When the iPhone (was) king of the hill (and that was a while ago), there were two things responsible for its dominance: Ecosystem, and User Experience. There was nothing like it before. Steve Jobs did a phenomenal job of bringing the level of cohesion between hardware and software, and for that, he has to be commended. But ever since then, Android has taken over and brought with it, the Open Source Revolution. Suddenly the App Ecosystem model was completely disrupted; the world realized that there are options for EVERYONE, and suddenly CHOICE became the pivotal word that drove a wedge in Apple’s proverbial core. Smartphone vendors popped up from every nook and cranny. Suddenly, we realized that the once powerful iPhone was indeed the forbidden apple hanging in the garden of Eden.
The second aspect was the user experience. Apple achieved a very consistent and fluid user experience by following two simple rules:
1. Apple makes both hardware and software – As a result there are significantly fewer devices to optimize the software for.
2. Apple decides how open the file system is to the user. – In Apple’s case, this is almost like using a windows 7 computer in guest mode (in some cases, maybe even more restricted).
So what happened after Android 4.1 (Jellybean)? Android brought us closer to having everything, including CHOICE. We witnessed fluidity and better response times, AND we got complete access to the file system. For the first time Android devices became fast, full fledged computers in our palms; devices that adapted and changed to suit our needs rather than the other way round.
Until jellybean, Android solely relied on CPU raw processing power to operate. But since Jellybean, android became more of a complete OS as it became capable of handing off graphical intensive tasks to the GPU. Something Apple had been doing for a long time. This process took longer to implement with android because it had no control over the hardware. Hardware was being manufactured many different vendors and as a result we have a main issue with drivers optimization.
Enter Project Butter:
With Android 4.1, Google introduced project Butter – these were basically, specific tweaks made to the OS infrastructure which improved user response times. Google implemented this in two major ways: they introduced “Triple buffering” and VSync. The former speaks for itself: every single 2D image was buffered 3 times instead of a single time in order to maintain UI stability. The latter basically maintains all animations at a steady 60 fps (frames per second). For a much more in-depth description of what project butter truly achieves, you can refer to this link from pocketnow.com. For a video demonstration of how these improvements have improved the OS, you should definitely check out this video:
In conclusion, we now have two solid contenders in the Mobile OS playing field. Android is definitely giving iOS a run for its money. With every iteration of Android, its gotten better, and it has managed to stay fresh. iOS has become stale and old. Don’t get me wrong though. iOS is a technological feat whose influence extends far beyond just the OS itself. It redefined what an individual can do with a small handheld device. Android built on top of that and is now taking it further. At the end of the day, it is up to the consumer. Some of us want that openness; the rest of us are happy without 😉