The argument has waged on for years…What is the better mobile OS and ecosystem for a certain person, Android or iOS? (Windows Phone may be starting to become part of the conversation, but its nowhere near as prominent as these two competitors.) And for as long as this arguments been around, the answer has been a similar one: it depends largely on you. How dependable do you want your phone to be, versus how much customization do you want it to be able to do? Do you absolutely love iTunes, or could you spend your money elsewhere? There are many more of these questions that techies like me have turned to in order to give good phone buying advice to friends, family, and colleagues over the years. However, with recent news, and some pretty basic realizations, I think the answer is more one-sided than many, myself included, previously thought…
Apple vs. Google
While I’m going to talk about a few reasons I’m switching, if I’m being honest, this is the biggest one. Apple makes phones because they make a huge profit on those phones, and because they make a huge profit from that phone’s ecosystem. From music to apps, they take a chunk of profits (albeit a relatively small chunk of profits) from the ecosystem people use when they’re on an iPhone. (The App Store itself is relatively close to break-even, but not a loss leader by any stretch of the imagination.) Google does not. In fact, as we’ll talk about it a minute, Google loses money on Android. Google makes all its money selling ads, so it does that to the best of its ability.
To reinforce my point, let me make a couple of references. First, to Larry Page himself. Speaking a couple weeks back in court (Oracle v Google) Mr. Page made things quite clear. When asked if Android was a critical asset to Google in 2010, Page responded that he did believe Android was very important to Google, but he also said he did not believe it was critical. And hes right, Android isn’t critical, because while mobile is growing, its still only a tiny percentage of Google’s ad revenues, and even of that mobile division, only 20% comes from Android…The rest? iOS.
This is a clear difference from Apple. While Steve Jobs is no longer around, you can bet he’d say the iPhone is absolutely critical to Apple’s success. Prior to the iPhone’s release, the iPod was the biggest success Apple had. The iPhone brought Apple from a company that sells MP3 players, to a company that sells millions and millions of devices every year, on contracts, and keeps them buying by tying them into their ecosystem.
Only serving to back that stance up is yet another factoid that came out during the trial. While Google does not publicly release financial information about Android, some if it happened to be relevant to the case, and is therefore now public knowledge. As it turns out, for every quarter in 2010, Android actually resulted in a net loss for Google, despite generating approximately 97.7 million in revenue in the first quarter alone. This is yet another reason that Apple is a wiser choice. Not only is the iPhone and iOS critical to the company’s success, but they actually drive profits. At Google, neither can be said, making it that much more difficult to find any motivating factor as strong as Apple has for Google to build an incredible device and an amazing experience.
First Party Apps
There is one other relatively big reason that I’m leaning toward iOS. The reason is that while the Android ecosystem’s third party app selection is slowly catching up to Apple’s (and while I’m chalking these up as a tie, most will tell you iOS still has the 3rd party app advantage,) the first party app advantage is where Apple’s really outshining Android. Don’t get me wrong here – I love Android’s Gmail and Calendar apps. Even Google Drive, with its document editing, is very good at what it does. However, with iCloud, Apple closed the Calendar and Documents gaps very quickly, and while Gmail still runs circles around Mail, that is only one application. And for the average consumer, these aren’t the most important apps anyway!
There are a couple of first party apps that really tip the scales in favor of iOS for most consumers. First of these, and most important in my opinion, is the Camera app and Photos, especially with iPhoto integration on the Mac. Its an absolutely unbeatable way to take pictures, back them up easily at full resolution, and do so on not just cloud storage, but also your own hard drive. You own all your files, and they’re accessible from anywhere. Its the perfect combination. The other first party iOS app that Android still can’t beat is Messages. Messages has a million features Android messaging can’t touch, but let’s just put it this way: Messaging on Android still can’t properly handle group messaging. And sure, you could go get a third party app to do it. But on iOS, you don’t need to, and everything is integrated nicely! Plus, you can pick that same conversation up in Messages on your Mac. It just can’t beat, at least not as of this moment.
And the reason for these apps having the advantages they do? Apple is dedicated to making iOS absolutely amazing, because they depend on iOS. Google does not depend on Android, and that is an inherent problem for the OS and its future.