The meteoric rise of iPhone and Android

Smartphone Apps

As of the late 2000’s, two mobile OS platforms started gaining significant headway in terms of market dominance. Racked up against the offerings of BlackBerry, Nokia, Windows Phone and Sony are Apple’s iPhone (now branded as iOS) and Android. In this second instalment in our history of mobile development platforms we recap the meteoric rise of the iPhone and Android platforms.

The Apple iPhone devices boast a small but impressive range of multimedia, web-enabled smartphones designed and marketed by Apple Inc. The first ground-breaking iPhone was launched with much-anticipated fanfare in January, 2007. The new iPhone functioned as a camera phone, with text messaging and visual voicemail, a portable media player, and an Internet client with web browsing, email, and Wi-Fi connectivity. The user interface was built around the device’s multi-touch screen, and included a virtual keyboard rather than a physical one. Third-party as well as Apple apps became available from the Apple App Store in mid-2008. In mid-February 2012, Apple announced that their store now featured more than 500 000 apps. They also announced a competition where the person who downloads Apple’s 25-billionth app will receive a gift card worth $10,000. And yes, that’s one hell of a lot of $0.99 song downloads from iTunes!

To date, there are four generations of iPhones, accompanied by eagerly-anticipated releases of iOS (formerly known as iPhone OS). The original iPhone set design innovation benchmarks like screen size and central button placement. The iPhone 3G added support for 3G broadband network capabilities and improved location accuracy for handheld satellite navigation. The iPhone 3GS model added an even faster processor, featured a higher-res camera with video capability and an onboard compass. Released in June 2010, the iPhone 4 features two cameras for “FaceTime” video calls and yes, you guessed it, an even higher-res screen display. The latest models also feature a much-appreciated, much-advertised voice-recognition native app called Siri, which allows uses to send messages, dial contacts, and create memo reminders, all by simply speaking in the user’s natural voice.

Mobile developers build apps for the iPhone and the iPad by writing applications in Objective C (an object-oriented extension of the C programming language). They have to do their coding on a Mac computer. Completed iPhone apps are then submitted to Apple and, if approved, are made available only from the Apple store and nowhere else. Apple is pretty restrictive about what can and can’t be done on their platform. For example, they’ve banned any Flash applications by not allowing a Flash player on their devices. They’ve even banned any applications written using Flash source code even though it is perfectly possible to publish them to a native iOS app.

In direct competition to iPhone and its native iOS software, Android is the mobile OS owned by Google. Branded with a little green happy-smiley robot, it was created by a start-up company who were assimilated by the Google business empire in 2005. Touted as extremely versatile and tweakable for programmers and mobile users alike, Android OS is a multi-platform operating system and is used by a host of tablets, netbooks and mobile smartphones. As of 2012, even high-end TV sets are now being created with Android’s OS, specifically to run Google TV. Android Market is the online software store developed by Google for all devices running the Android operating system. The latest version of Android OS for mobile phones is 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, announced in October 2011.

Android applications are coded in Java. Most mobile developers use an IDE like Eclipse to assist with their development. The Android platform is pretty open. You can create mobile apps and games and place them onto the official Android market; you can publish them to the numerous other 3rd party Android app stores available; or you can even let users download them directly from your site. Generally the Android Market has more free (no-cost) apps compared to the Apple App Store, the negative side for Apple users of their favourite devices being premium-brand ticket items.

A discussion about Apple iPhone, iOS and Android would be red-faced naked without mentioning the huge legal battle still raging as iPhone goes head-to-head with Samsung’s flagship family of smartphones and tablets, running Android OS. The parent companies of these two premium OS offerings have been engaged in an ongoing IP (intellectual property) legal battle dating back to mid-2011. Apple and Samsung have declared a ‘Mobile Device Patent War’ with court litigation for global market access to the mobile communications consumer market. By the beginning of 2011, Apple and Samsung were cat-fighting legal battles in ongoing lawsuits in courts in 10 countries on four continents. The fight started when Apple accused Samsung of infringing Apple’s IP, specifically patents, styling, user interface and trademarks. Directly in Apple’s crosshairs were Samsung’s Android-powered Nexus, Epic, Galaxy S, and the Galaxy Tab. The battle continues as fiercely-loyal users continue to choose sides, each claiming their smartphone choice is the true champion. See for yourself below.

The visual similarity is striking but it's also what's inside that counts in the legal punch up. What really upset the Apple cart is the claim that Samsung’s Galaxy S is a clone of the iPhone. We'd rather not choose sides but we'll let you decide for yourselves.

The oft-neglected irony is that the Samsung electronics company actually provides core components for many of Apple’s iOS devices. In many ways, the Android OS versus iPhone OS battle has been most dynamically illustrated by two smartphones: the Apple iPhone 4S squaring up to the Samsung Galaxy S2. Until the courts decide, mobile app developers and users alike will have to keep guessing which galloping racehorse to back.

In the next and final part of our history of smartphone platforms, we’ll discuss the winners, the losers, the also-rans, and the up-and-coming in the mobile platform wars.

Maxxor offers mobile development services to help enterprises to successfully communicate and interact with their consumers. We also help them to mobile-enable their employees through enterprise mobile applications. Check out our mobile portfolio or contact us to discuss your mobile development requirements.