As I’ve stated before I used to revel in the role of electronic tinkerer. Building new PC towers was an easy and inexpensive way to gain a better, more powerful system while satisfying my craving for learning something new. I picked up a good deal of tricks from a high school friend and augmented it by devouring all the PC magazines and online articles I could get my hands on. My deep integration into all things PC naturally evolved into a sentimental attachment to my creations and the core of their electronic life- Windows. That’s right, I used to be an Apple hater. In hindsight I think it was just a subconscious way to justify the effort I put into each system (beyond the satisfaction of bringing a new PC to life by myself)- I was able to build something more powerful, with a faster processor, heftier graphics card; just pick your benchmark or component. Competitors by their very nature had to be inferior!
Since that time I was lured into the Apple fold bit by bit, gateway iPod to iPhone to Mac without a moment of regret. While I’ll admit to being an apologist on occasion (although to be honest the iPhone 4′s antenna and Apple Map’s oft discussed problems never impacted me) I’ve reflected often on the natural tendency for people to form cliques. What used to be a Mac versus PC argument (which still exists, albeit a bit more subdued than it used to be) has now become more of an iOS versus Android tussle.
Again, a caveat- I’ve teased a coworker or two about their Android handsets. It wasn’t maliciously done, but I can debate/argue with the best of them when I put my mind to it. That being said, it seems almost bizarre to me how we naturally form mental groups based on such personal choices as what kind of gadgets we prefer. I was an early adopter of the iPhone, and was already comfortably in the Apple fold by the time Android was a viable smartphone choice. Both handset operating systems had their growing pains, but both have matured into impressively powerful platforms with unique values to offer. Had I not opted for an iPhone I would have been just as enthusiastic about my first Nexus (and this blog may have had a different name).
Android truly does offer value that iOS never will. It’s open architecture provides flexibility and configurability so far unmatched (although new platforms from Ubuntu and Firefox may challenge that). Android offers unparalleled user control over its structure; users can change just about every aspect of the operating system’s interface. Google’s market strategy of seeking profit by supporting their core business of advertising and data mining allow them to give the OS away to handset manufacturers who can configure it to a massive range of different devices. iOS only recently became available on more than one type of device, but Android phones vary so much they could be broken down into subcategories, each providing unique value like low price, removable batteries, a physical keyboard, or pseudo-tablet size screen. Android owners have multiple app sources as well; legitimate (Google Play and Amazon’s app store) as well as not-so-legitimate. Then there’s one of the hidden facets of Android that some customers flock to- it simply isn’t Apple.
With all those selling points, why would anyone buy an iOS device? Glad you asked. iOS benefits from some of the very things it’s been criticized for, such as its “closed” architecture. Apple controls the product line from start to finish, and this affords them far greater influence over the quality of their operating system, components, and end user experience (just do a quick search for Android fragmentation if you’d like to see why unity is important). The physical construction has always been high quality, with more research on ergonomics and optimal functionality than the average consumer will ever be aware of. Rather than build a wide range of devices for all budgets, Apple keeps previous models of iPhone in production, selling the older model at a discount (yet still making a respectable profit margin thanks to existing production lines) allowing them to insure that no matter what your budget, you’ll get a quality device.
Thanks in part to the curated nature of the app store and part to the customer base Apple has cultivated the iOS App Store reigns supreme. iOS users are far more likely to purchase apps (dirty secret- Google makes more revenue from iOS users than it does out of the more numerous Android users!), and this cash flow influences development, feeding the store’s massive number of apps. Then there’s the rest of the iTunes Store, both free content and paid. Music, audiobooks, podcasts (both video and audio), movies, television shows, even education- nothing matches iTunes’ scope of media. Both operating systems can tie into third party providers like Netflix and Spotify, but iOS users have a much broader selection at their fingertips- you can even access Google Play (or any of Google’s products) if you really want to.
Then there is the staggering array of third party accessories. Literally any category you can think of, from the beautiful to the absurd, is out there for iOS devices. Third party developers have created new ways of using your device and better ways of doing what you were already using it for, spurred on by the unity of the platform. It’s far more profitable (not to mention easier) to develop for a product line that changes in slow increments rather than one that has almost countless forms simultaneously.
The unity of hardware and software have allowed Apple to develop a wide ranging product line, from iPod Touch to full sized iPad, offering stability and interoperability that no competitor can match. iOS also acts as a valuable part of their product ecosystem; users can get far more utility from their devices if they use Apple products solely. As time passes iOS and OSX will cross pollinate and the defining line between them will blur (unlike Window’s clumsy attempt to force immediate integration of mobile and desktop operating systems via Windows 8). Google has no ecosystem to leverage; they began as system agnostic and even though they ventured into hardware with Android and the overlooked Chromebook they largely remain that way.
Given time I could probably provide countless more reasons why iOS was the perfect choice for me. The stability, clean and simple interface, quality of devices, interoperability, and breadth of support both software and hardware made my choice a simple one. My requirements won’t make everyone happy; those that haven’t lost their love of tinkering with the internals of their devices in particular (most of my Android-loving friends mention the modifications they’ve made to their handsets as one of the primary reasons they love them). Just bear in mind if someone wants to influence your choice of device, it’s not like choosing a sports team to follow; pick what best suits your needs.
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