The rivalry between Google and Apple for mobile OS is nothing new. Android and iOS have grown well since their launch about more than 10 years ago. Both had a different approach to their product. Apple wanted a close ecosystem whereas google completely open-sourced the Android. Apple has restricted iOS to its own hardware whereas Google has built a partnership with different OEMs to evolve Android. Talking about numbers, there are currently 2.5 billion active Android devices. iOS has however just 900 million users. It does sound like a lot of difference, isn’t it? Not exactly, comparing the numbers to any single manufacturer of Android, Apple numbers are straight elegant. On top of that, Apple’s App Store is far more profitable than Android’s Play Store. That’s one reason developers tend to develop for iPhone over Android. But we are not going to talk about numbers here. I want to put the spotlight on certain things that I feel are hindering the charisma of a well-developed Android platform. Google should take a cue from Apple in these departments and improve their development process. Let’s dig into these –
Android development and intuitiveness need no validation, but recently Google has been doing more experiments than actual useful feature development for the platform. For example, the gesture navigation which works a lot like iOS but fails to achieve the perfection of iOS. The Android UI has remained the same since Android N (Nougat), just some minor cosmetic changes here and there. Apple’s iOS, on the other hand, has been pushed by a lot of unique features and enhancements like Shortcuts, haptic touch, memoji, and a lot more. Google hasn’t even perfected the face unlock yet. The radar sensor on Pixel 4 proved out to be a gimmick. Google needs to bring back its focus to basics and deliver long due overhaul before Apple leaps way ahead.
Cluttered Play Store
Play Store has the highest number of apps compared to any mobile or even desktop platform. But that doesn’t state the quality of apps. In fact, the Play store has the highest numbers of malware and suspicious apps. Google is trying really hard to eliminate them. They keep discarding these kinds of apps every few weeks. But there are still quite a few which are missed by Google’s monetization process. Apart from that, the categorization of apps is still unambitious. There is a lot of skins, wallpapers, and theming apps. Sometimes it’s hard to find specific apps due to this clutter. Also, the app showcase in the Play Store has been drastically degraded. Apple has way better quality control in their app store.
Android first brought the fresh air of customizations on mobile devices. It was such a good platform to customize based on your needs. From launchers to Icon packs, the Play Store is always full of customization apps. There are some really good ones too. Recently Google had put restrictions and made these personalization apps difficult to use at its full potential. For instance, there is no gesture support for 3rd party launchers which makes all the home launcher apps in Play Store incompetent. Similarly, some of the services are restricted to save the battery. This is really a struggle for an OS that was once known for hardcore customization. Apple has always restricted the customization on their phones. Which does sound bad but it isn’t. Changing the way OS behaves is a struggle for developers and users. Keeping it consistent is the key.
Inconsistent UI, UX, and Documentation
Every OS has its own design language and it is the brand’s responsibility to guide the developers for consistent designs. They provide documentation for the same. If you look at the documentation provided by Google and Apple for their operating systems, you will find that iOS is ahead in terms of providing design guidelines. Also, most of the system apps of Apple behave and look consistent, unlike Google. Firstly, Google takes a long time to update their apps after releasing updated design guidelines. The whole transition of design in Android’s ecosystem is really slow and uncertain. Similar parts of two different apps look differently in Google’s system apps. For example, the color of the navigation bar in Photos and Google Pay.
I hardly need to introduce you to this term in the Android world. Everyone knows how Android is affected by fragmentation. As Android has an alliance of OEMs for its development and distribution, it’s not just Google who is responsible for timely updates of the sold devices. This affects the fragmentation. Check out this android distribution chart from 2019 –
Source: StatCounter Global Stats – Android Version Market Share
Google released Android 10 almost a year ago and about to announce Android 11. But the highest number of Android devices are still stuck on Android 9 Pie. Apple controls the hardware of iOS which not only contributes to the device quality but also the timely updates. Google needs to find out a faster way to deliver updates like Apple.
Lack of quality messaging platform
Apple’s messaging platform iMessage was an instant hit when it was launched. Most of the people in the United States use it, and it’s a perfect example of a messaging app. Google, on the other hand, has launched multiple messaging apps that failed to gain any significant number of users. The hangout was a good try, but it still lacks a lot of features that iMessage has. There is no doubt that Google has resources and talent to develop a good messaging app. If Google could develop an app like iMessage, it is going to be a great asset for the brand.
So, there they are. I hope Google could bring needed changes to Android. Android is a huge platform, and it needs a refresh. A long-awaited refresh since Nougat. I also think that the slow development of Android might be because of the absence of good competition. What do you think of Android’s current state of development? Let me know, I might get some new information from your perspective.
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