Here at SME we aren’t completely lost in the world of Apple, we have a couple of Android devices rolling around for testing purposes, an I use an Android as my personal phone so I can, just occasionally be away from the office.

Thanks to their huge market share, and even more publicity, including about the odd exploding phone, it does seem that a lot of people seem to think that Android is just the operating system for Samsung phones. This isn’t the case, Android runs on pretty much every handset that isn’t Apple. Even newer Blackberry handsets run a version of Android. So, what are the major differences between iOS and Android? I will save a comparison of features for another day, first I want to look at what I consider the main difference between the 2, the process of getting the most up to date version.

If you have an iPhone you will be aware of how iOS updates work. Apple holds an event showing off all of the new software features and announces a release date, on that date if your phone can take the update it is there waiting for you to install. Its that simple. Apple decides when its time to update your phone, and because of that iPhone owners tend to download the latest updates as soon as they are available.

This is not how Android works. Whilst Google holds events showcasing new software features, when they become available to individual users can be hard to determine. As there are so many manufacturers out there making Android a lot of testing has to be done before anything can be released. This slows things down hugely.

Also, individual manufacturers and even network operators rather than Google decide when to push updates to phones, so unlike iOS there isn’t really a set release date for software, it trickles out to different manufacturers and to different handsets over a long period of time. Because of this Android is fragmented, there are countless handsets out there running many different versions of Android.

Is the iOS way of doing things better? In my eyes it is. I like the fact that I can watch an Apple iOS event, see the new features and know exactly when I am going to be able to get them on my phone, and know precisely what elements of the software I will and won’t be able to take advantage of depending on the current iPhone I have. This system also makes things a little easier for app developers, we know we are dealing with a small range of handsets and a relatively small number of software iterations.

Could Android work in the same way? Probably not. The thing that a lot of people love most about Android is precisely what makes a consistent update process pretty much impossible. It is an open system, countless manufacturers can make Android devices and Google has minimal control or input in the process. There are a few conditions that have to be met to ensure devices can utilise core Google services such as the Play Store but even this isn’t required, Amazon’s Fire tablets actually run Android but don’t come preinstalled with most Google apps.

This is one of the reasons why Google launched both the Nexus and Pixel range of handsets. To showcase flagship devices that running the most up to date version of Android. If you want to see Android as Google imagines it you just need to look at one of these devices. As  these handsets  are directly under the Google banner they get software updates as soon as they are available

This is the compromise of Android, the open system and ability to choose from a huge range of different devices means you may have to wait months to get the most up to date version of the operating system, if at all.

But is this a big deal? Does the average user notice, or care that they are not necessarily running an up to date version of Android? Does it change the app experience? In part 2 I will look at this, and how different manufacturers change Android to make their devices stand out and even offer different functionality.


P2 Coming Soon…