iOS Uniformity: A Key Advantage over Android

| Analysis

In the current mobile climate apps can make or break a platform. Just ask Blackberry. While Android phone manufacturers can undercut Apple on price, it is in this app ecosystem that I believe Apple still has a major advantage over its key competitor.

Apple's unified system is a key draw for developersApple's unified system is a key draw for developers

The unified nature of iOS means developers know that if their app works on one iOS device, it more or less works for all users (iPad/iPhone scaling and old model limitations both accepted). With Android, developers have the double whammy of having to build for, and test across, multiple operating systems as well as multiple hardware setups. Quite simply, it is significantly easier to design and build a successful single Apple flavoured app than to make sure your app works in a variety of Android flavours.

Of course many apps are replicated across both iOS and Android, and there is little doubt that this will continue as more and more Android powered handsets are sold, but it is still noticeable that there remains a steady stream of significant apps made just for the Apple ecosystem. Just the other day, for example, I saw that Betfair, a major UK betting site is encouraging its users to place bets with its app during events, and that app is only available for iOS. They are far from the only ones. 

Furthermore, there can be significant delays releasing on Android. For example, the hugely successful Temple Run game came out on Android a long time after we iOS users were all addicted.

Interestingly though, in terms of pure numbers, Android is actually winning. Back in April Harry McCracken from Time reported that it was Android, not Apple who was winning the numbers race, reaching one million apps in the Google Play store first.

However, on Lifehacker -- not a site whose writers are known for being Apple fanboys -- Adam Dachis says that iOS has a “bigger and better” variety of apps. The key point Dachis makes is that there is the potential for making more money in the "goldmine" of the app store, driving better development. There is also no point in having a load of apps that people don’t use or like, and here Apple continues to thrive, too, with ReadWrite detailing greater user satisfaction from iOS users.

Apple’s app development platform isn’t perfect. Lots of developers complain about the company’s control freakery. However, if I were a developer, I’d know the platform I’d rather be working on. 

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No surprise here. Not only do apps run the same of various devices, different apps have standard behaviors and that makes it easier to work with a new app.

Mac OS has been doing this since the very beginning, starting in 1984. Uniformity of menus, shortcuts, etc has always made Mac OS easy.

ron stempkowski

I believe it should be… (iPad/iPhone scaling and old model limitations both EXCEPTED)...not “accepted” as written.


Ugh, enough pedantry, I take acception to your comment Ron Stempkowski smile
(When I find an annoying typo, I usually e-mail the author directly).

Back on topic, perhaps the reason Android is willing in the app numbers arena is the lack of oversight in the store itself? I believe Apple stopped accepting fart apps in 2010, but there are plenty of new and interesting fart apps in the google play store wink


winning! (not willing) (and no, I’m not a Charlie Sheen fan smile )

Charlotte Henry

Nope, it’s definitely ‘accepted’ as in “I accept this is the case”

I think the interesting point is about the quality of the apps, having never submitted an app to either store I’m not totally clear on the differences, but everything I do know leads me to believe that the app store is far more rigorous (which can be a a good or a bad thing).


You may “accept” that this is the case, but in the context of your sentence, it should be “excepted”, because an iOS app works on many platforms, except where it doesn’t.

Paul Goodwin

The better you define requirements with specifications, the normal result is a better product, fewer anomalies. Also, more complete specifications also allow for easier and more thorough testing. Apple’s control freak characteristic is the very thing that makes them great. In addition, the overall expense at the developer is actually less when they don’t have to do the extra work of specifying stuff that Apple already does, and this prevents further costly mistakes when a developer has to interpret what the definition should be. Test costs are lowered, because the test plans are easier to write since the requirements to be compliant to are in the specifications. I would imagine that Apple’s acceptance testing and analysis is also more efficient, since they can design their compliance checking to their own complete specifications. This is true of virtually any technology product, be it hardware or software. I designed jet engine electronic controls for 30+ years, and one thing we learned was that better and more complete specifications prior to the design phase resulted in fewer problems and lower cost during development, during production, and in the field. Our controls included software, and the more mature their development requirements were, the quicker it was designed and tested. And there were far fewer errors in the design.

Some say flexibility suffers with this control freak approach. Yes it does because Apple defines what the programming interfaces are. They have to make a choice on what is best for the user, giving them the most they feel they can adequately assure to be high quality. It’s a trade off for sure, but it’s the approach that will result in less user irritation due to something being overly complex, and buggy.


Charlotte is correct on the wording—we’re accepting the limitations, not excepting the old models.

The other significant thing that works together with the uniformity is the fact that iOS users are also more willing to pay for their apps. I haven’t seen the numbers lately for Free vs. Paid, so I can’t quote specifics, but even with more apps in the Android community the iOS community is generating far more revenue—and last I checked most developers like getting paid for their work.

Bee Ryan

I guess the article is preaching to the believers… But it is true.  Apple’s iOS (and to some extent Mac OSX) is good because of Apple’s control.  You could even say that Apple’s phones are open, because Apple makes it so.  You get lifetime updates, new features and a wide range of quality applications, despite the carriers not liking this.  Where as with Android you may never get a system update after you buy the phone - you may even ave an out dated system when you buy it… so the carriers keep Android closed, because they make it so…

Apple has the best ecosystem because of this (control).  It will be interesting to see how Ivy & Apple push it forward.

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