Android is going to become more like Apple because that's what Google wants

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Android is going to become more like Apple because that's what Google wants
Android has come a long way from where it started; and, it had to because in some ways it had been playing catch up with iOS for a long time. Apple made sure from the start that iOS was focused on the user experience, so there were never really issues of lag; and, the UI, while plain, was consistent and polished. Over the years, Apple has continued that focus at the expense of adding features more quickly, and at the expense of having the UI look the same, until now. On the other hand, Google started off with a platform that was full of potential, but was clearly a work in progress. Google never slowed down in adding features to the platform, but it took a few years for Android to find that level of polish and usability that iOS had. 

Right now, if you set the two platforms side-by-side, it is clear that from a usability standpoint, the platforms are on equal footing, and from a features standpoint, Android has pulled ahead considerably. Unfortunately, you still see the same tired arguments around the two platforms, as though nothing has changed. And really, I'm getting a little bit tired of the constant shouting by Android fans that nothing seems to matter aside from hardware specs. The trouble I have with that argument is that it's either based on old, busted logic, or it's an argument to set up a false dichotomy between Android and iOS. To me, it comes off just as silly as when Apple fans continue to claim that Android is laggy or buggy, because both arguments are based on platforms that don't exist anymore.

Android's Evolution

There was a time when both arguments were valid, though. Back in the days before Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, Android was laggy and it was buggy; and the best way for manufacturers to combat the lag issues was to push as hard as possible on specs. Back then, there was a far bigger real world difference between different hardware, because chipsets were still in early stages. Remember, we're under three years from the days when single-core processors were the norm. 

When Android devices were first jumping from single-core to dual-core, the ecosystem was still mostly running Android 2.2 Froyo, with Android 2.3 Gingerbread rolling in, and Eclair and Donut rolling out. Google was working hard to add features and find its footing with the platform, but you'd be hard pressed to find someone who would have called the platform "mature" at that point. Android didn't even have proper support for multicore processors until Android 3.0 Honeycomb, which was tablets only, meaning that Android phones didn't get multicore support until Android 4.0.

That's when Google hired Matias Duarte, and Android turned a corner. Android 4.0 was released in late 2011, which was about 6 months before the first quad-core device hit the market. That means, in about one year, the hardware jumped from single-core to quad-core; and, during that time, Google finally added real multicore support to the platform. Hardware and software were growing together, and we had to pay attention to the hardware side, because the software wasn't quite ready

But, Android 4.0 brought the "look" to what had been a somewhat ugly OS. It brought the stability, and it brought a solid performance boost for devices that could handle it. The ecosystem was still in flux at that point, so there were troubles, like the original Nexus One not getting the Android 4.0 update even though the device was less than two years old. Single-core devices were quickly left behind, so the system requirements for Android 4.0 weren't an issue for too long. 

That's when Android 4.1 Jelly Bean dropped, and Project Butter brought the performance that everyone had always hoped would come with each faster piece of hardware. And, that was really the last piece of the puzzle for Android. Sure, there are ways to improve the platform and the ecosystem. But, for a user going out to buy a new high-end device (all of which come with at least Android 4.1 preloaded), you could be sure that you were going to get a device that ran smoothly, had a consistent look and feel, and is essentially feature complete given the vast options for customization and improvement available in the Google Play Store. 

Google is certainly going to keep evolving Android, and adding new features, but we've hit the point where just about everything else from here on is ancillary. Of course, because of the nature of Android, Google isn't the only one controlling its fate, which leads to two distinct paths for the platform: Google's way, and Samsung's. 

Google wants Android devices to be like the iPhone

Obviously, a statement like this is going to anger some people who don't like to read/think and would rather keep spitting rage and getting into meaningless fights in our comment threads. But, here's the real point of the statement: Google doesn't want users to have to care about specs; Google wants users to care about the experience. Just like Apple with the iPhone. 

There's a reason that Apple doesn't talk about the specs of its hardware except in comparative terms. The new iPhone is always "twice as fast", or Apple will show what the graphics look like in a new game. Think about it: Apple never even compares its new devices to its old ones directly. It's never that the new iPhone is "twice as fast as the iPhone 5", it's simply "twice as fast". Apple never shows a side-by-side comparison of what a game looks like now compared to before. And, while Apple will give the name of the new chipset, it never gives specs, because when software is properly optimized, the specs don't matter. Just ask anyone with a Nokia Lumia handset if they care (or even notice) that their device is running on hardware that would be considered "mid-range" by spec fanatics. 

Google wants the same thing for Android. We've seen it with the last few iterations of the Nexus phones, and the Nexus 7 tablets. None have launched with cutting-edge specs from top to bottom, because the price to performance ratio was the key for those devices. Now, while Motorola continues to claim it is a separate company, it is pretty clear that it is doing what Google wants; and, the Moto X is the perfect example of a device that doesn't want users focused on specs, but on the high-end experience. If Google has its way, Android devices will be marketed (like the iPhone) to the average consumer, who doesn't care about specs, and only cares about what the device can do. Of course, even that approach has two schools of thought.

The Kitchen Sink vs Thoughtful approach

All of this seems reasonable enough, but there is still the constant push-back from spec fanatics who don't seem to care that there is software running on their devices; all they care about is that the hardware specs are the best they can be. Unfortunately, the hardware companies that tend to share this idea also tend to think that "more is more" when it comes to software as well. That's where Samsung and LG come in. 

As we know from seeing every new Galaxy device come out, Samsung doesn't want to waste time thinking about what consumers might want, or what might be the most useful for daily life. No, Samsung would rather take every idea that hits the brainstorming table, make it, and cram it into a device. And, from the looks of the new LG G2, it seems as though that is LG's theory as well. Of course along with this kitchen sink approach to software, Samsung and LG both tend to use the top-of-the-line hardware (though not casing, just internals). This leads to more fuel for spec fans, who will continue to point to these devices as if they have some sort of groundbreaking superiority over another device simply because the CPU is a bit faster, or the screen has more pixels (as if you can see the difference anyway). 

For those who take a more holistic approach to devices, there are options from Google (via the Nexus line), Google (via Motorola), and more and more it seems that HTC is leaning this way as well. Over the past couple of years, HTC has been scaling back its Sense software to be more sensible (no pun intended), and it refocused its efforts on the hardware design. Given HTC's constant sales and production issues, I certainly wouldn't be surprised to see the company follow Google's lead even more in the future. 


And, that's really the key here: as much as I don't like to create a non-existent battle between two companies, it will come down to Google vs Samsung. Until now, Samsung has led the way for Android more than Google has. Google has set the base with certain hardware and software features that it believes should be the future of Android; but, Samsung has led on the consumer side of things. Samsung has pushed for the best specs, and Samsung has led other manufacturers in customizing Android more and more, until the underlying OS is almost completely hidden. 

Google may not be able to directly control Motorola and directly give Motorola the benefits it could have as a true Google company, but that doesn't mean that Motorola won't be attempting to lead the consumer side of Android more the way that Google would like to see. That means less OEM customization (because that leads to faster updates), and maybe more user-controlled customization (which has always been the true power of Android). It also means taking more of the iPhone approach and making Android devices that consider what "value" is for average users, and not just target the elite crowd with features and specs that don't make any real world difference, but look good on a comparison chart. 



1. WHoyton1

Posts: 1635; Member since: Feb 21, 2013

Thank God now android haters will shut up about lag and spec junkies will finally see the light however i somewhat like specs as they are a clear difference between high and low end phones! take note google and apple are actually adapting their OS!

10. Credo

Posts: 749; Member since: Apr 19, 2012

As a Windows Phone user, i agree, Microsoft needs to catch up ... They are so slow, within a few days or a couple of weeks we will be receiving the GDR2 update, is there something to be excited about? HELL NO .... Greetzz.

157. AwesomestMaximuss

Posts: 148; Member since: Jul 09, 2013

Not many ppl ll like what i said and many r going to bash me..but actually its a lot about specs..Mobile phones r moving towards where computers r some point every os ll come to a same point and it ll all be about specs..current gen of mobile phones not needing better specs only tells us about its cons(which is not true as they do need better specs)..i agree user experience does matter..infact its almost as important as the spec of a system but relying only on that ll slow the growth..any os,be it mobile or desktop,which doesnt need better specs only tells about its inabilities..the most 'heavy' apps on any os ryt nw r games(or some multimedia editing)..pc is so ahead in the spec race but still whenever a new crysis game comes out it leaves even the best graphic card in dust(just saying,i mean better the gpu,better the performance)..we dont hv enough power tht its going to waste..we r not that advanced..if anything we r always running out of yeah it is and always ll be about specs..and no its not ppl who r speaking about it all being specs..its the author,Michael H who is ranting like a parrot about user experience while completely neglecting specs and wants ppl to do the same..only better specs ll give us better apps with better graphics and better performance..any amount of working on user experience wont change that..

187. TBomb

Posts: 1662; Member since: Dec 28, 2012

Maybe I misunderstood you, but I think you got it backwards.... relying on the user experience should speed up the growth. I ask everyone who has an iphone why they like it and the answer is always "user experience." "It's easy ot use" and it's the same as it's always been since day 1. They never have to learn any changes from new phone to new phone because the UI is the same which is why you'll see girls and the older crowd (who are usually not as tech-savvy) with an iphone vs an android. It's simple. It has what? An 8mp camera? That's not ground breaking by any means but the user experience with it is awesome. You always see articles written about "new phone X vs iphone camera" and despite being 5mp less, it still holds it's own. I'm a huge android lover and will probably never get an iphone.. it's my personal preference. Android works better for me with what I want out of a phone. But to say that the specs is the main reason I get the phone is wrong. I get it because the user experience is what I want.

193. AwesomestMaximuss

Posts: 148; Member since: Jul 09, 2013

Iphone users say that cuz tht is the only thing they cn say..i did said user experience is important but specs r equally important if not must sound rude but the generation of users who hv trouble getting accustomed to any thing less than simple when it comes to tech,r a dying breed..still user experience is important ..but user experience doesnt mean s@#t if apps doesnt run better on it..and with android anything u want(any kinda user interface/experience) u cn get with it matters evn less(again i dont mean to neglect it)..and better specs mean better apps,period.With lower specs some oems r holding the development back..i wish that the spec race speed up evn furthur..whn u hv enuf raw power that u cn not utilize thn u cn start neglecting specs..till then specs r as important as user experience cuz with smartphones ppl doesnt just play around with the native apps..

33. MartianMe unregistered

Michael H is just a jealous idiot that's why he's always trying so hard on making android look bad or behind apple. Just by reading at the headline i can see his envy towards google... the way i see it ios7 looks more like android and some windows. what he fails to understand is that the iphone is just an ipod touch with wireless connectivity "boring"...on androids we need high specs because our phones are real smart phones (computer like)...that's why i can transfer files and download files illegally if i wanted and much more...these are things that ifans don' know about. And as far as google wanting to built android less complicated it doesn't mean it wants to be more like apple ..that is just a stupid comparison coming from a writer...So stop trying so hard on wanting to brain wash people and tell us already how much is apple paying you to post all this nonsense article???? i'm sick of your bs and like i told you before belong to cnet.

38. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Looks like Michael has selected you for an all paid vacation for a week! Have fun!

42. quadrazeus

Posts: 359; Member since: May 03, 2013

Or forever, haha.

45. MartianMe unregistered

I wish so i can put him in his place.

66. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

And what are you going to do? Tell him he's wrong? Put him in his place.. Lmfao you're funny.

73. ThePython

Posts: 902; Member since: May 08, 2013

Hey kid, can you read?

98. Droid_X_Doug

Posts: 5993; Member since: Dec 22, 2010

Why would Michael select Martian for a holiday? IMO, Martian selected himself. Separately, I agree with Michael's concept of 2 threads of Android toys - one for the spec geeks and one for everyone else. Spec geeks will gravitate toward Sammy edition Google Play toys, like the GS IV Google Play edition. The everyone else version will look something like the Moto X.

49. Blazers

Posts: 764; Member since: Dec 05, 2011

"that's why i can transfer files and download files illegally" You lost all credibility when you posted that statement.

183. nasznjoka

Posts: 418; Member since: Oct 05, 2012

don't forget "if i want to"

50. Dorothy69

Posts: 498; Member since: May 21, 2013

How dare you speak ill of my beloved and bethrothed Michael; it's certainly not his fault that most Android phones are on the high-end of the spec scale now. So, we have to slow down a bit, it's realistic. Face it, Android premium smartphones have surpassed phones made by that other OS(i) in every way, thereby, setting a new standard. We can handle limited spec bumps for a few years. Heck, iOS users have had limited specs bumps for a majority of their iTerations, OG iPhone, of course, notwithstanding. So I say, let us focus on the true evolution of the platform so that we may continue to be the envy of all those end-users having baaa-haaa-haaa-aaad experiences on their tiny "smart" phones!

107. therealestboy

Posts: 82; Member since: May 03, 2013

There is nothing great about Android spec sheet. In fact, those spec you are taking about are free for any company to use. If apple wanted they could easily have bought the highest and the best qualcom or whatever has to offer. It takes time and a lot money to make a SOC and optimize instead of buying genetic SOCs. That is why I like where Motorola is going with its Moto X phone.

119. Dorothy69

Posts: 498; Member since: May 21, 2013

You said it, if they wanted to they could've: coulda', woulda', shoulda' but they didn't (2 snaps and a circle)!! They chose mid-range and sub-standard. The most interesting part of your post is how Motorola is not buying "genetic SOCs" - sounds like they should be buying genetic, it just sounds so technologically advanced.

55. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

Always fun to get comments from people who didn't read the article. Thanks MartianMe!

70. ThePython

Posts: 902; Member since: May 08, 2013

You sir, earned my respect.

92. javac

Posts: 102; Member since: Mar 04, 2013

i have to say i hate it when people talk about how hardware doesnt matter without knowing why an apple phone doesnt need high specs. and why an android requires muh higher specs. You really need to do your homework before you write articles like this

100. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

I am incredibly amused that the two people to comment on my #55 are Python and JavaC. Amused and motivated to get back to my programming study!

105. bonsly16

Posts: 94; Member since: Oct 23, 2011

Comprehension skills seems to be lacking in some of your readers. =\

137. MartianMe unregistered

You mad bro???

144. joey_sfb

Posts: 6794; Member since: Mar 29, 2012

the reason we look at the hardware spec so much is because we want to make sure we get the most for our money, software side we could always select the desires ROM from xda later.

213. rabidhunter

Posts: 90; Member since: Jul 05, 2013

Okay, I'll sell you a phone with a 4.5 GHz octa-core processor with 8GB of RAM, 5.5" Quad HD screen, for $1,100 off contract $499 on. It will run Android 2.3 out of the box, will never receive an upgrade, bootloader is not unlocked, and if you try to install an updated custom ROM the phone will self destruct. Hardware wise, you are getting the most for your money. But the software will never be able to fully utilize the hardware. Right now, and I'm just saying right now...Google is making the right decision by making user experience the focus point. Right now, there are few applications that even take advantage of more than two cores. Most only require one core. The recent upgrades to Android produce a quality experience across the board. And that's where it needs to be. Let's focus on the user experience and get everything on the same page. Then we can work on the specs further. As it is right now, the hardware has outpaced the software and that's a problem.

159. CellularNinja

Posts: 306; Member since: Sep 27, 2011

@MichaelHeller Although I can agree with you on some points, I will say that you definitely chose the wrong title for this article. I see the point you're trying to make, but Google does not want to be more line Apple, which is exactly what you said. I'm sorry, but you're just wrong there.

56. whysoserious

Posts: 318; Member since: Jul 20, 2012

Clearly you didn't read the entire article and just stopped on the first paragraph, did you?

84. boosook

Posts: 1442; Member since: Nov 19, 2012

geta a life, it's just a phone. btw, you probably read only the headline.

153. verty

Posts: 132; Member since: May 07, 2012

I personally think you are ill mannered and of low intelligence.

46. sum182

Posts: 229; Member since: Nov 19, 2011

I would just like to point out.....that your compairing an OS to a company in the article...."Android is becoming like Apple"....Now, "android is becoming like iOS", sure, i see your point here, less spec-y, more about performance and optimization. As a long time android user, i definitely agree about the evolution. Good, i like that (but keep the openness and customization, as well as new features). However, Android is not becoming like is not becoming like said all along, it wants affordable, reliable tech in the hands of everyone. And they are able to achieve that now with the evolution of android (and even more with KLP hopefully). But that's much different from apple, who plays a profit game....and that is the key difference in my eyes on who's platform i go with. Now "Samsung is becoming more like Apple", there we go!

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