If you think that you are about to read another article from an Apple fanboy or an Android aficionado favoring either of them, then you’re in for a surprise. I have no wish to get into the age-old debate of ‘open vs. closed system’. But what I’ve attempted here is to present a real truth from a developer’s perspective. Since I’m a self-proclaimed chef, I am ready to share the recipe of my gourmet meal with you and you can choose what tickles your taste buds best.
The battle rages on!
I’m a self-taught coder who was lured into the tech world and is trying to infuse creativity with technology. So you can jolly well understand that I had to start with a clean slate. And that is exactly what I did before creating my first app.
Learning app development in India is similar to learning Na’Vi in the Shire. My obvious choice was Amazon to source out my beginner’s tools - books. There are 320 paperbacks available on iPhone Development vis-à-vis 173 paperbacks on Android. Advantage Apple. I then required tech stuff from the two Goliaths.
Android has really great documentation. The Android approach fundamentally exposes everything to the developer, rather than try to hide important stuff. The branding guideline is however, just a single page, compared to Apple’s 9 pages. That being said, the iOS Human Interface Guideline is astonishingly detailed.
App development means developing a killer app in exchange for a big-fat paycheque. If you’re a one-man-show i.e. an indie developer, you need to market your app to earn money. And, I have to say that the iTunes App Store is miles ahead of the Android Market Place.
While developing my first app, MeterDown – a Mumbai Taxi and Auto Fare app, I was clear about one fact – the graphics need to be simple. The success of an app not only depends on flawless coding but also on impeccable visuals. A great product with shoddy packaging can never have a lasting shelf life. It took us weeks to create the current UI that’s designed to be simplistic yet creative.
How one app looks on different OS'
However, when I ported the same app to the Android platform my entire effort took a beating. The Picker view changes its color depending on the handsets. On an HTC device, the Picker view will be green and it turns blue on Samsung. How do you control that!? Open Platform, ahem!
In January, Appcelerator’s Q1 report showed that Google has nearly caught up to Apple in smart phone popularity and is closing the gap in tablets. Microsoft and RIM made solid gains through their product line update, while Google TV and Apple TV interest dropped off. As these trends unfold, it is also becoming clear that the days of mobile app experimentation are over. This year, developers and businesses expect to triple their app development efforts and the average developer is now building for four different platforms.
A dramatic increase in the integration of geo-location, social, and cloud-connectivity services underscores new focus on sustaining user engagement. Increased plans to integrate advertising and in-app purchase points to a new focus on longer-term financial viability over free brand affinity apps. In short, the developers favor Apple near-term while Android long-term. Hold on to that thought, because I think the meal is ready.
Ready to serve
In 2010, we saw the tussle between the two Superpowers. Both the archrivals rolled up their sleeves and took their best shots to lure developers. There will be blood in 2011 and the first victim of this war is Symbian. But before we move on to this future carnage, let’s evaluate the strength and weaknesses of the two OS.
The good. In my opinion, the iOS apps are successful not just because of the dev support and simplicity of coding but also because of its ecosystem. iTunes, Mac, and iOS devices all speak the same language. The hardware (iPhone/iPod touch) plays a humongous role. iOS apps can leverage on killer features like the Accelerometer, 3 axis Gyroscope and proximity sensors.
The bad. OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disporder). I think that’s the one word that best describes Apple. The rules are simple while developing apps for iOS - do what they say. If you try to be a maverick, your app will disappear from the store. Problem number two. 100 million people across the globe are carrying the same model. No flip, no slide, no trackpad… just touch.
The good. As an iOS developer, every time I submit an app my pulse races as I wait for the judgment day. It’s the fear of rejection. On Android, it’s unbelievably easy - upload and minutes later, your app is available on the Market Place. And the best part is that unlike iOS apps you can develop Android apps on a PC, any PC.
The bad. The Android operating system is open source and so hardware makers can take it and do almost anything they want with it. Result - double shift for a developer to make the app look the same on all handsets. Developers need testing devices. And there are only two developer devices available that are far costlier than an iOS test device.
So which one is sweeter? Well, as WWDC is knocking at the door and as this year will be all about apps, the little Green Robot is not my best mate at the moment so for now, I’m savoring the taste of the Cupertino Apple.