Proponents for both sides fit into one of two main categories, the intelligent, savvy users and the fanbois (intentional misspelling). The former are users who understand their specific needs and have chosen a platform that suits both their specific style and taste whilst providing a fantastic experience. The latter are the idiots who, like religious extremists, are unable to find a common ground or are even able to constructively understand why they are in their respective camps.
The real differences
When you break it down it really comes back to the following two differences:
- Hardware specifications
All other features such as productivity, SMS, MMS, Social Networking, etc. are available on basically EVERY phone thus are moot from here on in.
Most general users of a device really have NO clue as to what is under the hood on their device, and most rightly don’t really care one way or the other, as long as it does what they want and does it quickly. Power users are really the only ones who want to know what’s available. So for the purposes of this discussion, general users are excluded from this particular subject.
Hardware consistency in the iPhone/iPad department has always made developing for iOS a breeze. It really does emulate the philosophy of Java’s “write once, run anywhere” slogan. Android usually get’s the standard fragmentation spiel right about now, and rightly so in that Android doesn’t provide a consistent deployment platform and has to rely upon API’s to handle older hardware (eg. the ActionBar legacy API’s, etc.)
So what you get in one area you lose out in the other. iPhone/iPad hardware has no variation so if you want certain performance in one area then you’re unable to find a device to suit your needs. Gaming for instance is something that requires rather beefy hardware and that’s what you’d expect to get when buying a Galaxy S4. The good old HTC Desire HD would still probably keep you entertained though it has it’s limitations. Whereas from a developers perspective, if you were trying to do something on a mobile platform that was well and truly beyond the available hardware, then you’re either going to have to restrict your target audience or downgrade your app/game to accommodate the lower hardware spec, much like the way web developers have to downgrade their CSS to deal with old browsers.
In the end, hardware CHOICE is what matters most and in the iPhone/iPad side of the fence there really is only the one brand to choose from. So fragmentation == choice, therefore Android would have to win this round.
Android is renown for its plethora of settings and configuration items as well as its ability to use widgets, change home screen layouts and so on. iOS has sorely missed its opportunity to impress users with these features and has taken a whopping 7 versions of iOS to really get behind this idea. Sure, iOS 6 has widgets and notification updates but lets be honest, iOS 7 has truly embraced this concept and has implemented it rather well.
Though personalisation goes beyond widgets, its the ability to have things exactly how you want them. iOS 7 has made headway in this area though still stifles the user by not going that extra mile to make iOS as configurable as Android. Right from the beginning, Android strived to give the user choice and has done so in ever increasing amounts through time.
On the flip side of this is a very simple fact, something that Apple have known about for a long time. Too many options == decision paralysis. By presenting too many options to the user you either scare the user off completely or confuse the user to no end, and ultimately this reduces the users experience with the device. Droves of Android users fled to the iPhone in the early days simply because it didn’t “just work” how the users wanted it to. By the severe restrictions that iOS imposed upon its users, it relieved the users decision paralysis and made the experience a whole lot better.
That said, the real answer to this problem is that options == freedom. Just because you don’t understand what those options do or don’t really care what those options do is irrelevant. NOT being able to change those options on the other hand == imposition and restriction, the opposite of what we want from our devices and thus, Android would also have to win this round.
Ultimately it comes down to user experience over freedom to use the device in the manner in which you want to, so the biggest difference between the two (major) OS’es is that Android gives the user the CHANCE to be free whereas iOS doesn’t. If you feel that you are happy to live in a closed eco-system controlled by a tyrannical company who does nothing but sue anyone who looks at it wrong then Apple is the best choice for you.
Otherwise, sure, it might take you a bit to get up to speed, but just like the slaves in Spartacus, wanting freedom and HAVING freedom are two different things.