This one article accidentally explains the biggest practical difference between iOS and Android in a nutshell

For all the improvements to the Android end-user experience, and there have been big strides, there’s still a lot of practical differences in usability between the two platforms for everyday average-Joe users and this recent GottaBeMOBILE article inadvertently highlights one of the biggest real-world problems facing users of Android devices:

Galaxy S4, Galaxy S3, Galaxy Note 3 Android 4.4 Update Breakdown Pt. 8
By Adam Mills | 04/08/2014 

Yes, I kid you not. That’s the actual title of the article – and it is not satire. It’s a good faith effort trying to explain to users of the mentioned Samsung devices where they stand and what to expect regarding the latest Android OS update (4.4 or “KitKat”). By the author’s own description:

We want to help make things easier and here, all in one place, we take a look at everything there is to know.

The article, to “make things easier,” is over 1600 words – just to attempt to describe the situation for a few devices from one Android manufacturer.

And in the end, the poor author can’t actually provide specifics. That’s because no one knows. There are too many factors at play:

  1. First, there’s Google’s release of the new Android version
  2. Next. there’s the device and the manufacturer’s official port of the new Android version to that device
  3. Finally, there’s the carrier and their decision to rollout that version

The last two are out of Google or Android’s control. Google released Android 4.4 in October 2013 according to wikipedia and almost six months later, users of the above mentioned flagship devices are told:

At this point, it’s best to temper expectations and keep those fingers crossed.

If this is the experience for flagship devices, what must it be like for those using lesser Android phones?

This is in stark contrast to iOS where new updates are immediately available to every compatible device. You don’t have to check with your carrier. You simply download and install the new version.

The latest iOS 7.1 supports all but the oldest iPhone models. The 3GS can’t run iOS 7, but it was released in 2009 and was discontinued in 2012 (it is still supported by Apple even though it doesn’t run iOS 7 and it continues to receive updates for iOS 6 to this day). iOS 7 is supported on models all the way back to iPhone 4 which was released in 2010 and is almost four years old.

The Galaxy S3 was released May 2012, a few months before the iPhone 5 (October 2012). Imagine the uproar if iPhone 5 users were still waiting for iOS 7!

 Learn one iPhone, know every iPhone

Likewise, the iOS experience is consistent across iPhone models, independent of the carrier. There might be differences due to hardware, such as some models have a front and back camera while others don’t, camera flash etc. But beyond that, iOS is iOS and if you get comfortable with it on one iPhone you will have few things to figure out on a different iPhone model. Whereas on Android, knowing one version on one device doesn’t mean you will not be left feeling like a beginner again on the next device – even if those two devices have the same Android version. That’s because both the manufacturer and the carrier may add their own customizations or “skins” to stock Android. In fact, they all do it. Sometimes these customizations (vendors call them “improvements”) are minor but in many cases they can be pretty dramatic. With iOS, if you learned a feature or setting on one device, you will find the same setting or feature in the same place on another iOS device. Not so with Android. It can be like starting all over again with every update or with every manufacturer – it can be very frustrating.

 OS Updates also keep the ecosystem vibrant

Within a few weeks of iOS 7 becoming available, it was already installed on 75% of iOS devices. As of March 24, 2014 iOS 7 adoption is at 87%. In contrast, KitKat, released about the same time by Google, sits at just 5% adoption. Rapid and widespread adoption is something iOS app developers can rely on and must respond to. If you’re a developer and your app doesn’t work with the new iOS version, you’re going to be in trouble. Developers adapt rapidly to new iOS updates, providing support and compatibility, but also taking advantage of new features and capabilities. This keeps apps fresh and ensures deadbeat developers fall out of favor.

Android developers, on the other hand, have tougher choices. You can’t require the latest OS and exclude some 90%+ of your customers. This means apps that take advantage of the latest Android features tend to roll out slower, if at all.

This is one of these things that doesn’t show up in the spec. sheets. These practical real-world issues can play a much bigger role in the overall user experience than CPU speed, memory, screen-size or other technical specs. and jargon.