Setting The Record Straight

My last couple of posts have made several people call me a fanboi. And you know what, I may have very well sounded like one. That’s right, I may have very well sounded like an Apple fanboi.

Putting The Blame Where The Blame Needs To Be Put

My last couple of mobile devices have been Android devices. First a Motorola Droid Charge, then a Galaxy Nexus, followed up by a Galaxy S4 and then finally a Galaxy Note 3. What really turned me off of Android recently is how Samsung treated the last two devices I had, namely the S4 and the Note 3. Both of those devices had not seen updates in many months. Meanwhile, Google kept churning out new versions of Android. Though, I can’t blame Samsung completely, some of the blame can be put on my cell carrier; AT&T. They don’t want to invest the time and money into approving and releasing new Android OS updates when they can just turn around and sell you a new device. Putting together, approving, and distributing software updates isn’t cheap; it takes a lot of time and effort to make sure that the update goes relatively smoothly and even then, the updates don’t always go as clean as one would want them to go. So when something does go wrong more often than not the customer blames the carrier and demands a new device which of course costs the carriers money. So really I put the blame for the mess that Android is in squarely on the shoulders of the OEMs and carriers, they’re the reason why Android is so fragmented.

Some people brought it to my attention that Google can seamlessly upgrade certain parts of the Android operating system regardless of which carrier sold you the device or what Android OEM made the device. Those updates are pushed out via updates to the Google Play Services Platform. So now people can have parts, perhaps the most critical parts of the Android system, seamlessly updated without having to do anything. This is good for the Android user. The fact that Google has to sneak these updates in behind the backs of carriers and OEMs shows how Google has lost control over Android.

I understand that Android is an open platform; one in which anyone can do anything they please to the platform. This can be anything from installing it on whatever device they choose to modifying it as they see fit. This is how Google licensed Android. This is what I have a problem with, the license that Android is licensed under. There’s far too much room for those who take Android to abuse it. We can see this in how Google has no say-so in how and when Android devices get core OS software updates. And by that I mean the base operating system (4.4 KitKat, 5.0 Lollipop, etc.) Instead, they have to sneak in updates through some kind of back door. If Google had written into the Android license a legal clause stating that when Google comes out with a new version of an Android OS release all devices running Android must get that update in a specified amount of time, we would not be in the mess we are in.

I also understand that people say that if you want a more pure version of Android you should get a Google Play Edition device or one of the other Moto devices. If you ask me, this is a sign that Google has realized their mistake in licensing Android the way they did. They have come to the conclusion that if they want control over the destiny of Android they must produce their own hardware. This is what Apple has done from the very beginning with their iOS platform.

Why Android Core OS Updates Are Important

I also understand that there is the idea that if devices get Google Play Services updates they won’t necessarily need core OS updates. I beg to differ. New versions of Android bring new features, bug fixes, and fundamental changes to how Android works at much lower levels than just updates to Google Play Services can bring to the device. For instance, the most notable change between 4.4 KitKat and 5.0 Lollipop is the forced introduction of ART or Android Run-Time.

The idea behind ART is that when an app is installed the app’s APK file (similar to an EXE file on Windows) is fully compiled to machine code upon installation of the app. Remember, an Android APK file is nothing but a compressed file that contains Java bytecode that needs to be compiled the rest of the way on the device to be run. This is very different from how things were done on versions of Android prior to 5.0. Under versions prior to 5.0, Android used the Dalvik VM in which upon running an app the app was compiled to machine code, this of course added time to the execution or opening of the app. Every time you launched an app the app’s APK file needed to be read, compiled, and executed whereas under 5.0 and ART, the app’s binary or APK file is already compiled at the time of installation saving a lot of CPU time and battery life every time you launch an app. This should also open the door for better optimization of the machine code because you have more time to compile it than during the half second before opening it under Android 4.4 and earlier. This of course should benefit devices that may not have the latest and greatest hardware in it because it reduces the CPU time needed to run apps. So you can see that having Android 5.0 Lollipop even on older devices can help increase the lifespan of the device in question.

Speaking about the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 3. Both devices have quad-core CPUs and at the very least 2 GBs of RAM. The hardware is no slouch. This is modern hardware by anyone’s standard. If anything, 5.0 Lollipop would benefit these two devices a great deal and may even bring new life to the devices and allow people to keep the devices longer. The S4 is only two years old and the Note 3 is only a year old. Not old hardware if you ask me. So why isn’t Samsung and AT&T upgrading these devices to 5.0 Lollipop? It comes back to what I talked about in the second paragraph of this post, they don’t want to. They would much rather sell you a new device instead of putting the effort into updating the device. I call for the idea that if they no longer want to support the device with newer versions of Android they should be forced to unlock the bootloaders like in the case of the AT&T and Verizon Galaxy S4 and Note 3 and subsequent Samsung devices sold by the carriers. That way if the user wants to take the time into upgrading the device themselves by installing one of the any number of third-party Android ROMs they should be able to do so without issue and not have to worry about a locked down bootloader.

The Apple Hardware Way

In the case of the Apple iPhone devices, Apple maintains control over their hardware. They don’t just control the hardware but also the software as well. This has allowed Apple to marry the software and hardware together in ways no Android device maker can ever hope to do. Some might say that that’s the reason why Apple devices run so well, the software is hyper-optimized for the hardware on which it’s running. The current version of iOS, version 8.x, is still supported on devices dating back to the iPhone 4s which at this time is nearly four years old. There’s rumors that iOS 9 will be still be supported on the iPhone 4s which at the time of iOS 9 the device will be nearly five years old. That’s an amazing track record when it comes to supporting older hardware. This is similar to how you can install Windows 7 on six year old hardware and still have it run decently.

Changing To The iPhone

I’ve had my iPhone 6 Plus for a little over a month now. So far I’ve loved every moment of it. The operating system is smooth, it runs well, and I can’t make it lag. Even with several apps open and multitasking the iPhone 6 Plus doesn’t skip a beat. The battery life is amazing on the device. Even when under heavy load the iPhone’s battery life outshines that of my previous Android devices by a wide country mile. Even the apps seem more polished on the iPhone than on Android. My iPhone experience has been nothing short of amazing, far better than Android in so many different ways.

In a lot of ways, I just want my phone to work. When I need to make a phone call, I need it to work. When I need to send a text message, I need it to work. When I need to get directions because I’m lost, I need it to work. I don’t want to worry about whether or not I have the battery life to be able to do what I need to do. Though Android also did work in those cases there were many times when I’d find my battery close to being dead and I didn’t even touch the device. There were many times when I had my Note 3 in my pocket and had not touched it for three hours and the battery life was already down 15% or more. And yes, I was connected to WiFi so there shouldn’t have been any need to use LTE to send or receive data. So the obvious question is… What drained my battery so badly?

I hate to say this but in a lot of ways, Apple was right when it comes to multitasking on mobile devices. Apps should not be able to run in the background indefinitely chewing up battery life, the OS should have the ability to tell an app to go to sleep. Android doesn’t have this ability, apps can (and do) run indefinitely in the background and more often than not can drain your battery dry. I’m looking at you Facebook, you’re the worst offender of them all! Mobile devices by their very nature are power limited devices, they need to have strong power management capabilities built into the core operating system. This is what Apple iOS has, it can tell an app that it’s time is up and it needs to go to sleep.

Apple vs. Android

People call Apple iOS the most restrictive operating system in which Android claims that they are the most open platform. Sure, Android does allow for a lot of customization but because of that customization it can result in a very fragmented system in which not everything fits together nicely. iOS may very well be a restrictive platform but everything just works. Asking Siri to do something results in it just working. I can tell Siri to set timers, alarms, calendar events, and reminders all without even unlocking my phone. I can even ask Siri for sports scores or even a weather report. I wasn’t able to do any of that on Android, or at least it wasn’t nearly as easy to do as it is on iOS with Siri.

As for the restrictions, I’ve not run into one situation in which Apple iOS 8 has prevented me from doing something I’ve wanted to do on my device. Now this may be different because I’m running iOS 8 and past versions of iOS were far more restrictive than iOS 8 is. Version 8 has really opened the iOS platform up and removed a lot of the roadblocks that were in the system. Like I said before, I’ve not run into any restrictions that prevented me from doing what I wanted to do. Even the most important app that I use, Lastpass, the app that stores my saved passwords integrates right into Safari on my iPhone and allows me to fill login forms with relative ease. This would not have been possible without the platform improvements in iOS 8 which lifted a lot of the restrictions on what apps can and can’t do on the platform. With iOS 8 Apple has managed to walk the fine line of user restrictions to maintain system integrity while still allowing the user to do what they need to do.

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