The iOS vs Android debate isn’t one of clear superiority. It’s a matter of what you care about most. Apple’s ‘it just works’ mentality is about as accurate as Google’s promises of ‘openness’. They are both true in a certain way, but both hide issues that may or may not drive you crazy.
But the problem is, it’s not a matter of closed vs open, or works vs doesn’t work.
It’s a choice between a walled garden and a surveillance state.
iOS limits what you can do. It limits what developers can do, it limits what you can interact with, and Apple is happy to throw anyone out of the pool, if they think they’re going to pee in it. iOS is essentially the nanny state that more right leaning individuals consider the worst place a society can go. The limitations are envisioned as a way to improve the overall experience, keep things functioning well, and limit screw ups, well intentioned or otherwise.
A side effect of this nanny state is that things are easier for developers, and arguably safer for users. An iOS dev knows exactly how many screen resolutions and hardware configurations they need to design for. They know the size of the user base, and they know the users like to spend money, compared to any other mobile platform.
iOS is a harbinger of a Star Trek future, down to the safety controls on the replicator and holodeck that make sure you can’t create anything that could hurt you, or someone else.
Android lets you do a lot of things. But, first and foremost, it’s a data collection tool. It makes you a walking, talking spider for the next generation of Google tools. Smartphone data is making geolocation smarter, making sensor interpretations better, and always, always, making ads more targeted and more personalized.
Google is watching you. Android is at harbinger of many elements of the Gibsonian future (think Neuromancer and Virtual Light), where capacity with technology is a skill, where the data we create is a weapon that can be used by or against us, and where the machine itself has more awareness and power than we give it credit for.
I’m not saying one is worse than the other. For one thing, the Android future is a hell of a lot more likely to generate anonymity tools, personalized platforms, and technology that can work in ad hoc networks, rather than a centralized superstructure. The iOS future seems more ideal in some ways, but also depends, essentially, on either a benevolent dictator, or a user base that holds enough power over the ecosystem to determine where it goes next.
Both of these approaches have significant issues. I don’t mind admitting that my stance that Apple products ‘work better’ is 90% based on a preference for intuitive UI, and a reduction in the number of things I need to manage on a day to day basis. I’m happy to make a trade off in some functionality to get that, and I don’t think everyone is, or should be.
But we need to stop pretending that the ‘mobile cold war’ is one of good vs evil. Both major players have the capacity for things to go very, very wrong.