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During the past months I have been following the debate between Android and Apple fans. Each side considers its own device a better performer than the other, but what is the reality?

Market share

Market share

iOS and Android combined own more than the 50% of the market share and on January 2011 Android overtook iOS in the US market.

The Android’s growth rate, described in the chart above, has been consistent throughout 2010: shares rose in value by 20% in a year.

RIM definitely lost the battle. It’s  market share decreased more than 10% in the US between October 2009 and December 2010. To recover the loss, BlackBerry is implementing the introduction of BlackBerry Messenger as an application compatible with iPhone and Android devices.

Growth rate

Apple growth

During Apple’s September 2010 event, Steve Jobs announced an iOS activationrate of 230,000 devices per day. We must consider that at that time, Verizon hadn’t released the iPhone 4 (presented on January 2011), that iPad sales for the 3rd quarter were successful and finally, that the iPad2 would be available in the U.S. starting 17 March 2011.

Android is gaining more and more of the market. Over 350,000 Android devices are activated on a daily basis and most of the major mobile vendors provide at least one device with the Android system. The below videos show the Android’s performance over the last two years and a forecast of its growth rate.

And the others?

As said above, RIM is losing market every month, the new Blackberry Playbook could give a power-up even if the first feedbacks are not positive. Symbian and MeeGo are the Nokia OS for Mobile and both seems to be through. As a matter of fact Nokia has made an agreement with Microsoft in order to use its Mobile OS. Windows Mobile 7 devices came to the market only at the end of 2010. Microsoft is moving fast in the development of Windows Mobile 8 (aka Windows Next) that should be more focused on the tablet devices. I don’t believe that it will succeed since it will arrive too late in the field. I also suppose that Microsoft, in order to increase its volume in selling, will be ending some unfavorable supplier agreements.

User experience

I tested both the iOS and Android devices and would say that both are user friendly, the gesture is consolidated to the users. In my opinion, however, Apple iOS is at a slight advantage. I have noticed that the majority of people, even those not accustomed to technology, are more comfortable using Apple.

Apple Pro

  • All the apps have the same basic interface and functionalities (sliding down to update a list, navigation bar located at the top, and so on). These features lessen the learning curve and allow consumers to quickly get accustomed to them.
  • Folders improve the efficiency of the SW allowing the consumer to organize his or her own applications and to retrieve them easily.

Android Pro

  • Widgets are very confortable. They show the majority of the information that the user needs on one screen, without having to open several applications.
  • Notifications are shown in the status bar and are always accessible until someone reads or deletes them. iOS notifications are pop-ups that disappear once an action is completed, after which they are no longer accessible.

Android Market vs Apple Store

Android Market Apple Store
Applications1 130.000 300.000
Application free1 100.000 150.000
Application designed for tablet1 100 65.000
Countries (free distribution)1 46 (only 14) 90 (all)
Developers1 18.000 77.000
Application size limit1 50MB 2GB
Developer fee $25 one-off $90/yr.

1December 2010

The Apple Store is objectively bigger and wider than Android Market. If we focus on the number of developers involved and on the ratio of free applications to the total number (Apple 50%; Android 77%) we see that the majority of Android’s developers are publishing their apps for free. This evidence shows that professional developers and well known SW houses do not consider Android Market a profitable business to invest in. In addition Android Market’s the size limit on Application prohibits applications that are best seller in the Apple Store from being converted.

One of the biggest advantages of Android Market is the immediate availability of the app after its launch. It is also true that Android is not a moderated market and that many apps do not respect copyright creating laws, which sets a wrong bad precedent and creates confsion for the users. A few days ago, Google said that it had removed more than 50 apps containing malware. This is impossible in theApple Store because every application must be validated before being available on the market.

Updates

Comparing iOS and Android updating systems:

iOS and devices (iPhone, iPod, iPad) are both managed by Apple and when an update of OS is released, the device receives it, only with iOS 4.3, Apple drops iPhone 3G support.

What does this mean? Apple users are always up to date; as soon as Apple releases an update, iTunes notifies the user of its availability and suggests implementation of the SW. Android users have to wait until the vendor releases the firmware for the device and most of the time, the wait is vanish.

I have an HTC Hero GSM (released on July 2009) and an iPhone 3GS (released on June 2009).

After a few months, Hero had already become an old device, even if it at the time had been publicized as the best in the market. HTC unofficially stopped supporting Hero and after receiving pressures from customers, released the first update a year later, jumping directly from Android 1.5 to Android 2.1. After a few weeks, Google launched Android 2.2 rendering it impossible for possessors of the old device to update the firmware and utilize most of the apps on the market.

In comparison iPhone is current up to the latest version of iOS, 4.3, and 99% of the apps are compatible with this device.

This lack of support affects not only the application but also the security. On January 2010, an exploit caused problems in all Android releases from 1.5 to 2.1. In an announcement, Google confirmed: “Google has now got to the bottom of the problem and is working on a patch, which is currently undergoing evaluation. This will not, however, find its way into Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), the release of which is imminent. It is instead expected to be included in a future update and it could be some time before it finds its way onto many users’ phones.”, what happens to users with an old device? Will they ever receive a security patch?

At the root of this inadequate support from Android’s vendors there is the fact that Apple profits from the selling of devices and applications on the Store. Google, on the other hand, profits from the market: its vendors gain from selling new devices rather than supporting old ones.

Developer view

As a developer, I have noted significant differences between the contenders.

The Android device market is really varied. According the latest analyses, 60% of devices are officially updated to Froyo (2.2) and only 10% to Gingerbread (2.3); this means that 30% of users are running old releases. Android devices also show consistent hardware differences in the RAM, processor, screen size, camera and so on.

In the past, I have spent 70% of my efforts on making my applications compatible with the majority of devices. In a recent article, Gameloft (leader in mobile games) affirmed that “many games would never adapt to all Android devices”. The concept behind “adapting” is that each device requires a rework.

The Apple iOS market is homogeneous and all the devices are running the latest iOS release. This point should be taken in consideration when a customer requests a mobile development; the programmer should identify the devices and the OSs that he or she want to support. If the choice is  Apple, he or she should cover the entire market. If the choice is Android, he or she should reach a compromise.

Over the past months, cross platform applications have been taking to the stage. These are created using frameworks (i.e. PhoneGap, Appcelerator and jQuery Mobile) that allow the development of one application and its execution everywhere. This is not completely true. Tony Lukasavage in a recent blog post analyzed the strengths and weaknesses of these frameworks considering all of them far from being the new Eldorado. It is really hard to understand the best approach: native or non native application?

An interesting Podcast With No Name (yet) – a chat amongst SAP peers created by some SAP Mentors gives an overview of the current status of the mobile development platforms.

Working in Techedge. which is a certified partner of SAP and Sybase, and being grateful to Luca Grilli, who is leading the Mobile Practice, I can confirm that SAP Unwired Platform (SUP) is a valid compromise. The platform creates a single project and generates native applications for several devices (Apple, RIM, Windows Mobile; new one should arrive till the end of 2011), that can be enhanced using the device programming language.

Tablet

Particular consideration must be given to tablets. 2011 is the year of tablets; during his last event, Steve Jobs affirmed that this is the year of iPad2. Most of Apple’s new competitors are also ready to release their products by the end of 1st quarter of 2011.

Within tablets the game is over. The iPad2 wins versus all competitors because it collects the best from all the others: outstanding hardware and a huge number of specific applications. Apple’s commercial strategy delivered a strong punch to the others by maintaining the old prices. Now the competitors need to change their plans in order to make a return on their investments. I consider Motorola Xoom the best option, even if recent benchmarks underline that the gap between the two devices is considerable.

GPU performace CPU performance

Below a comparison between iPad’s “enemies” (it is possible to understand even if you don’t know Italian)

Tablets

Legenda:

OS: Operative system S: display A: number of applications R: Display resolution
DP: dimension and weight : Price V: camera U: expected availability

Conclusions

Competition between Apple and Google generates advantages to end-users. In the last two years, Mobile devices have found a place in people’s daily lives and have become something that they cannot live without. Customers are also starting to evaluate mobile business and to imagine a contexts in which the mobile could increase their profits.

Apple is still the leader and other companies are trying to reach its level. To achieve the standard is relative concept and it is not yet definable what this would be since the market is dynamic and may at any time propose new challenges to engage and overcome.

I expect that Google will consider adopting an official device to directly support (as attempted with the Nexus One); only after this decision would I consider Android to be a worthy competitor to Apple, otherwise it will remain a powerful toy.

Thanks to Sergio Ferrari (@SergioFerrari) and Luca Grilli (@lucagrilli) for their support; on the Edge, always!

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1 Comment

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  1. Gregory Misiorek
    Ivan,

    never thought thought I was a drag queen, but i’m fine with being a wizard (a father of two witches). so, we have mobile wars with all kinds of tricks at the warring parties disposal and i could use a good spell or two. do you know of any?

    P.S. very nice blog, i will save it for later reading.

    (0) 

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