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Should I Choose Apple or Android devices?


Steve Cohn
23 July 2014

We often get asked “Which devices should we be using for our data collection?” Unfortunately there’s not a simple answer to this question.  This article will share some of our insights into the pros and cons of the two technologies.

Apple

Apple more or less invented the mobile app.  We started developing iSURVEY for the Apple App Store about 5 years ago when it was already a year old (it launched July 2008).  It’s been around a long time and let’s face it, Apple provide great design in their devices and the user interface is generally pretty user friendly although not without its quirks.

In our experience Apple’s devices have been extremely reliable – we’ve had charging cords break but that’s probably the worst thing we’ve experienced although our devices generally have an easy life physically but a hard life for the electronics because they are being used by developers day in and day out.

There are some downsides to using Apple devices, in our opinion:   

  • They are expensive!  Compared to Android devices they do tend to be more expensive however Apple have a premium product.  

  • Apple doesn’t always retain backward compatibility and in the past they have changed the charging connector. If you have a pre iPhone 5 device and an iPhone 5 or an iPad Air you need two kinds of chargers and if you still have an iPhone 3GS you won’t be able to download any apps for it.

  • It can take a long time to release an app update to the App Store due to Apple having a lengthy review process before they approve and release the app.  

 The upsides, again in our opinion, are: 

  • Great design and solid build.  Just compare the look and feel of Apple devices with equivalent Android devices… it’s subjective but for us mostly Apple wins.

  • Great reliability.  This is from our experience both as developers and users of Apple devices over many years.

  • A huge range of apps on the App Store.

Android

The Android mobile operating system by Google had its first commercial release in September 2008.  The first commercially available device was by HTC.  As the Android operating system is free to use, many device makers have incorporated it into their devices, usually with customization to the source code. For example the “vanilla” Android has been customized for the HTC Android or Samsung Android.  

The vast range of Android devices is both a blessing and a curse from an App Developer’s point of view.  The blessing is that there are millions of possible users of the App, the curse is that you have to try to make the app work on a huge range of screen sizes and CPUs and sometimes limited memory – Apple provides a level of standardization.

The downsides to using Android devices are, in our opinion:

  • Lack of standardization makes it very difficult to ensure that apps work the same on all devices.

  • Devices from what we refer to as “No Name” vendors can be problematic due to shortcuts taken with the components and / or the build of the device.

The upsides, again in our opinion, are: 

  • There is plenty of variety to choose from – you are almost certain to find a device that fits your needs at a price point that you can afford.

  • The openness of the Android / Google Play ecosystem makes it very easy to quickly deliver updates and customization.

  • Google has in the main retained backward compatibility so your devices do not become obsolete.

Which Android devices do we recommend?  Well it’s hard to say without knowing exactly what your requirements are but we have found that vendors like Samsung, HTC, Lenovo, HP, Google themselves have all produced good and reliable devices.  Lesser known brands may be fine but we would recommend that you compare the specifications of the screen and the internal electronics with a similar device from a known brand.  

If you are using iSURVEY and droidSURVEY for data collection, you have the flexibility of being able to use both Apple and Android for the same data collection project.


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