When it comes to major apps, the line between Android and iOS is starting to blur rapidly. Choosing a smartphone or tablet platform should be a well-considered decision because switching from iOS to Android or vice versa will require you to buy apps again in the Google Play (or Apple app) store. Android is now the world’s most commonly used smartphone platform and is used by many different phone manufacturers. iOS is only used on Apple devices, such as the iPhone.
iOS and Android both use touch interfaces that have a lot in common - swiping, tapping and pinch-and-zoom. Both operating systems boot to a homescreen, which is similar to a computer desktop. While an iOS home screen only contains rows of app icons, Android allows the use of widgets, which display auto-updating information such as weather and email. The iOS user interface features a dock where users can pin their most frequently used applications.
A status bar runs across the top on both iOS and Android, offering information such the time, WiFi or cell signal, and battery life; on Android the status bar also shows the number of newly received emails or messages.
These videos compare the features of Android Jelly Bean and iOS 6.x on Samsung Galaxy S3 and iPhone 5 respectively:
Many different manufacturers make Android phones and they often include some customization over the vanilla Android experience. e.g. HTC Sense or Samsung TouchWiz. Depending upon your device and carrier, there may be pre-installed apps that are bundled with your Android device.
edit User experience
Pfeiffer Report released in September 2013 rates iOS significantly better than Android on cognitive load and user friction.
edit Apps available on iOS vs Android
Android gets apps from Google Play, which currently has 600,000 apps available, most of which will run on tablets. However, some Android devices, such as the Kindle Fire, use separate app stores that have a smaller selection of apps available. Many originally iOS-only apps are now available for Android, including Instagram and Pinterest, and Google’s more open app-store means other exclusive apps are also available, including Adobe Flash Player and BitTorrent. Android also offers access to Google-based apps, such as Youtube and Google Docs.
The Apple app store currently offers 700,000 apps, 250,000 of which are available for the iPad. Most developers prefer to develop games for iOS before they develop for Android. Since a recent update, the Youtube app has become unavailable on iOS, but iOS still offers some exclusive apps, including the popular game Infinity Blade and Twitter client Tweetbot.
The bottomline when comparing Google and Apple's app stores is that most popular apps are available for both platforms. But for tablets, there are more apps designed specifically for the iPad while Android tablet apps are often scaled up versions of Android smartphone apps. Developers at startups often focus on one platform (usually iOS) when they first launch their smartphone app because they do not have resources to serve multiple platforms from the get go. For example, the popular Instagram app started with iOS and their Android app came much later.
edit Software upgrades
Although Google does update Android frequently, some users may find that they do not receive the updates on their phone, or even purchase phones with out-of-date software. Phone manufacturers decide whether and when to offer software upgrades. They may not offer an upgrade to the latest version of Android for all the phones and tablets in their product line. Even when an upgrade is offered, it is usually several months after the new version of Android has been released.
This is one area where iOS users have an advantage. iOS upgrades are generally available to all iOS devices. There could be exceptions for devices older than three years, or for certain features like Siri, which was available for iPhone 4S users but not for older versions of iPhone. Apple cites hardware capability as the reason some older devices may not receive all new features in an upgrade.
edit Device Selection
A wide variety of Android devices are available at many different price points, sizes and hardware capabilities.
edit Call Features
Android allows the user to send one of a number of self-composed texts as autoreplies when declining a call.
iOS’s phone app has many abilities, including the ability to reply to a phonecall with a canned text message instead of answering, or to set a callback reminder. It also has a Do Not Disturb mode.
Android allows users to log onto GTalk for instant messages. iOS does not offer a native way to chat to non-Apple users. Users can message over Apple users using iMessage or use apps from Google for GTalk and Microsoft for Skype.
edit Video Chat
GTalk on Android can also be used for video chat, allowing users to chat over either 3G or Wi-Fi. iOS uses Facetime, which can place video calls over both 3G and WiFi. However, it only allows users to communicate with other Apple devices.
edit Voice Commands on Android vs iOS
iOS uses Siri, a voice-based virtual assistant, to understand and respond to both dictation as well as spoken commands. Siri includes many features, such as reading sports scores and standings, making reservations at restaurants and finding movie times at the local theater. You can also dictate texts and emails, schedule calendar events, and interface with car audio and navigation.
Android offers a similar assistant, Google Now, which features the above abilities, plus can keep track of your calendar and give verbal reminders when it is time to leave. It allows for voice search and dictation.
Apps like Google Maps, Waze and Bing are available for both iOS and Android. When Google released its maps app for iOS in December 2012, the iOS version surpassed the version available for Android in terms of features, design and ease of use. The Android version is not expected to stay behind. Apple's own mapping app, which is bundled with every iOS device, was widely panned when it was launched with iOS 6.
edit Web Browsing
Android uses Google Chrome as its web-browser, while iOS uses Safari. Both Internet browsers are similar in quality and abilities and Google Chrome is also available for iOS. Safari is not available for Android.
edit Facebook integration
Android is integrated with Facebook, allowing users to update their statuses or upload pictures from many apps, and to pull contact data from their Facebook friends.
iOS is also fully integrated with Facebook, allowing users to update their status and upload images from various apps, sync their contacts with Facebook, and have their Facebook events automatically added to their iOS Calendar. iOS now offers much deeper integration with Facebook and Twitter because of how tightly it is weaved into core apps on iOS.
edit Mobile payments
Android uses Google Wallet, an app that allows for mobile payments. Some Android phones are equipped with an NFC chip (near-field communication) that is used for making wireless payments simply by tapping the phone at the checkout counter. This service integrates with Google Wallet but is not available on all Android phones or wireless carriers.
iOS offers Passbook, an app that collects in one place tickets, reward cards, and credit/debit cards. There are no mobile payment features in iOS.
Android’s applications are isolated from the rest of the system’s resources, unless a user specifically grants an application access to other features. This makes the system less vulnerable to bugs, but developer confusion means that many apps ask for unnecessary permissions. The most widespread malware on Android is one where text messages are sent to premium rate numbers without the knowledge of the user, and the sending of personal information to unauthorized third parties. As it is the more popular smartphone operating system, it is more likely to be the focus of attacks.
Malware writers are less likely to write apps for iOS, due to Apple's review of all the apps and verification of the identity of app publishers. However, if an iOS device is jailbroken and apps installed from outside Apple's store, it can be vulnerable to attacks and malware.
edit Building and Publishing Apps for iOS vs. Android
Android apps are programmed using C, C++ and Java. It is an "open" platform; anyone can download the Android source code and Android SDK for free. Anyone can create and distribute Android apps for free; users are free to download apps from outside the official Google Play store. There is, however, a one-time $25 registration fee for developers who want to publish their apps (whether free or paid apps) on the official Google Play store. Apps published on Google Play undergo a review by Google. The Android SDK is available for all platforms - Mac, PC and Linux.
iOS apps are programmed using Objective-C. Developers must pay $99 every year for access to the iOS SDK and the right to publish in Apple's app store. The iOS SDK is only available for the Mac platform.
edit UI Design for Android vs. iOS 7
In Beyond Flat, SeatGeek founder Jack Groetzinger outlines a lot of the differences in how Android and iOS approach their design aesthetic and what it means for app developers. For example,
- Buttons:Android buttons are usually monochromatic, with a tendency towards using iconography when possible. The standard iOS 7 button is plain monochromatic text with no background or border. When iOS 7 does use button borders, they tend to be quite simple.
- The Action Bar of Navigation Bar: The nav bar in iOS is usually just a Back button linking to the previous screen. In Android, the navigation bar usually has several action buttons.
- Intents: Intents on Android allows applications to flexibly interoperate with each other. For example, apps can "register" themselves as capable of sharing which allows the user to share using this app from any other app.
The article outlines several other differences and is a great read.
edit The Bottomline: Choosing between iOS and Android
To summarize the key pros and cons of Android and iOS:
edit iOS pros and cons
- Massive app ecosystem: distinct advantage for tablet apps while on smartphones popular apps are usually available for both platforms
- Deeper integration with Facebook and Twitter: it is easier to post updates and share on social networks using iOS than Android because of how deeply integrated these platforms are with iOS.
- iOS-only apps like Passbook, FaceTime, and mobile payments app Square (available on iOS 3GS,4,4S,5 and up, nut only for a limited Android phones)
- Interface is locked down: Limited customization options for the home screens; only rows of app icons are allowed. No third-party apps are pre-installed by the wireless carrier. Users can only install apps from the App Store
- Software upgrades: Apple offers software upgrades to all devices that have the hardware capable of handling the new software.
edit Android pros and cons
- Massive hardware selection: A large number of Android devices are available at various price points, with varying hardware capabilities, screen sizes and features.
- Highly customizable user experience: The home screen can be customized with not just app icons but widgets that allow the user to stay connected or informed. Other examples include SwiftKey, which modifies your Android smartphone’s keyboard, and apps that emulate older gaming consoles. Google has fewer restrictions than Apple on what kinds of apps it allows in its Play store. Moreover, you can choose to install Android apps from places other than the Google Play store.