Android vs iOS: How Pluralism Won

November 5, 2011

Political Theory

At a time when smartphones were not a popular commodity, Apple changed the market by introducing the iPhone.  It innovated the general conception of what a mobile device could do.  It’s capacitive touch screen along with a user friendly UI gave users a totally new experience. At the time, touchscreens used resistivity to detect touch, which makes screen much less responsive.  Combined with new technology and fancy form factor, the iPhone dominated the smartphone market. Apple made it “cool” to own an iPhone, and no other device could compete with it. However, Android, an open-source platform, now currently owns twice the market share as iOS.  The following chart gives an overview of the percentage of mobile devices using different operating systems.  This includes iPods and iPads under iOS.


















This is simply because Android offers one thing that iOS doesn’t: choice.  Apple dictates everything the iPhone can and can’t do.  All the apps on the marketplace are subject to approval. Many features on the phone are not customizable, such as the homescreen and it’s form factor.  Since Android is open-source, it always for developers to make some incredible enhancements to the user interface.  We all use our phones for different things, and this is where Android caters to it’s customers.  There are many homescreen replacements available on the market, which allow users to customize the appearance of the UI. There are apps available that can increase your phone’s performance by changing the processor speed.  Developers constantly improve Android by creating apps and custom ROMs.  It doesn’t take on OTA update to update your phone. With Android, you can update and improve your phone everyday.  Phone manufacturers have also kept up with giving consumers options. They constantly release different phones with different form factors. Some smartphones have keyboards, others are small and thin, and others have large screens.  There are Android smartphones in all price ranges as well.  Pluralism says that we are all different, so why not have different options? Apple creates one device per year and dictate what you can do with it.  Android has many devices, and you can choose how you want to use it.  Pluralism is the reason Android has become more popular than iOS.



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3 Comments on “Android vs iOS: How Pluralism Won”

  1. andgoldberg Says:

    I do agree that Android is more appealing to developers, but I don’t agree that the reason there are more people using android software is due to the fact that they can develop their own apps and change many things about their phone. The iPhone simply hasn’t prospered on a large level because of how many cell phone services it is available with. Only verizon and at&t carry the iPhone limiting the amount of people who can use it. I believe that many people would embrace the iPhone rather than the Android based phones as the iPhone becomes cheaper and more accessible to the general public.

  2. adamskt Says:

    When thinking about the Android platform vs. Apple’s iOS, it is interesting to think about it in the opposite way that this post is written. Since iOS hardly accounts for pluralism in society at all, why has it succeeded even to the degree that it has? It has over half as many users as Androids, and significantly more users than any of the other types of phone systems. After accounting for the minimal number of carriers that offer iPhones, it becomes clear that iOS is extremely successful. But why is Apple so successful when it does not appear to allow for choices?

    Although I cannot provide a definite answer to this question, I can provide a hypothesis. Although iOS does not offer as many options Android phones, it may simply supply the right ones. On an iPhone, less personalization is possible. However, some screen backgrounds can be changed, an individual’s music can be synced to the phone, personal emails and texts come to the phone, etc. For the majority of phone users, this is personalization enough. A few of the most tech savvy phone users choose Android because it allows open programming, but I do not think that is why most Android users have made that choice.

    iOS does not at first glance appear to account for pluralism, but it may be the case that Apple has actually found a perfect balance. At a certain point, too many options can become so confusing that people stop taking advantage of choices. Maybe iOS provides a near-optimal level of choices that corresponds to the level of pluralism that exists in opinions of phones. Providing options for every single phone user would be impossible; Apple may have allocated their resources in such a way that options are available with iOS that will satisfy a typical phone user.


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