iOS versus Android; The Customer Problem

When we look mobile ecosystems, its easy to have opinions, flavors, and tastes about which OS suits you best. But when it comes to innovation for the average consumer, one OS falls flat and the customers are to blame.

The OSs

There is a lot that goes into an OS, beyond the obvious, literal creation. There is the task of creating an operating system that makes sense, works, and looks beautiful—no question this is a tough and huge endeavor; its taken Microsoft years to create a platform that achieves these primary goals, and it still remains to be seen how successful it will truly be. But when you look at Android and iOS (Google vs Apple), their respective OS have had years to perfect, grow, and innovate on their technology. Who does this best? What are some of the challenges and hurdles in achieving the perfect mobile OS?

Apple iPhone 5

Both Android and Apple achieve high quality operating systems for smartphones (we are using ICS/JB as an example). With new iterations popping out yearly, it gets tougher and tougher to decide who the definitive winner is—if you look at statistics, Android is winning with 700,000+ devices being activated daily. Where does Apple fare in the smartphone battle and did iOS 6 achieve what we hoped? Quite simply, no, it didn’t…but don’t blame Apple.

But they can only go far, their customer base just doesn’t get it.

The Battle of Customers

Plenty of people have yet to buy smartphones and people are constantly switching between which OS favors their habits the most. There are, however, two clear distinctions when we compare the customers of Android and iOS. Android is looking to attract a less tech-savvy customer and Apple looks to build on its already less tech-savvy customers by attracting more smartphone and computer literate users—an incredibly difficult task on both accounts.

Each group of customer either stifles or promotes particular innovations as they continue to use the OS befitting to their expectations of the product. This is often a difficult task to grasp both as designers and developers: How do you develop a product, or upgrade, when your customer or client has an expectation or desire of what the product will be?

Samsung Google Nexus

The Stifled Ecosystem

Its easy to pick out and say that “iOS isn’t innovating” because of some of the features they add or don’t add, but it isn’t really a fair assessment. A feature list isn’t what we call innovation, though some may debate this, innovation comes down to UX (user experience) and is the driving force for OS decisions. What does iOS look to for innovation? Do they think its important to build on their current OS to attract new customers or to retain their current users and growth?

When we look at the progression of operating systems, with every iteration, iOS seems to fall further and further behind. At the advancement of ICS/JB, and now Windows 8, iOS seems to be lacking a lot of core functionalities; I am going to tell you why.

Siri vs Google Now

If you look at the Apple ecosystem, they have the issue that is truly unique to them—their fanbase.  While they have spent an exuberant amount of time festering the most dedicated fanbase during the creation of OS X, it didn’t take long for that same fanbase to transfer over to iOS devices…and they did so in waves. With this transition, they brought their expecations and “tech-savviness” (which is to say, not a whole lot). Before the Apple fan claims “I know about computers”, you might be an exception, most are only starting to grow and understand the differences in not only in OS (UI and UX) but also in hardware.

With the advent of iOS, iPhone, and iPad, along with some clever marketing, Apple brought a new layer of fanbase—the completely computer illiterate. Good for business, for now, but this customer base is hurting Apple. I believe that Apple is striving to innovate and create dashing new products and experiences. It would be naive to think that they wouldn’t be…with the billions in cash reserves, they ought to be working on creating incredible new products. But they can only go far, their customer base just doesn’t get it.

The iOS Customer

Look at the customer for Apple and Android. Some of the common arguments are “just works vs open”. And though the “just works” argument is starting to fall apart with new Google iterations such as ICS and JB, it still is valid for the discussion. The type of customer to argue that Android is open is a much different customer than the one who argues “It just works, its simple”—different philosophies, ideas, and expectations.

When the iPad was introduced, it bridged the gap for the less tech-savvy to have a device that is not only pretty, but allows them to easily access “forbidden data”. They could now buy music, movies, games, browse the web, all at the tap of their fingers. No complicated permissions, locating the browser or game installs—simple and it just works. How to innovate with this customer?

Apple, it seems, is at a loss. Innovate with customers who naturally resist innovation is very difficult. Apple seems to think that adding in new features can sustain them until they figure out how to innovate and bring their customers with them. Android doesn’t have this problem. Sure there are Android fanboys and the like, but they are only really interested in having “the best OS” and they think its Android. So as long as Google continues to “try” to innovate, their customers and community will be accepting of this and move forward.

What do you think of the slowly evolving iOS ecosystem? Is it Apple’s problem or are the customers resisting innovation? Apple needs to pull it the geeks and nerds to help push innovation by having customers who are looking at new ways to use a smartphone and interact with—both in UI and UX.