Thanks to the immense initial popularity of the iPhone 6S/6S Plus, the adoption rate of iOS 9 is pushing 60%, all within less than a month of its launch. According to an official release, this is easily the quickest adoption rate among new mobile platform versions. Google, on its part, has also been active – releasing the big rival of the new Apple platform, Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Many mobile software and app developers feel that the two platforms are increasing getting similar to each other. In today’s discussion, we will do a roundup of the iOS 9 vs Android 6.0 Marshmallow debate – and try to find which of the two has the edge:
- The security factor – High-end privacy and security have always been a hallmark of the Apple iOS platform. With iOS 9, user-security has received further boosts – with information stored with Siri (the digital assistant) not being linked to Apple or any other third-party sources in any way. This, in turn, practically rules out any chance of unauthorized access of personal data. The Android 6.0 platform has been armed with hardware encryption features as well, to protect user-data. There remains some doubt over its functionality across the huge range of Android devices that are currently available. iOS 9 would win this round by a whisker.
- The availability factor – 23.5%. That was the adoption rate of Android 5.0 Lollipop after the first week of October 2015. Over the years, there has always been a cloud of uncertainty over when and how updated Android versions would become available to different versions – and Marshmallow is going to be no different. Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X were the two handsets it debuted on, and the version will be gradually rolled out to other devices (Samsung, HTC and Sony are the ones likely to get it first – although no specific date has been specified). iOS 9, on the other hand, presents no such uncertainty. It was launched on the new iPhone 6S/6S Plus – and has taken all of three days to overtake the adoption rate of Android Lollipop.
- Compatibility with older devices – Professional device analysts and Apple app developers have confirmed that the iOS 9 platform extends back-end compatibility till the iPhone 4S (which hit the markets way back in October 2011). Android Marshmallow is not likely to be available on handsets that are more than a couple of years old (and that’s also an optimistic view). This factor can be countered by saying that not all Android-users are interested in getting the new update – but that number is small, and support for older devices is always an advantage.
- Personalization options – From iOS 8, Apple has been making major strides in providing users a more customized mobile experience – but Android still rules the personalization game by a distance. Right from swapping the positions of the default home screen apps, to adding a calendar view – all of these are easily possible on Android 6.0 devices (and not on the latest iPhones, although widgets can now be moved to the Notification Center). The greater customization features of Android phones has another implication as well – Android app developers get greater access of the core features of the platform than their iOS counterparts.
- The design factor – Not much to choose between iOS 9 and Android 6.0 Marshmallow – unless we move over to the tablet views that they offer. General users as well as iPhone app development experts agree that the ‘Slide Over’ and the ‘Split View’ features of iOS 9 give it a distinct edge over its competitor. Otherwise, Google’s Material Design appears almost similar to the layout of iOS 9 phones, with the card-based stylization of the Android platform putting it at par with the smart elegance of the new iPhone screens. Neither Apple nor Google has tweaked the visual features of their latest mobile platforms in a big way – and that, for better or for worse, shows.
- Siri vs Google Now – For some time now, Google Now has had the edge over Siri – in terms of accuracy and reliability (of course, Siri has the humor factor going for it, and for in-app information, it is excellent). Both the mobile digital assistants, in their latest iterations, are focusing on contextual information providing, via data mining. The ‘Proactive’ feature of Siri helps it ‘understand’ what the user is viewing onscreen, and interpret queries accordingly. If anything, the new Google Now On Tap does this even better – both for gathering information from the web as well as from the device. It also cuts down on the number of taps users have to make. Those who make mobile apps feel that the revamped Google Now offers more access within Android apps, than the new Siri does for iOS 9 applications. Apple’s new digital assistant is a smart baby, but Google Now still leads the way.
- Mobile payments and Cloud support – It’s a tie between the two platforms regarding cloud-based functionality and secure mobile payment support. Both of them has near-field communication (NFC), with Apple Pay and Android Pay each having a long line-up of leading retailers that have pledged support for them. iCloud Drive on iOS 9 and Google Drive on Android 6.0 Marshmallow are pretty much the same in terms of usability too (the former, like Google Drive, now has a separate app for browsing documents stored in devices). Android did get NFC earlier and had the better cloud support earlier – but now there isn’t much to pick between the two.
- Collaboration with third-party gadgets – Easy on Android 6.0, close to impossible on iOS 9. The extensive cloud support of Google makes it easy for even iPhone users to download and install its apps (something that would please Google and make Apple frown). Extending tasks from Android handsets to Chrome is also a breeze. Many iPhone app developers feel that with iOS 9, Apple could have given users the option to simultaneously use iPhone/iPad with external hardware (i.e., those not in the Apple ecosystem). The Cupertino company does not quite give users full freedom yet – this side of the fence is still mostly proprietary.
- Native applications on the two platforms – Much like the availability of the platforms themselves, updates on native iOS apps are a lot more certain than on Android applications. The stock applications on iPhones/iPads get updated as and when new versions of the iOS platform are released – while there is no such correlation between Android versions and updates on native Android apps. On the flipside though, for users wishing to perform iOS 9 jailbreak – the regular upgrade of native apps might emerge as a problem.
- Maps and Photos – Android Marshmallow should be ranked a notch higher than Apple iOS 9 on this count. There is a lot to be said in favour of the revamped iCloud Photo Library, but the general consensus is that, it still has some catching up to do, to match the built-in Photos app of Android 6.0 (which, incidentally, is available on both the platforms). Regarding maps, it is again the same story – with Apple Maps, with its extensive public transit information, improving significantly but still not being as reliable as Google Maps. Tim Cook and his men have an opening for further improvement here.
- The move towards oneness – The way things are going, it won’t be a surprise if the entire iOS vs Android debate becomes redundant after a few years. Previews of iOS 9 and Android Marshmallow have confirmed the belief of mobile app developers worldwide that the two platforms have grown a strong resemblance (visually and feature-wise) with each other. For instance, the new Apple platform has makeshift ‘Back’ button as well as a battery saving mode – things that Android already had (the ‘Doze’ feature on Marshmallow is particularly handy). It’s not that iOS is the only one striving to become like Android though – the latter has picked up app permissions architecture and fingerprint recognition support from Apple. Telling apart the two platforms is going to be increasingly difficult in future…that’s pretty much certain!
- For developers: iOS or Android? – Professionals from most leading mobile app companies release iOS and Android versions of their new applications simultaneously. This trend will remain with the latest versions of respective platforms (although Android developers will get greater integrated access to systems, than what iPhone developers will get). However, for startups – iOS will stay as the preferred version – simply due to the complexity involved in coding for the vast range of Android devices. iOS app developers have to optimize apps for iPhone, iPad and maybe Apple Watch – Android coders have a much larger array of vendors and devices to consider.
It has been two weeks since the release of iOS 9.1, which irons out many of the initial bugs that the initial release had (like poor screen responsiveness and unreliable wifi connectivity). It is pretty much clear that iOS and Android have borrowed features from each other to become smarter, more efficient and user-friendly. The big problem with Android is the fragmentation of roll out of the new platforms – if and when that gets sorted out, the fight will become all the more close.
iOS 9 or Android 6.0 Marshmallow – which of the two do you feel will be more successful?
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