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Android vs iOS: Will Android Win the Smartphone Operating System War?

Erik Kangas
Erik Kangas
LuxSci, founder Erik Kangas has an impressive mix of academic research and software architecture expertise, including: undergraduate degree from Case Western Reserve University in physics and mathematics, PhD from MIT in computational biophysics, senior software engineer at Akamai Technologies, and visiting professor in physics at MIT.

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The explosion in smartphone adoption has been unprecedented, reshaping how we interact with technology on a daily basis. Introduced by Apple in 2007, the iPhone revolutionized the concept of the smartphone, making it an essential tool for the masses. Fast forward to recent years, and the saturation of smartphone ownership has reached new heights.

According to the latest research by Statista, as of 2023, over 85% of the U.S. population, equating to more than 280 million individuals, are smartphone users. This trend is not slowing down, with projections indicating continued growth in smartphone penetration globally. The rapid evolution of smartphone technology, coupled with decreasing prices and the increasing necessity of mobile connectivity in everyday life, has propelled this surge. This widespread adoption has fundamentally transformed communication, entertainment, and access to information, cementing smartphones as the linchpin of the digital age.

Smartphones are so ubiquitous they’re actually replacing computers and tablets as Internet users’ first point of access. Pew Research reports that 15 percent of US adults ages 18 to 29 use smartphones as their main source of Internet connection, while 13 percent of Latino Americans and 12 percent of African Americans are smartphone-dependent for Internet access. The smartphone, it seems, is transitioning from a secondary Internet device to a primary one. This shift results in even more people owning smartphones and using them as lifelines to the Internet.

One of the most surprising developments when it comes to smartphone sales is that as demand has risen, competition has actually shrunk. Statista reports that in 2009, Android and iOS combined represented less than 20 percent of the worldwide market share for operating systems.

In the early days of smartphones, a diverse ecosystem of operating systems, including Windows, BlackBerry, and Nokia’s Symbian, shared the market. However, the landscape has dramatically transformed over the years. According to a recent report by IDC, by the end of 2023, Android and iOS have further solidified their dominance, accounting for virtually 99% of the global smartphone market share.

This staggering figure underscores the duopoly of Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS in the smartphone industry, relegating once-dominant platforms like BlackBerry and Windows Phone to the annals of tech history.

The shift reflects the continuous innovation and ecosystem expansion by both Android and iOS, which have consistently offered consumers advanced features, a wide range of applications, and seamless user experiences. This evolution has not only reshaped consumer preferences but also redefined the competitive dynamics within the mobile operating system landscape.

So what does the future of smartphones look like from an operating system perspective? Let’s delve in a little deeper to find the answer.

The Evolution of Mobile Operating Systems Up to 2024

As we approach 2024, the landscape of mobile operating systems continues to evolve, reflecting the dynamic nature of technology and user preferences. Since the inception of smartphones, Android and iOS have emerged as the predominant forces in the mobile operating system market, shaping how we interact with our devices and access digital information.

This journey from the early days of mobile computing to the present has seen significant technological advancements, user interface improvements, and a shift towards more integrated and personalized user experiences.

The constant innovation by Google and Apple has not only enhanced the functionality and security of Android and iOS but also set new standards for mobile computing, IoT integration, and AI capabilities. As we delve into the current state of Android and iOS, it’s essential to understand the technological strides and market dynamics that have brought us to this point, setting the stage for the ongoing rivalry and innovation that will define the mobile OS landscape in 2024.

The Rise of Smartphones
Android vs iOS: Will Android Win the Smartphone Operating System War? 1

The Role of Emerging Technologies in Shaping Android and iOS

The influence of emerging technologies on Android and iOS has been profound, with both platforms embracing advancements such as 5G connectivity, artificial intelligence (AI), and augmented reality (AR) to enhance user experiences. These technologies have not only improved the speed, efficiency, and functionality of mobile devices but also opened new avenues for app development, content creation, and personalization.

5G technology, for instance, has enabled faster data speeds and more reliable connections, making mobile internet more accessible and paving the way for new types of mobile applications and services. AI has transformed how we interact with our devices through voice assistants, predictive text, and personalized recommendations, making smartphones more intuitive and user-friendly.

Meanwhile, AR has expanded the possibilities for mobile gaming, education, and retail, offering immersive and interactive experiences that were previously unimaginable. As Android and iOS continue to integrate these emerging technologies, they not only compete on features and performance but also on their ability to innovate and redefine what’s possible with a smartphone.

Android vs. iOS: Worldwide Growth

Though the iPhone gets a lot of press, Android is the world’s leader in operating systems, and Android is showing stronger gains than iOS. In December 2015, Android accounted for 59 percent of the US smartphone operating market and 71 percent of the Chinese smartphone operating market. Comparatively, iOS held just 39 percent of the US market and 27 percent of the Chinese market.

Android Market Share is Growing

Android isn’t slowing down anytime soon, either. Android sales in the US were up 7.3 percent in the first quarter of 2016 due largely to the popularity of Samsung’s Galaxy S7. By contrast, the iOS market share fell 4.9 percent in the first quarter. However, expect those numbers to rise again in the third quarter when the iPhone 7 hits US markets.

On a global scale, Android is doing well in other markets outside the US and China. The Telegraph (UK) reports that in the first three months of 2016, Android’s market share in Europe grew from 7.1 percent to a total of 75.6 percent.

iOS Marketshare in Specific Region

Apple’s iOS holds just 18.9 percent of the market share in Europe. A lot of Android’s recent growth is credited to a decline in Windows phone users who are migrating to Android instead of iOS. Asian smartphone handset manufacturers like Wiko, Asus, and Huawei are driving a lot of this migration with inexpensive devices that run with the trusted Android operating systems.

Android vs. iOS: Security

Despite the popularity, it’s important to look at the security of the two operating systems that dominate the mobile landscape. There’s so much personal data available on smartphones that it’s practically taunting malware developers and hackers of almost every shape and size.

Android is More Vulnerable

A study conducted at the University of Cambridge found that 87.7 percent of Android devices have a minimum of one security vulnerability. By the same token, a security analyst recently bypassed Apple’s security features on iOS devices and could access sensitive information and data on users. Both revelations are troubling, particularly since most smartphone users would readily admit that their whole lives are on their devices.

iOS Security Feature

Compared to Android in IBTimesUK, iOS was the clear winner in terms of security. Security engineer, James Maude, evaluated both and offered the high-level explanation that iOS security is easier to maintain because it’s owned and operated solely by one company, Apple.

On the other hand, while Google (Android) may work tirelessly on their OS security, the fact is that hundreds of different manufacturers use the Android OS, making it much more difficult to control from a security perspective—and much more difficult to fix problems promptly.

Both iOS and Android are constantly working to enhance their security, though. One method is through regular security updates. However, those updates rely on users to actually take the time to install, and even then, they are not devoid of flaws. Android security updates are typically slower to emerge as they need to go through the individual carriers.

All this to say, it’s important that consumers are aware of the data vulnerabilities of the OS they choose and that they take additional measures if they feel it appropriate. For businesses in the healthcare industry, for instance, extra security measures are a requirement, not an option. In this case, third-party mobile security experts can do the trick.

Who Will Win in the End?

If the smartphone operating system war were to end today, Android would win from a popularity standpoint. However, Apple’s iOS is no slacker, especially in the area of security, and the company continues to churn out devices that change how consumers interact with the mobile space. From a consumer standpoint, having at least two choices in operating systems is an advantage because each will push the other to offer better features at lower prices with greater security and attention to detail.

In the nearly 10 years since the first iPhone brought the term “smartphone” home to many Americans, the market has soared globally and forever changed the way people communicate.

What is your preference when it comes to operating systems?


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