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The Android and the iPhone: is there a competition?

Apple’s age-old maxim is: ‘design, design, design!’ The company has long asserted that its products do the same things that other devices do; just that device owners can access the functions using a design that is more intuitive, more human-friendly.

Superficially, this is exactly the gripe most people have when comparing the new iPhone 3GS and the new Google G1, running the Android OS.

‘The iPhone is slimmer!’

‘G1’s keyboard is weird, and it’s got an irritating speaking chin’

‘iPhone is so much more tactile!’

Ok, ok. Fair cop. We get it. The Google Android looks and feels like a dinosaur in comparison to the slim, strokable iPhone 3.0 handset.

‘G1’s got so many buttons! Six! Outrageous!’

But back to Apple’s claim that its devices do all the same stuff; the crucial difference in this comparison is that the iPhone doesn’t.

The Android operating system is open source and developers don’t need permission or endorsement from Google to create applications like they do with Apple. Android engages directly and intuitively with Google’s diverse array of powerful products. By contrast, Apple’s series of backflips on whether or not to allow Google’s voice search application on iPhone demonstrate its control-freak tendencies.

This difference stretches back to the nature of the companies themselves.

Apple operates on the premise that it creates the best-designed and most intuitive products. It extrapolates from this that if you want to use the best, you have to use it entirely on its terms. All Apple appliances are tethered straight back to the parent company, in terms of software, hardware, and of course finance. ‘We’re the best, so you shouldn’t complain about giving all your money to us and to no one else’.

Hm.

Google, on the other hand, started out with a product that facilitated, rather than dictated, the way people use the web: search.

Instead of copying the traditional business model/product cycle and grafting the internet onto it, Google observes how the internet invites use and creates products that don’t inhibit the invitation.

Apple focuses on the physical way you engage with your content, and endeavors to provide the most desirable device at the expense of freedom of web and content use.

Google anticipates the diffuse and essentially free nature of the internet. It provides software that allows people to use the web in the way they want to use it. The fact that the device is kind of clunky is irrelevant – and will probably change fairly quickly – when you consider the potential of the software and the premise it operates on.

There is a certain degree of irony to how Google is approaching the software issue. While they aren’t trying to perpetuate a hardware monopoly, they can afford to make their software open source. Especially given how much power they have over what people see when they search online, let alone on their Android device.

But, no matter how sexy the iPhone becomes, it’s going to take a complete rethink of Apple’s business philosophy in order to compete with the Android in the long term.

Assimilating the two would be ideal, but will never happen.

In conclusion: the iPhone is more fun to play with. The Android is cleverer and holds more promise for mobile down the track.

So, I pose you a question:

Which would you rather give your mobile communication dollars to a bully that openly insists on taking all your money, or a Big Brother that can help you discover all the possibilities the world has to offer?

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