By: Hillel Fuld
I feel everywhere I look people are having the old iPhone Vs. Android debate. Granted I am mostly looking in very geeky places, but still, this is a pretty common discussion in my circles. Before the announcement of iPhone 4, many thought Android was going to take the lead soon and some believed it already had when it came to technology and specs.
As I wrote in an earlier piece, one of the reasons Android numbers were growing faster than the iPhone in the last two months is because of the iPhone 4. People were not buying new iPhones when they know a new one is coming out any minute.
Android on the other hand, as Mashable reported yesterday, is selling handsets faster than they can be manufactured. Now, that is impressive, but while Android phones are going viral, their popularity is starting to cause a serious problem for the App Market and the Android developer community.
Everyone has heard people complaining about Apple’s closed ecosystem and praising Android for its openness, but there is another side to that coin. While Apple has one mobile device that makes use of its OS, Android’s code is open to anyone who wants to snatch it. This is great for Android numbers since almost all major phone manufacturers can now focus their resources on developing good hardware and simply depend on Android for the software. Hence the 65 thousand Android phones being sold daily.
However, with all these phones, such as the Nexus (3.7 inch screen), the Droid (480 x 854 screen), the HTC Evo 4G (4.3 inch screen), the Dell Streak (5 inch screen), and many many more, each with its own unique feature set, how is a developer expected to make an Android app? Which phone should he/she make it for? What processor should they optimize their app to work with? What kind of resolution should they assume their users will have? It is impossible for developers to have one app that works on all Android phones.
In fact, I will go one step further. Forget the phones’ specs for a second, Android itself has so many versions that developers do not even know which Android to develop for. While the assumption is that the newest version of Android is the one most worth counting on, there are many devices out there that cannot get the upgrade to 2.1 and eventually 2.2. This brings the Android fragmentation problem to a whole new level.
Now, as annoying as Apple’s app approval process is, and as frustrated as I am by Apple’s jail-like mentality when it comes to customizing their OS, there is something to be said for having consistency. Consistency in the App Store, consistency in the way the phone interacts with apps, and consistency in the overall experience. Have you ever tried Android 1.6 on a Samsung Galaxy then spent two minutes playing with a Nexus? If you have, you know what I mean, they feel like two completely different operating systems.
Now, I know Apple has different versions of iOS as well, but the iPhone has and will most likely always have a 3.5 inch screen. That was one of the things people complained about with the iPhone 4, that Apple did not increase the size of the display, and I personally think these people are nuts, while Apple made a smart decision on that one. More capacity, better connectivity, and regular video calling (to all phones) is a different story, but that is another discussion.
Android is taking off and there is no debating that. However, as more and more devices are introduced and each one looks and acts differently, Google is going to HAVE to come up with a strategy to make some order. I am thinking tabs in the Market for different screen sizes or something along those lines. As it is, the Market is a mess with more app add ons then apps itself and no way to filter them out, but if we continue down this road, the Market will become unusable and fast.
So what do you think of this issue? Do you think I am overreacting here and Android does not have to worry about this issue or are you a fan of the neat and closed experience Apple provides? Would like to hear your thoughts in the comments.