Android, iOS, and the Inevitable “Versus”

“Android is nothing but a blatant copy of iPhone!”

I’ve heard this statement or some variation of it so many times over the past year from a variety of people and, quite frankly, I’m tired of trying to show them why it’s not the case when half of them clearly don’t want to listen. My thinking goes that maybe they’ll want to read it, or maybe someone can trick them into reading it (Hawk’roll?), so I’ll try and explain my arguments as clearly as possible.

I realise that Android is an Operating System, but devices that run Android usually have similar features that are comparable with each other and other devices like an iPhone, so I’d like to start there. One of the big things about the iPhone is the fact that it has a big touchscreen and no button-clutter. Touchscreens are by no means a new idea, not even on a phone, and neither is multi-touch. What Apple did, however, is combine these two ideas and, with the right marketing, they popularised its use on a mobile phone. Most (if not all) smartphone manufacturers (HTC, Motorola, Samsung, Sony Ericsson etc.) followed suit with multi-touch capable screens and touch-friendly Operating Systems, with the prime OS of choice being Android. Should we consider this copying? Perhaps, but then computer owners (including these ranting Apple-fanbois) need to also accept that the GUIs that they are using came from the “copying” of Xerox’s ideas on their Star Workstation. I’ll accept that Apple was the pioneer of the multi-touchscreen phone, but to say anything along the lines of “Apple did it first, therefore they are clearly better” or “Apple did it first, therefore they should be the only one’s to use it” is ridiculous to the same degree as “Xerox invented the first GUI, therefore they are clearly better/should be the only one’s to use it.” Apple came up with the multi-touch input mechanism inasmuch as Xerox invented the mouse.

Enough fretting over a screen and multi-touch, let us now consider the software, where we start with the lock screen. Initially, Android didn’t have a lock screen that allowed you to make a gesture over it to unlock it, you had to press the menu button to unlock the phone. Does it thus count as copying on Android’s part? Perhaps, but only if the person who invented the cushioned chair copied the person who rolled up his jacket, set it down on a rock, and sat down on it. In the movie The Social Network, Mark Zuckerberg (played by Jesse Eisenberg) says: “A guy who builds a nice chair doesn’t owe money to everyone who ever has built a chair. They came to me with an idea, I had a better one.” Apple may have had the idea, but the downwards sliding of HTC, the sideways sweeping of Samsung (not to mention the ability to get to your messages or missed calls directly from their lock screen), the upwards sliding of Windows Phone 7, are all different implementations with certain advantages and disadvantages. This is what is known as innovation and it is the same thing that Apple (and every other mobile phone manufacturer) has done with the original telephone.

Moving past the screen and the lock screen, we find the distinctive iPhone menu system – a 4×4 grid of icons over which you can gesture left or right to go to the previous or next screen of 4×4 icons (or the search bar on the far left), with a fifth row of four icons at the bottom which remain static. Icons are nothing new – we’ve had them since the first GUIs. The bottom bar of static icons might be slightly new, but I recall having a row of configurable icons on my Nokia N73. The only “new” feature here is, in fact, the left and right swiping with animated transitions between screens and I feel obliged to point out that stock Android does not do this, it has a scrollable top to bottom menu structure.

There are other differences between the two as well. The Android home screen, for instance, is not the app launcher – it is actually more akin to a PC desktop which can contain various widgets as well as shortcuts to apps. Android also has the extendible notification bar which is visible in most places (except applications that demand full-screen viewing).

Are the two operating systems similar? Yes, just as Windows, Ubuntu (or any other Linux-based OS), and OS X are also similar. Are they different? Most definitely. What both iPhone and Android fanbois need to realise here is that the operating systems are similar, but different, and these two groups need to accept that. People borrow ideas from one another and build on them to create something new – it’s called innovation. iOS did not invent the concept of multi-tasking and folders, just like Android did not invent the idea of Widgets, but both use an implementation thereof. The operating systems are similar in some ways, different in others, and both have certain advantages and disadvantages.

While I am happy to participate in a spirited debate of these operating systems and their advantages and disadvantages, I do not want to listen to, nor speak to, certifiable idiots who staunchly hold to the idea that one is better than the other in every conceivable way. You are wrong in every conceivable way, and your inability to comprehend the magnitude of your idiocy is pitiable. Compare them, debate them, but in the end you need to accept that the one you posit to be better is your opinion – a subjective measure based on personal preference.

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About HawkiesZA

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One Response to Android, iOS, and the Inevitable “Versus”

  1. Cleric says:

    Go Hawkies! Well written and explained. It is absolutely correct that a person’s fixated objection to somehow prove that one is better than the other, is clearly personal preference. As you know, I am the proud owner of a Samsung Galaxy S, and I love the Android OS it uses, and I’ll go so far as to say that Android is the best OS on a phone I’ve ever used.
    But then again, I never really used an iPhone to compare the two, but I know the two are different from things I’ve heard and read from others. So my choice is based on personal preference. (But I like to rub it in and say to others that my Galaxy S is better than the iPhone, purely because I love my phone so much 😀 )

    PS: Also because I know you, reading this blog post I’m sure you had some very heated discussions or rather conflicts with iPhone fanbois who got you too frustrated to talk to them, lol. Now they can hear what you had to say, without them chipping in to try and win you over with their personally preferred features, and their reasons why it is better, etc. 😛

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