This is going to be controversial. It’s going to ruffle some feathers. The fact remains, however, that iOS does indeed do some things better than Android does. Below are 3 lessons Android should learn from Apple.

1. Updates

Software fragmentation is the bane of the Android ecosystem. What is software fragmentation? Essentially, it is 7 versions of Android still being actively used in the wild. If you take a look at this chart, you’ll see that the vast majority of Android users are still running Kit Kat. That means that 33.4% of Android users are on an Android build that is two versions behind. This is what defines software fragmentation and it brings with it a host of issues. One of our writers, Austin Hyde, has written a piece specifically about software fragmentation. You can read it here.

Source: Google Dashboards
Source: Google Dashboards

First and foremost, security updates are going to be your biggest problem. Do you remember the Stagefright vulnerability? Chances are, anyone out there that is running Jelly Bean, Ice Cream Sandwich, Gingerbread, or Froyo, more than likely still have vulnerable devices.

Here’s the number that you need to let hit home. 95.4% of Android users are not on the latest release of Marshmallow, or even Marshmallow at all. 95.4%! That should startle you.

Flagship devices, you would think, would be immune to this problem. In fact, however, they sometimes are the worst offenders. Our own Derrick Miyao wrote an interesting piece on why the Galaxy S7 may be getting only one major Android OS update. Typically, when you spend $700+ on a flagship device, you deserve to receive any and every Android update that comes. Unfortunately, this is not the reality. More than likely, you are going to get one Android version update; two at the most, if you’re lucky. If you want to stay up to date on the latest and greatest Android versions, you need to purchase a Nexus device.

Software fragmentation also creates issue for app developers. Imagine that you are an app developer. You’re ready write and release an update for your app. You start pulling your hair out because you soon realize that if you want to cover everyone out there using Android, you’re going to have to tailor your update to seven different version of Android. Seven. Android developers also have to take into consideration the various screen sizes and types that thousands of different android devices are using, when they create and update apps. This can be as challenging as managing seven different versions of Android is.

On the flipside, if you’re developing apps for Apple, you’re more than likely only going to have to take two versions of iOS into consideration; the latest release and previous release. Three iOS versions would be a stretch but it is certainly possible. That is still better than seven, however. If you’re tired of getting inferior versions of cross platform applications, do not blame the developers. Instead, point your fingers at Google and OEM’s like Samsung and LG. They are so hell bent on forcing their custom user interfaces (Touchwiz, for example)  down your throat that it’s costing you device longevity. One could even theorize that there’s a planned obsolescence conspiracy involved. This is a whole other topic in and of itself. The long and short of it is, you’re not getting Android updates because OEM’s have to update their custom user interfaces before the carriers will push said updates out to you.

Apple’s Statistics

Screenshot 2016-04-09 at 1.43.22 PM
Source: Apple App Store Developer Support page

This section will be much shorter. There’s less to say. If you take a look at the chart on the right, you’ll see that, according to Apple’s official statistics: 79% of iOS users are on the latest release. Compare that to Android’s 4.6%.

Many people out there will tell you that the iOS versions of cross platform apps feel more stable; better, even. The reason for this, when looking at the numbers, is developers are having to put less work into their updates. When you’re writing updates for two, maybe three versions of an OS, you have less to take into consideration and you can put more effort into update quality. This isn’t the case when you’re writing updates for seven versions of an OS. You’re putting more of your effort and focus into making sure everyone gets an update, and, consequently, may be putting quality and stability, mildly on the back burner.

Android has a beta program. If you want to be a part of it, you need to own a Nexus device. Apple has a beta program. If you want to be a part of it, own a current iPhone. If your device is still being supported by Apple, then you’re eligible for the public iOS beta releases. I personally participate in this program. Ultimately, software fragmentation is a major issue for Android and it’s something Google needs to get control of.

2. App Store Security and Review Process

I would venture to say that it is pretty common knowledge that it is harder to publish to the Apple App Store than it is to publish to the Google Play Store. Apple and Google have two, totally different review processes which determine how long it takes to publish their stores.

I’ll start with Google. Last year, Google announced that it would be monitoring and reviewing all apps that are published to the Google Play Store. This is a major departure from the fomer “wild west” the Play Store used to be. Anyone, in the past, could essentially publish whatever they wanted on the Play Store and it would take reports of policy violations from consumers to get Google to take the offending app down. While it is good that Google is reviewing apps, its system is still very flawed and should venture toward less automation and more human interaction. Their approach seems to be more focused on getting apps published in a timely manner over strenuously confirming that the apps are safe.

Case and point: If you develop and app for the Play Store and submit it for publishing, you can see it publish within a few hours. Counter that to the average four day waiting period to publish to the Apple App Store. Google’s review process is fairly automated with some human interaction, according to an interesting article from Tech Crunch.

Source: TechCrunch
Source: TechCrunch

As we can see from these two snippets, the Google Play Store review process is largely automated, which is the reason you can publish an app in a matter of hours. It’s far fetched to think that a mostly automated process can catch everything, even with human involvement. Because of this, I would say that the Google Play Store is still far form secure and I would recommend you approach each download with caution. Even in Google’s official documentation, you are left with the impression that the Play Store’s ecosystem is still reminiscent of the “wild west.”

“1.1 The Store is a publicly available site where Developers can distribute Products for Devices. In order to distribute Products on the Store, you must acquire and maintain a valid Developer Account.” – Google Play developer distribution agreement

You can take a look at Google’s submission requirements and policies here, here, and here.

Apple’s Policies

According to appreviewtimes.com, the average waiting period for publication to the App Store is four days.

Source: appreviewtimes.com
Source: appreviewtimes.com

Apple’s review process for potential apps is quite strenuous, which is why it takes upwards of four days. The App Store Review Guidelines lay out in great detail what Apple looks for when reviewing apps and what will lead to it rejecting your app. Apple considers this document a “living document,” in order to actively update its policies which can change on a whim. Tl;dr, I’ll sum up for you, what Apple looks at specifically when you submit an app for review:

  • Functionality
  • Metadata
  • Location
  • Push notifications
  • Game Center integration
  • Advertising within the app
  • Content and Intellectual Property Rights
  • Media Content
  • User Interface
  • Purchasing and currencies – (how your app handles in-app purchases)
  • Scraping and aggregation – (how your app collects data)
  • Damage or injury – (is your app malicious in any way or can it harm a person?)
  • Personal attacks – (does your app have a political statement, attack an individual or group of individuals, does it contain racial slurs, etc.)
  • Violence – (how violence is portrayed in your app)
  • Objectionable content
  • Privacy
  • Pornography – (if your app is pornographic in nature (according to Webster Dictionary’s definition of pornography) or is used for the purposes of generating pornography, it will be rejected). Yes, they actually use Webster Dictionary’s porno definition as a guideline.
  • Religion, culture, ethnicity – (is your app offensive to groups of people or religions, or aimed at attacking said inidviduals?)
  • Contests, sweepstakes, lotteries, raffles, and gambling – (any of these features must fall into Apple’s guidelines)
  • Charities and contributions
  • Legal requirements
  • Wallet – (Wallet integration in your app)
  • Kids category
  • Extensions
  • Homekit
  • Healthkit and Human Subject Research
  • TestFlight
  • Apple Pay

Each of those categories contains an exhaustive list of Apple’s corresponding guidelines. If you fail in any of the above, your app will be rejected. It is of note that Apple has a board of appeals for rejected apps.

While Apple’s review process is not quite public, I stumbled across an interesting article from Business Insider, who had the opportunity to speak to someone who had worked on Apple’s actual App Review team. This man’s name is Mike Lee and he is a former Apple Senior Engineer who worked on Apple’s app review team. I’ll warn you that his quotes are quite humorous, but also a bit crude; but they provide great insight into how Apple does things.

Source: Business Insider
Source: Business Insider
Source: Business Insider
Source: Business Insider

As we can see, Mike also mentions in the article that the reason the review team is so small is because Apple is very particular about having “quality” people on the team. They want only the best involved in the process.

To draw this section to a close, I’ll sum up what you’ve just read. With Google, you submit your app to them, they have a largely automated review process (with limited human interaction) check it out. Your app will be live on the Play Store within a few hours (assuming no violations are found). With Apple, you have 28 general guidelines your app must fall within and a violation of any of them will result in rejection of your app. Apple’s review team is composed of a small team of actual human beings who do all of the work and it currently takes approximately four days for your submitted app to be approved. From these facts, I think it is safe to draw the conclusion that Apple’s app store is far more secure and their review process far more stringent as compared to Google’s.

3. Device Longevity and Resale Value

iPhones hold their value longer than Android phones. This is an undeniable fact. The same applies when comparing the resell value of Macs and PC’s. People will spend more on a used iPhone than they will a used Android device, and this rule also applies to legacy devices from both camps.

Apple will also continue to support its devices longer than Android OEM’s support their devices. This ties into the software fragmentation issue I presented at the beginning of this article. Samsung, LG, HTC and most of the big name Android OEM’s will only support a flagship for roughly 2.5 years. You will more than likely get only one, maybe two major Android updates during the life of your device. Compare that to Apple, who is still supporting the iPhone 4S, which was released in 2011. That’s a five year old device running the latest version of iOS (at the time of this writing, the latest release is iOS 9).

Now let’s talk about resale prices. The data I am going to present applies to flagship Android devices released in 2014 from Samsung, LG and HTC, and to the iPhone 6 and 6+ which were both released in 2014 as well.

Samsung Galaxy S5 [SM-G900F]Gazelle.com is offering the 16GB Galaxy S5 for between $188 – $198. Swappa.com is showing that the average price for a 16GB, unlocked Galaxy S5 is $292.

Source: swappa.com
Source: swappa.com

LG G3 [D855]– gazelle.com currently has no listings for the LG G3. swappa.com is showing the average price for a 16gb, unlocked (non-dual sim) LG G3 at $235.

Source: swapp.com
Source: swapp.com

HTC One (M8) [0P6B100] – gazelle.com currently has no listings for the HTC One (M8). swappa.com is showing the average price for an unlocked, 16GB HTC One (M8) at $269. 0P6B120 model is showing an average price of $197 on swappa.com. *note – these figures exclude all developers models of the One M8.

Source: swappa.com
Source: swappa.com

Iphone 6 (16GB) [A1586]gazelle.com is selling the unlocked, 16GB iPhone 6 for $439. swappa.com is showing the average price for an unlocked, 16GB iPhone 6 at $369. The A1549 is averaging at $359 on swappa.com.

Source: swappa.com
Source: swappa.com

iPhone 6+ (16gb) [A1524]gazelle.com is selling the unlocked, 16GB iPhone 6+ for $489. swappa.com is showing the average price for an unlocked, 16GB iPhone 6+ at $433. The A1522 model is showing an average price of $414 on swappa.com.

Screenshot 2016-04-10 at 5.32.24 PM

I did check ebay.com listings, but they were all over the place with prices and listings so I opted to exclude them. I felt that Gazelle and Swappa provided more consistent and accurate pricing information.

I took the highest prices of the Android devices and subtracted them from the lowest prices of the Apple devices.  The price difference breakdown is as follows:

  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    • vs. iPhone 6 – $67
    • vs. Iphone 6+ – $122
  • LG G3
    • vs. iPhone 6 – $124
    • vs. iPhone 6+ – $179
  • HTC One (M8)
    • vs. iPhone 6 – $90
    • vs. iPhone 6+ – $145

If I take the mean of the price differences between the Android and Apple devices, and subtract it from the mean of the Apple prices, I get an average price difference of $265.34. The Mean of the Android price differences is $121.17. The Mean of the iPhone prices is $386.50. To check the math, if you take the Mean of the highest list prices for the Android phones, you get $265.33. If you subtract that Mean from the lowest list prices of the Apple devices, you get $121.17, which is the Mean of the price differences between the Android phones vs. the Apple phones. The numbers here undeniably show that iPhones do indeed hold their value better than equivalent iPhones.

You may be asking, “Hey! What about the Galaxy Note?” Let’s take a look at those numbers and compare them to the iPhone 6+.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (32GB) vs. iPhone 6+ 16GB (16GB)

gazelle.com is not currently showing any listings for the Samsung Galaxy Note 4. swappa.com is showing the average price for an unlocked, 32GB Samsung Galaxy Note 4 [N910H] at $344. If I subtract that form the lowest price of the iPhone 6+ 16GB model (there is not 32GB model for the 6+), there is a price difference of $70. Again, the numbers show that iPhone holds its value longer.

Conclusion

Google, it’s time to make some changes. Here’s what I recommend you do:

  1. Take 100%, complete control of Android OS distribution and updates. From here on out, the Nexus should no longer be the only device receiving the latest Android releases in a timely manner. With the way things are, it doesn’t matter how innovative you get with Android because only 4.6% of your users will ever see said innovations.
  2. Lock down the Play Store. Hire a team of people that do nothing but review application submissions. Stop relying on software to do a job that a person needs to do. Look at it this way: you’re not only bringing the consumer a safer Play Store, but you’re also creating jobs.
  3. Implement a standard that device manufacturers must follow if they want to release a device that runs Android. Have a stringent testing and approval process for these manufacturers. Try and weed out some of the cheaper, lesser quality devices out there that are coming from China. Budget options still need to exist, but you also don’t want to become synonymous with people buying an Android phone “because it’s cheaper than an iPhone.” That is essentially what is happening with the majority of your customer base.

Android devices will never hold the same value, over time, that Apple devices do. If you want to close this gap some, implement the stricter standards I mentioned. Start weeding out the manufacturers who have no business putting your name on crap devices. The fewer manufacturers, the more valuable the product that makes it to market.

You’re at a crossroads. You’re either going to become the “cheap alternative to iPhone,” or you’re going to be its truest competitor. You better hurry up though, because if Apple ever pulls their heads out of their butts and implements a customizable desktop with Widget support, you’re screwed.

  • Dennis Caunce

    While the fan boys may get their feathers ruffled, I agree with this article. I still think that Android is superior to iOS. However, I currently use an iPhone. What sealed this for me was the phone breaking updates that Samsung and Sprint inflicted on my S3. Apple doesn’t allow crapware, and keeps a tight rein on updates. Google need to do the same. I may go back to Android, but it would have to be a Nexus bought direct and not from a carrier.

  • Scott Eppler

    I don’t know if I agree with #3, I can see the point here but, at the same time, it’s on those companies to create good hardware (or not) and succeed (or fail) based on that. I understand that sometime this can affect Google but in the end the phone itself is not their hardware.

    That being said, I absolutely agree with the other two items. Those are Google’s products and it’s time they take better control of them.

    • Rowan09

      Companies create good hardware but phone hardware is upgraded yearly and every 2 years is usually a major update.

      • Scott Eppler

        I tend to agree Rowan09, my point is just that I don’t think this items is a Google problem. If someone wants to by an LG Sunrise vs something from the Samsung Galaxy line that’s on them not Google. Android is just an OS that can run on pretty much any phone (or really almost anything).

        • So if it’s not Google’s problem to solve then whose is it? And how can the problem be addressed?

          • Scott Eppler

            I feel like I’ve already answered that in my previous comments, but I’ll sum it up in a couple bullet points

            1. Items 1 and 2 are Google’s to fix
            2. In agreeing with Rowan I was saying that I’m not sure item 3 actually is a problem because some companies do create good hardware
            3. If item 3 is an issue, however, it would be an issue for the individual phone manufacturers.

  • Bravadu

    “That means that 33.4% of Android users are on an Android build that is two versions behind.”

    That’s a nice soundbite with a small-sounding number, but it would be more informative and accurate to say:

    “60% of Android users are on an Android build that is at least 2 versions behind” (100-16.4-19.4-4.6)

  • Bryan Parkerson

    I appreciate the feedback everyone. Please keep it coming 🙂

  • thomas

    How can Google control a free and open OS?

  • technohead95

    Fragmentation is an issue. People go on about how Google Play Services and apps get updated on all devices through the play store, this is all well and good but this does not cover all functionality. There is a big list of functionality that only comes with a device when it gets the full version update. This is where the problem lies. Yes, the average person probably doesn’t even know if they are on the latest version or not but I think the same would be true for iPhones if they didn’t get the update, most users wouldn’t even know there was a newer version if they didn’t get it.

    As much as I really like some of the latest hardware (e.g. the S7 and G5), I will stick with Nexus devices because I actually want decent software support even if that means I’m using slightly inferior hardware.

  • Someone.asdf

    Most Android devices are not actually 2 versions behind. In fact, a lot of them are ahead of Vanilla Android.

    Vanilla Android is extremely basic. Most heavily customised versions, while you might not like it, typically offer something else Stock Android does not.

    For example, Samsung’s app isolation software (Knox) is being integrated into Android N. Samsung offered copy-paste in 2.2 vs vanilla 2.3. So on.

    As for app developers needing to support 8 different version, that is illogical. For one, most changes either have “reflection” libraries available that will work in place of new features. In addition, 2.2-4.0.4 have 5% user and can be safely ignored – the cheap people who won’t upgrade to a new phone won’t buy your 99 cent app either.

    If an app dev wants to supprt 70% of users, that’s just two versions. 80%? 3 versions.

    As for resale value, I never understood why you want to buy old phones. You want to trust your personal info to a phone that might have been tampered with? Minor water damage?

    Why would you buy old gear with such high resale too? If last year’s model is only 100 off new, went wouldn’t you pony it up? You get warranty, confidence that it’s not knockoff, credit card protection if you use one… That 100 will save you so much headache when it fails and takes your personal and possibly irreplaceable data with it.

    Let dumb people be dumb?

    • tiger

      Some folks don’t need the latest and greatest…but want something that continues to be supported.

      For example, my iPhone 5s came out in 2013. About 2.5 years old. Still getting the latest iOS updates. Still able to run the latest graphics intensive HD games with minimal frame drop. Still has a pretty good camera.

      And…still being supported by my carrier which every 2-3 months send out carrier software updates.

    • Rowan09

      I sell my old device every year to upgrade to the new one and it’s never water damaged and in mint condition. Some people want a great phone without the crazy price, plus all my phones are always unlocked.

  • Jase ThirtyThree

    The title of this article is “3 ways iOS is beating Android and what Google can do to change it”. I seemed to have missed what, exactly, the author says that Google can do fix fragmentation. Since Google does not control all of the OEM hardware nor the software on those devices how would they go about fixing this issue? They give the software away for anyone to use. Can they require that any commercial use of the software be updated within a certain time frame without license issues? How would they handle OEM claims that state certain devices are unable to operate efficiently with updated software? Would that lead to OEM’s blaming Google for their device failures and consumer complaints? And if Google did take control of all of this would they be able to cite fragmentation as the reason for taking such action without being called out as having become too much like Apple in that regard? If there is a good way to solve this I can’t see it. Perhaps we should accept Android for what it is when it comes to fragmentation and not try to shoehorn into someone else’s mold? If we don’t like what the OEM’s do, or don’t do, with Android then I feel that we should not support them as consumers by purchasing their products until they provide a product and support that we really want.