It has been commonly accepted by various members of the tech community that iOS and Android are the two mobile operating systems that represent the future. Only staunch supporters and developers of other operating systems like Windows Phone 7, Symbian and WebOS will claim that they have a chance. Android and iOS have amassed millions of users and lovers all over the world, and there seems to be very little standing in the way of their domination of the consumer electronics market.
One of the most essential aspects of both of these operating systems is the number and the variety of applications that they offer their users. These 'apps' are portals to the web for the user, which make the task of Internet access and data retrieval a simple matter that can be carried out with the touch of a button. Indeed, with similar hardware specifications for most of the high-end devices of both these camps, it is the apps that make a true difference in the use of various smartphones and tablets that run both these operating systems.
The Apple App Store
Apple was the first company to realize the potential here, and their app store was opened in July 2008. Today this store contains more than 350,000 apps and it has been growing at a phenomenal rate. Some of the apps available here are free whereas some need to be paid for, and Apple has a strict policy of rules and guidelines that the app developers need to adhere to. Apple also gets 30% of the revenue from the paid apps, whereas the app developers get 70%. These apps can be used on various Apple devices like the iPhone, the iPad, the iPod Touch and Macs as well and all one needs to do is open an Apple iTunes account and provide some details to access this store. The popularity of the app store has reached staggering heights today, and Apple is fighting a battle to trademark the term 'App Store' since everyone associates this phrase with Apple's store now.
The Android Market
Hot on the heels of Apple's store, the Android Market boasts around 250,000 apps today. It was made available to users in October 2008, and its rate of growth is far quicker than that of Apple so it is speculated that they will cross Apple's figure in the next year or so. These apps can be installed on Android based smartphones and tablets as well, and the most endearing factors here are that a majority of the apps are free (Angry Birds, for instance, which costs $0.99 on the Apple App Store) and that Google does not regulate the app developers in any way. So there is a better chance of finding unconventional apps here, but on the other hand, malware and viruses also travel easier here. Google has now created the Android Market online as well, so you can visit the store from your PC, download an app and then send it to your smartphone or tablet within a matter of seconds.
Comparing the Apps
When it comes to the number of apps, iPhone apps are the clear winners (350,000 to Droid's 250,000). But the Android market is growing at a phenomenal rate so you can expect it to overtake the Apple App Store in this matter pretty soon. If you consider the quality of apps, Apple has the upper hand again as well. Their rules and guidelines ensure that no obscene and vulgar apps make it here, but this is not the case with the Android Market.
Moreover, security risks are higher in the Android Market since there is no regulation of the apps. One needs to be very careful about downloading apps here, since they could contain malware. One good aspect about the Android Market is the low pricing of most of the apps here. Almost 60% of the apps here are free, whereas this figure for the Apple Store is around the 25% mark. You also have the option to return an app in the Android Market and get a refund for the money you have paid (within 15 minutes of buying the app) and this is something that people love.
Ultimately, it comes down to a question of freedom and choice. People claim that Android offers more choice and freedom, but the fact is that along with this several security risks start popping up. Apple regulates everything, but the quality rises as a result. Most developers first approach the Apple Store because they know that returns will be higher here. The hardware specifications for Apple products are uniform, whereas for Android there are several budget devices as well with lower hardware specifications. This is important for developers because they then have to optimize and alter their apps to suit these devices, and this raises their costs and lowers their profits. This issue of 'fragmentation' is what could ultimately lead to the downfall of Android.
Both these platforms offer some excellent apps though, and these include several categories like health, finance, education, productivity, games, news, utilities and sports. There is something for everyone, and without these apps your smartphone will just be a regular feature phone. The sheer size of the apps available here is what makes these operating systems the kings of the market.