Android vs. iOS – a real world comparison

Macworld Australia Staff
8 September, 2012
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I’ve been an iOS user for quite a few years now. It began with an iPod touch, then an iPhone 3G followed by an iPhone 4 and an iPad 2 but at times I’ve felt myself yearning for the apparent freedom and choice that is offered by Android.

I had a sum of money given to me as one of my birthday presents a while ago and in looking what to spend my money on I settled for a 7″ Ainol Aurora II tablet running Android 4.0.3 (Ice Cream Sandwich) so that I could settle my cravings to try an Android device and see what is was like as a few moments playing with one in a store does not give the whole picture.

As expected the Android devices are heavily wedded to the Google ecosystem just as iOS devices are to the Apple one. This meant that setting up my Gmail account was a breeze and it “just worked” as soon as the details were entered. You can set up an iCloud email account on an Android device but its nowhere near as simple as Gmail as it appears that the particular mail server you log on to is tied to your specific email address, it is possible but is not something that I will detail here.

Application installation is one thing that Android does quite nicely. By default you usually install from the Google Play Store ( which you log in to using the same GMail address you have on your device. Once logged in you can search for applications, widgets etc. and if they are compatible with your device you can then install them. It’s this application compatibility that, to me, is the biggest downfall on Android. With so many different screen sizes, CPU types and speeds, memory sizes etc. it can be very hard to find an application that runs on your device. For example the tablet I purchased I cannot install Angry Birds, Google+, Facebook and a number of other items that I consider to me on my “must have” list. In the Apple Store this doesn’t happen anywhere near as much as there are only a few different screen sizes (normal, retina, iPad and iPad retina) and the CPU issue does not exist which also means that the process for developers is much easier as they only have a known system to develop for.

On the subject of installing things, yes applications are easy but music, video, ebooks etc. are not so simple if you don’t get those items from Google. To install these items I used the following process (as it was the only way I could see how to):

1) Plug the USB cable in to the tablet and in to the Mac

2) When prompted on the tablet choose “Use USB disk” and the device will mount on the Mac

3) Open the device and navigate to the required directory eg. Music, Video, Books, Podcasts etc.

4) Find the item(s) you want to copy to the device in iTunes, right click on it and choose “Show in Finder”

5) Drag and drop the file from the window that opens in to the one you opened on the device

6) Rinse and repeat for all files (possibly omitting step 4 as you can probably find them now)


Compare this to copying something from iTunes to your iPod/iPhone/iPad:

1) Plug in USB cable between device and Mac (this step may be omitted if wireless sync is set up)

2) Find what you want in iTunes and drag it onto the device in the sidebar in iTunes

3) Rinse and repeat

I should note that by altering the default security settings you can install software on an Android device by virtually any means, other websites, emails, memory cards etc. which is both nice and a curse. It’s nice because it means that you can do it, it’s a potential curse because you can do this and cannot be 100% sure that the software that you are installing is safe and secure. The one huge advantage with iOS and the Apple Store is that you can be pretty much certain that the software you are installing is safe and secure. I know that there have been a couple apps lately that were removed due to their breach of Apples terms regarding accessing and using/storing user information but for the most part this is far from normal.

And now lets talk about stability. I’ve watched a series of YouTube clips (which I posted a link to in the forums some time ago) where it was stated that Android applications crash far less frequently than iOS applications. My response to this is that the statement is far from accurate. In the time I was using the Android tablet I experienced crashes of various applications, including the inbuilt ones, frequently. This is not something I see anywhere near as regularly on my iPhone, in fact I find it hard to recall the last time I had an application crash on it.

The one (and possibly only) area in which Android has some small advantage over iOS is in the area of customisation. It is quite nice to be able to chance to an alternative keyboard (anyone who has every used the Swype keyboard can attest to this), it’s also nice to be able to have the “look and feel” (skin) of your choosing for your device but in the long run these are only very minor things which to my mind do not go anywhere near making up for the instability and application incompatibility issues that I experienced with Android.

I should note that this was a “cheap” Android device and that apparently the more expensive ones are more reliable and give a better user experience but the cynic in me thinks that perhaps the more expensive onces might be faster and look prettier but the 2 basic issues I have with application compatibility and general stability probably won’t change a great deal.

To my mind it seems that is a pretty one sided battle, iOS wins hand down.


Jamie Dobbs is an NZ based computer geek in his early 40′s who has had a passion for computers since he saw his first one when he was 11 years old at a family friends one Christmas. The magic of this machine in to which you could type commands and have it do things for you struck a chord which he still carries to this day. He first started with the Mac in 1988 with a Mac SE and despite a short defection to Atari and IBM machines has always had a passion for all things Apple.

At home between him, his wife and daughter there is an early 2008 iMac, a mid 2012 MacBook Pro, and the usual assortment of iPhones, iPods, Apple TVs and iPads that can be expected of a self confessed Apple mad family!

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