Android trumps Apple, every time

At the risk of sounding like a “hater” – I won’t be buying an iPad.

I know all the cool kids have iPads but I really don’t want one. I’m also tired of hearing how “awesome” the iPad is. It’s just a tablet PC, for goodness sake. The way some people carry on you’d swear the iPad was the equivalent of finding a cure for cancer or brokering world peace.

Of course the iPad looks cool. That’s what Apple does best: Apply their excellent design and marketing skills to relatively standard pieces of technology. No matter how cool it is, it is not enough to convince me to become an Apple disciple, which is what most Apple users quickly become.

On the other hand, Android is something I can get excited about. It’s rough, ready and full of potential, just the way I like my operating systems.

Of course it’s not a direct comparison between the iPad and Android. One is an operating system (Android) the other is an OS and a hardware platform. But it doesn’t really matter; Android on a good piece of hardware such as an HTC Desire phone or a Galaxy Tab will give an iPhone or an iPad a good run for their money any day.

It’s really about how the user experience makes me feel, and this is where they differ vastly.

Restrictive

Apple’s devices are claustrophobic, restrictive and, dare I say it, oppressive. Sure they give the right signals but the underlying iTunes ecosystem is a closed one. Apple exercises complete control over what is allowed or not allowed in its iTunes world.

The Android market on the other hand, is a relative free-for-all by comparison. Just about anything can be found in the Android market, and that’s just the way I like it.

Sure, all good commentators will point out that the upside of Apple’s extreme control over the iTunes ecosystem is that quality control is better. So what? Just because there is supposedly better quality control does it mean that as a user I have to live by Apple’s rules?

iTunes is a highly restrictive environment for both users and developers. Apple is well known for rejecting applications and even controlling the content published through iTunes, in some cases even censoring the content of magazines published on its platform.

We’re not talking about copies of “those” magazines that are wrapped in plastic and stashed on the top shelf at the CNA, out of reach of children, but fashion magazines that show a little too much flesh.

Apple also has a habit of banning games that it deems “unsavoury” or applications that are not family friendly. Or even worse, Apple bans games made by developers that criticise the way its app store works.

The fact that Apple feels it has the right to exercise editorial censorship over the content it delivers is not something that makes me happy because it is all too open to abuse. Today Apple censors a magazine for showing too much flesh, tomorrow it starts making decisions about which political voices are appropriate for its subscribers.

It’s not a healthy situation, and while I believe Apple has the right to do as it wants, it is not a position that I would endorse.

The future of the Internet and the distribution of material on it relies on open platforms. Would you, for example, agree to buy a television that had built-in restrictions to prevent you watching certain programmes or films made by certain producers? I know I wouldn’t.

Freedom

There is another reason I would pick an Android device over an Apple device any day: Potential. I don’t know any other word for it. In my mind, Android just oozes with potential. There aren’t any specific barriers to its development. Want to run Android on your PC? There’s a hack for that. Want to run Android on a Nokia tablet? There’s a port for that too. The list goes on.

I also like the fact that there is a drag and drop Android development tool that makes it easy for even non-programmers to create their own applications. While Apple tightly controls what gets into its app store, Android goes out of its way to encourage literally everyone to create applications for their devices.

It’s this potential that makes Android so appealing: The sense that the next big thing in mobile could come from just about anywhere because Android encourages openness and experimentation.

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Android trumps Apple, every time