“Android vs. iPhone” is not a valid platform comparison

The war between Google and its OEMs (Samsung, LG, Sony, HTC, Motorola, Huawei, Xiaomi, OnePlus, Asus, etc.) and Apple is one that has been a major discussion of tech fanatics and one that’ll remain for years to come. Google’s and Apple’s operating systems are the two top platforms, with Google’s Android being the dominant platform worldwide.

Even in times like as of late, where Apple has made some gains in platform usage, it still doesn’t hold a candle to Google’s Android. Consumers want choice, and that choice is best provided on Android – where consumers can choose between manufacturers with different hardware designs and operating system “skins” or overlays. If a person wants the functionality of Android without all the manufacturer additions, he or she can simply buy into Google’s Nexus line and get access to fast, quick updates with the latest operating system changes.

Apple is the only manufacturer that uses its operating system, and Apple prefers it that way because it strives to control the hardware and the software (per the company’s latest ads that attack the Android platform). Unfortunately, Apple’s control over its platform has led to one significant piece of misinformation across tech blogs (yes, those who cover tech daily) and the average consumer: that is, that “iPhone” is an operating system, and “Android vs. iPhone” is a valid comparison (which it’s not).

Now, I realize that some will say, “duh, of course it’s not,” but don’t disregard the misinformation or inaccuracy so quickly. The truth of the matter is that most people are only familiar with Apple’s platform because of the iPhone. No matter what iPhone you purchase, all iPhones (whether the iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, iPhone 6, or 6 Plus) will all have the same iOS 8.x update or iOS 9 update. And so, since there’s really no need to distinguish between these devices, except for hardware alone, most consumers just refer to Apple’s platform as “iPhone.” Whenever they discuss the dominant platforms, you’ll hear them say or read the phrase “Android vs. iPhone.”

Unfortunately, this statement is inaccurate because “iPhone” is not an operating system, any more than Samsung’s Z1 is an operating system (FYI, it isn’t). Yes, Samsung’s Z1 is a smartphone, but the smartphone name (Z1) and the operating system on which it runs (Tizen) are two different things. Likewise, Apple’s platform is called “iOS,” short for “internet operating system.” The iPhone is Apple’s smartphone that runs iOS software, but “iOS” and “iPhone” are not synonymous.

When you compare “Android vs. iPhone,” you are making a nonsensical comparison. In order for “Android vs. iPhone” to make sense, you would have to 1) assume that “iPhone” is an operating system (which it isn’t), or 2) assume that Android is a smartphone (which it’s not; it’s Google’s mobile operating system). If you want to compare Google’s OS to Apple’s OS, the only appropriate phrase is “Android vs. iOS.” iOS is Apple’s mobile operating system, not iPhone. Android runs on any phone that features Google’s Play Store, Gmail, Google Maps, Google Keep, and other Google software. There are a number of Android smartphones that don’t access Google’s Play Store (such as Amazon’s Fire Phone), but these rebel Android phones are few and far between.

iOS is Apple’s mobile operating system that runs on more than just the iPhone (hence, why “iPhone” is not an operating system.) iOS also runs on the iPad (Apple’s tablet) as well as its iPod lineup (iPod Touch). Android, Google’s operating system, runs on a number of devices as well, including smartphones and tablets. These are mobile devices, and both Android and iOS are mobile platforms.

The iPhone is Apple’s name for a smartphone that runs iOS software. In the future, Apple could add a new smartphone to its lineup that doesn’t begin with the letter “i.” It seems impossible that Apple would do this, but, if the company ever does so in the future, the need to know the mobile OS (iOS, not iPhone) will become even more pronounced.

Therefore, comparing “Android vs. iPhone” is a mixing of categories: Android (mobile platform) and iPhone (a specific smartphone brand). Comparing “Android vs. iOS” or “Galaxy S6 vs. iPhone 6” makes sense, but not “Android vs. iPhone.” To compare a mobile platform versus one Apple smartphone is to stack the deck against either Android as a whole or Apple’s one smartphone, in the same way that comparing “Galaxy S6 vs. iOS” would. Comparing apples to oranges, you may discover that both are fruits, but have few similarities between them. Sadly, “Android” and “iPhone” are even further apart.

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