive, Calendar, Docs and Maps software is leagues ahead in terms of quality and ease-of-use. The addition of Apple’s News app to iOS 9, however, indicates that they may be on the right track.
These days, it’s all about the connected lifestyle. One of the biggest features of our various devices is the way they all interface with one another, placing them in a wider ecosystem.
Google has been continuously building up its offering in this area for years, and the Chrome/Android platform is now one of the finest examples of connected cloud ecosystems around. With one account, users can access their office apps, cloud storage, calendars, contacts and web history, regardless of which device their using.
Apple is getting better at this, and iOS 9 introduced some much-needed synchronisation features between iOS and OSX devices. However, they’ve still got a long way to go if they want to beat Google’s web of interconnected services.
iOS has many points to recommend it – the experience is slick, Apple Pay and split-screen view are great features, and it looks fantastic. However, the fact remains that no-one buys a phone for the operating system (as Mozilla found out to its cost), and it’s impossible to divorce the software from the hardware.
With that in mind, it’s hard to recommend iOS over Android. While Apple’s devices are undeniably top shelf, Google’s OS is simply untouchable when it comes to breadth of choice. From budget essentials to premium quality handsets, Android has something to suit every taste and price point, all backed up with capable and well-designed software.