This is an attempt to show the differences–not without bias, but without hate.
The iPhone focuses on doing a few things in a very polished way, while Google stresses being able to do as many things as possible. As I mentioned when the iPhone launched, the iPhone will focus on how relatively few features are implemented, not on how many are implemented.
I’d give this to Google pretty handily.
Apple wants openness to the extent that it gets more people developing for the platform. The focus is not ‘freedom’; it’s ‘get more high quality apps into the app store.’ Google, on the other side, is pushing to actually be as open as possible, to allow for unrestrained creativity. Apple does open to the extent that it benefits them (via user happiness). Google is doing open as a philosophy.
iPhone users enjoy being excited about things and don’t much like hearing why that’s a bad idea. Android users tend to hate that. They struggle not to vomit when people freak out while showing off an iPhone–or just generally gush about things that are not 100% objectively superior. Even then it’s not encouraged. It’s like the Vulcan Android users are looking down on the emotion-proles from highbrow mountain.
Their preference for Android is directly fueled by this disgust of Apple and its mindless followers. Sure, Android is ok, but its best attribute is not being an Apple product. Apple users, however, are mostly ignoring Android because they’re too busy loving Apple. They’re too deep in their love affair to notice anyone not involved. And if someone calls them on their over-the-top antics, they’ll bite back with, “You just wish you loved your device like I love mine.”
Most interestingly, both groups are consumed by Apple. This is evident by going into a Verizon store. The first thing you’ll hear when you ask someone to describe an Android device is, “It’s like an iPhone, but …RAAAWRRRR!” Settle down there, buddy.
The iPhone is like a piece of technical jewelry. Jewelry has a very limited function–namely to make you feel good about yourself and to raise your value in the eyes of others. It’s about appearance.
Android really isn’t about that. It’s like Linux in that way. It focuses on what it can do rather than how it looks doing it. And that’s why it doesn’t have the pull that iPhone does. Features aren’t sex, appearance is sex. Interface is sex. I’m not sure if Google doesn’t get this, or if they get it and can’t do anything about it.
Either way, ask yourself a simple question: How many BMW or Rolex owners have Android devices instead of iPhones? In other words, if you care enough about design and appearance to like one type of thing, you’re likely to go that direction with other things as well. That’s why Apple stores are full of highly paid people who can tell you a lot about art, or food, or whatever they’re interested in.
Winner? Nobody. If you aren’t into aesthetic, then nobody is going to convince you to be. And if you aren’t, then features are king.
High vs. Low Maintenance
Another way iPhone’s are like jewelry is that they’re extremely low maintenance. They’re designed to be left alone. They do a few things and they look good doing them. No muss, no fuss. I’m sure Android can be used that way, but they seem to stress how configurable every single thing is, constantly. When I talk to my Android owning friends they are usually in the middle of some kind of tweak of their interface, OS version, or widgets, or whatever.
This is also awesome. Let’s be clear about that. Linux is the same way. I have had endless hours of fun configuring Linux desktops, but they tend to be rather fragile, and when it’s time to work I prefer to not even notice the interface at all. OS X and iPhone are better at that I think. They’re better at being invisible, but pleasantly so.
Winner? Depends on your perspective. I think for most, though, the iPhone approach of being happier with a “lesser” device until next year is better, as it avoids the stress of latest and greatest.
The Cycle of Want
One reason I have really enjoyed being an iPhone user over the last year or so is seeing how many awesome Android devices that have come out in that period of time. I am happy knowing that I’ll get a new iPhone every year, and that the design and feel of the device/software will keep me content until then.
With Android you can go by the sickest phone on the market tomorrow, and when you get back home and charge your battery you’ll be reading about a new device that makes yours look silly. It seems like it would be easy to want new devices all the time, and new versions of the OS (which don’t run on your hardware).
To sum, Android seems to drive a constant state of change, tweaking, and want for new widgets, OS versions, and hardware. iPhone, on the other hand, is like an old Rolex. A new one isn’t that much better.
Winner: Same as above–iPhone.
I think Android is awesome. I seriously do. I have mad respect for Google and for what they’re doing to push the market. And when I see my friend’s live background and sick widgets it makes me want one so I can play with it.
But that’s also why I don’t want one. I don’t want to want that. I don’t want to tweak my background or widgets or root my device to get the latest, or to wish I had waited one more month to get the new wicked-sick hardware.
I want to go with the BMW or the Rolex and know that I got high quality and high design, and that the thing itself, doing the few tasks that it does, will do them in a way that feels clean and solid. So for now I’m sticking with the Apple ecosystem.
I have no doubt that I’ll be on Android soon, though. I think Google will figure out design before Apple figures out how to be Google-level awesome. It’s just a race at this point, and I’m not betting against Google. ::
1 I used Ken and Ryu because they are the same.