Opinion: Five reasons Apple fanboys are right (and wrong) about Android
Last week, I wrote an article called The Top 10 Android Features Apple’s iOS 10 Should Steal, and — surprise — it turned out to be somewhat controversial. Over 120 comments reflected a wide range of opinions on the future direction of Apple’s mobile operating system, with most commenters agreeing that iOS should take some inspiration from Android, but only for the specific features they personally liked. Unfortunately, in keeping with our increasingly polarized society, a few particularly caustic Apple fanboys decided to go crazy, personally attacking fellow commenters who liked the ideas, the author who dared to suggest them (“poor old me“), and the very concept of taking any ideas whatsoever from Android.
On one hand, I understand where the fanboys are coming from. Some people just love whatever Apple releases and does, no matter what. Others are so emotionally or financially invested in Apple that any suggestion of potential improvement is perceived as an attack on the company’s well-being. But it’s hard to sympathize with people who freak out when Apple’s described as anything less than perfect. Walt Mossberg called out “cultists” for this behavior in his article, “It’s Not a Church, It’s Just an Apple Store,” naming it the Doctrine of Insufficient Adulation. Demanding unyielding praise is crazy, and ultimately unhealthy for the Apple community as a whole. Simple statistics suggest that under 0.05% of our readers fall into cultist territory, but they’re abrasive enough to turn off the other 99.95% of readers we care about.
It’s important to understand that these hard-core fanboys aren’t just a tiny minority of all iOS users — they also have fringe views relative to the general population. Reasonable people can debate the precise numbers, but Android currently powers roughly 4/5 of the smartphones out there. It’s easy to credit aggressive Android device prices, but it’s clear that Android has features that appeal to people, too. From my perspective, it’s perfectly reasonable for iOS users to want some of Android’s features — especially if they don’t want to switch to Android devices. Yes, Apple’s a great company, and yes, iOS is a great platform, but they’re not perfect. Even if you don’t like Google, there’s room to learn (and borrow) from Android…
1. It’s OK To Like Parts Of Android Even If You Don’t Like Google. Apple has framed its competition against Google in a “good versus evil” context, and although I don’t think that’s fair to either company, believe what you want. Just try to separate the company from the product, or alternately, good pieces of the product from bad ones. Some of Google’s innovations, such as Google Maps, OK Google (Voice Search), and Google Now cards are so clearly highly useful and well-developed that Apple either embraced them, copied them, or both. Google took good ideas from Apple to build Android, so there’s nothing wrong with Apple grabbing ideas from Google to improve iOS.
2. Whichever Android UI You Hate Isn’t Android’s Only UI. One gripe from the anti-Android crowd is that the Android user interface is visually cluttered or messy — no surprise, given that Android lets users customize their home screens almost as much as OS X lets you clutter your Mac’s desktop. But that’s your choice, and when it comes to a home screen (or desktop) for a device you use every day, choice is good. Right now, a stock Android phone lets you pick the UI elements, layout, and icon designs you personally like. Then, using apps, you can tweak the top-of-screen status bar, the transitions between home screens, and the size/number of icons you prefer to see at once. Android can look just like iOS, or substantially different. Done right, that’s a strength, not a weakness. And if you say you hate the ideas on Android, remember, most of the same customizations are built into OS X.
3. Android Has Served As A Testbed For Bold Ideas. Remember when Apple openly suggested that human hands weren’t large enough to comfortably hold phones bigger than the iPhone 5? Ah, memories. Well, you can thank Android — specifically, Google’s licensing of the OS to multiple manufacturers that were willing to experiment with different form factors — for freeing the iPhone from that set of shackles. Yes, it’s true that there were too many options out there at one point, but they helped smartphones establish a more popular set of screen size options than the “3.5-inch” and “4-inch” sizes Apple portrayed as perfect. Apple fanboys used to mock “phablets;” now they sing the praises of Plus-sized iPhones.
4. Android Is (Somewhat) Helping To Keep Apple’s Pricing In Check. If 2015 has taught us anything, it’s that Apple isn’t shy about pricing its products above market norms — it’s only in the context of $10,000-$17,000 gold Apple Watches that $99 Pencils, $129 “Magic Trackpads” and $169 “Smart Keyboards” sound like bargains. But $40 Android-powered media streamers, $50 Android-powered tablets, and $99 Android-powered phones are pushing Apple to keep $69 Apple TVs, cheap iPad minis, and “free” iPhone 5ses available to customers. That Apple products aren’t solely available to the rich is undeniably a good thing for everyone’s pocketbooks (and even, ultimately, Apple’s shareholders).
5. Android’s Embrace Of Open Wired/Wireless Standards Helps iOS Users, Too. Apple loves proprietary connectors — the Dock Connector and Lightning gave Apple all but complete control over iOS accessories, to the point that it repeatedly had problems supplying connectors to developers who wanted them. AirPlay, Apple’s proprietary wireless audio streaming standard, similarly turned out to be a trainwreck for developers who tried to support it. These issues, combined with high prices for Lightning connectors and AirPlay components, led developers to switch their accessories to Bluetooth and micro-USB, instead. Try to imagine what iPhones and iPads would have been like without Bluetooth, or how third-party accessories would have recharged for the last few years, since Apple didn’t let companies use female Lightning connectors until 2015. Competition, primarily from Android devices, made these alternatives available to iOS users. And in a twist of fate, Apple now owns Beats, arguably the most popular Bluetooth audio accessory maker in the world, which sells products to Android and iOS users alike.
One of the commenters on my prior article scoffed derisively at the idea that Apple could treat Google as a respectable competitor, much the way Microsoft has recently tried to make peace with Apple after decades of enmity. Given that Apple portrays itself as a white knight fighting for good, it wouldn’t be a terrible thing to see the company act like a magnanimous market leader, acknowledging at least some of its chief rivals’ value. While I understand the marketing value of a cold war between platforms, whipping iOS and Android users up into truly opposing and unwavering camps, the reality is that Apple and Android users get significant benefits from the existence of each others’ platforms. If the fanboys on both sides could acknowledge that, our discourse would be a lot better off, and we could focus on enjoying our devices rather than wasting time fighting over them.
More From This Author
Check out more of my reviews, How-To guides and editorials for 9to5Mac here! I’ve published a lot of different topics of interest to Mac, iPad, iPhone, iPod, Apple TV, and Apple Watch users, as well as a great holiday gift guide for iPhone users, a detailed holiday gift guide for Mac users, and a separate holiday gift guide for Apple photographers.
Filed under: iOS, iOS Devices, Opinion, Tech Industry Tagged: Android, Apple, Google, iOS, iPhone