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iPhone OS 4.0: The great Android 2.1 imitator

iPhone OS 4.0: The great Android 2.1 imitator

In April, Apple introduced iPhone OS 4.0. Once the subject of endless speculation and a mountain of rumors, we now know this summer’s newest OS release will feature multitasking, new revenue opportunities for developers and better enterprise support, to name just a few of the new offerings. What struck me about the Apple presentation, however, was not the ingenuity or the originality of the new features. No, what struck me is that I had seen almost all of them before in Android 2.1.

Last year I wrote an article, which explored the nature of the rivalries between the big three: Google, Apple and Microsoft. In that article, I posited that Google’s entry into smartphones, the development of Chrome, and the firm’s titanic efforts in the cloud and with advertising not only obsoleted Microsoft’s presence in these spaces, but elevated Google to Microsoft’s old role as Apple’s arch nemesis.

Nine and change months later in 2010, it has never been more apparent that Apple is out to kill Google, which continues merrily along in the enviable position of legitimately threatening the expansion of Apple’s most lucrative business: The iPhone. You see, it’s a cold day in Hell when Apple deigns to play the “me too” game with another company. With the iPod and more recently with the iPad, Apple conjures a massive, willing market from thin air, and leaves companies like Microsoft and HP scrambling to catch up with the Zune and the Slate, respectively.

While the iPhone has taken a similar course since its 2007 introduction (everyone now has an app store, after all), iPhone OS 4.0 added virtually every feature Android currently wields as an advantage, and little else. That’s rather rare form for a company that regularly impugns other firms for struggling to provide the innovation that Apple has exhibited seemingly at every turn. To support this hypothesis, the following table outlines the new features described by Apple in yesterday’s OS 4 presentation, as well as the status of those features in the Android ecosystem.


iPhone OS 4.0

Android 2.1

Tap to focus
In-app SMS API
Home screen wallpaper
5x digital zoom Varies by phone
Bluetooth keyboard API
Data-only settings
Picture/video API
Recent searches
Alert/SMS font sizes
Background location API
Background task completion
Push notification API Google services only
Location notification API
Suspended background apps
Desktop folders
Home screen wallpaper
Lock screen wallpaper
Unified inbox
Multiple Exchange accounts
On-handset attachment opening
Threaded emails
Encrypted email Possible with API
Encrypted email attachments Possible with API
Centralized device management Possible with API
Exchange 2010 support
Administrative app distribution
Ad infrastructure Only if the FTC approves the Google/AdMob deal
Social gaming network

Based on the body of evidence, I suggest that it is rather difficult to ignore the suspicion that OS 4 is little more than a “me too” update and a check against Android. Diving further into the post-presentation Q&A session, we see several answers from Jobs and other Apple employees that tacitly target Google. For example, on the target of task management, Jobs said that any company that makes users multitask with a task manager has already failed. Guess what Android uses?

Next, on the topic of advertising, Jobs was clearly bristling that Google swooped in and purchased AdMob as Apple was trying to court the company for mobile advertising. Apple was forced to buy the much smaller Quattro Wireless instead. Jobs also defended against a request for unsigned applications by obtusely citing a porn app for Android, rather than the many amazing apps that have been made possible by the open development environment.

Final thoughts

Though the iPhone has lorded over the land for nearly three years as the reigning king of smartphone sales, Android has grown from a plucky upstart to a serious concern for Apple. In fact, as of February, 2010, Android more than doubled its market share to 9% in a span of just three months, and it continues to climb. This incredible growth comes primarily at the expense of Windows Mobile and webOS, but it’s also one of the few times the iPhone has failed to gain ground; the iPhone actually fell 0.1% in the same time period.

Another study conducted by ChangeWave in December showed that future smartphone buyers considering Android for their next purchase more than tripled to 21% over the course of four months. Customer satisfaction, too, was at an all-time high of 72%, just five percent less than that of the iPhone. This is a serious breach of mindshare for Apple, which once stood alone in these respects.

Finally, Android represents a cultural threat to Apple, as it too attracts affluent, Internet savvy consumers that are more likely to pay for frequent upgrades. This makes Android a concern in a way Palm and Microsoft are not, even if the latter is also flush with cash.

With Google closing in on Apple’s customers, prestige and revenue, it’s no surprise that Apple cracked and played follow the leader with iPhone OS 4.0. It had to. Android is a threat that Cupertino no longer has the luxury to ignore.


  1. Snarkasm
    Snarkasm Great article, and true; Apple brought nothing new to the table aside from the interesting move with the ad services.

    Couple of notes, though:

    Android can receive push alerts for non-Google services - Exchange, for example, definitely allows a push setting. Unless I've misunderstood you here...

    As for iBooks, it's true Android doesn't have that specific application, but it does have its own e-book readers that support the e-pub format and more.

    And I admit I'm not sure what the "Wireless app distribution" entry on the table is. Surely they don't mean the ability to download and install applications via wireless, which they both have, so... what's the deal on this one?

    Thanks for the nice outline here.
  2. Thrax
    Thrax Anything that isn't a Google service uses poll or pull. It's quite quick, yes, but it is not a push notification. To put it more precisely, I believe Exchange uses the "IMAP idle" function, which BlackBerry once used before switching over to push/BES.

    For your second point: iPhone OS 4.0 allows enterprises to centrally distribute apps to phones wirelessly. Companies will not need to use iTunes. This will not allow unsigned apps, as companies will need Apple-provided certificates to push these apps to their users, but it's something that Android cannot do.

    I have revised the text of that entry for clarity. 'Preciate the feedback. :)
  3. Snarkasm
    Snarkasm Sneaky. They call it "As items arrive (push)", but it looks like you're right. Lots of chatter about how to mimic push, nothing about true.

    Nice that Apple will allow app distribution that doesn't require placement in the App Store; my company built an iPhone app that had to be distributed via the App Store, and it always seemed an interesting security paradox to me.
  4. Nerdrow So, Moxier Mail for Android, which is a 3rd-party Exchange client using the public API's available since Android 1.0, that uses the officially licensed Microsoft ActiveSync protocol for push email, isn't push? Or is all of this only related to apps installed on the base image of stock Android?

    Also, how does Android require a task manager to multi-task? Here's a nice diagram of the Android Activity lifecycle, no task manager involved at any point: http://developer.android.com/reference/android/app/Activity.html. Is this referring to the recent tasks activity that pops up when you long-press the home button and shows the 6 most recently launched apps?
  5. Snarkasm
    Snarkasm Android doesn't require a task manager to multitask; Steve's jab was that the phone should take care of it, a user should never have to see a task manager.

    I, for one, am happy we have the option of having and using a task manager - I want to control my device, not somebody else. I didn't, however, notice the home/recent apps action - thanks for that tip. :D
  6. jpparker88
    jpparker88 Problem that i see with 4.0 is that it gives nothing much to the people who have jailbroken their devices. I already have a wallpaper and a multitask program with no task manager, it would be nice if i did have one otherwise i have to remember what i have running. I do like the apps not having to go through the store though.
    I've used the android OS a couple time and like the interface much better than iphone. And the whole use the newest hardware of your sol is gonna piss off a lot of people.
  7. Tim
    Tim iPhone, Android, smartphones in general, who REALLY NEEDS any of them? I still have my old Verizon VX-8300, in May it'll be 3 years old and it does everything I need it to, which is to send and receive phone calls and the occassional text message.
  8. primesuspect
    primesuspect I need my smartphone. I get actual work done with it, Tim. Sometimes you need the internet when all you have is your phone, and hey... there are people whose jobs are on the internet... :rolleyes:
  9. Thrax
    Thrax Some of us actually have jobs that require the Internet, Tim. Have fun being a Luddite, but I actually need a smartphone every day.
  10. Ryder
    Ryder 100% of my contact with customers is through email and on forums. Being tied to my chair all day, no thanks.
  11. BlackHawk
    BlackHawk Just to stack it up, I also need internet on my phone since I'm a courier. Without internet I wouldn't be able to look up companies, phone numbers, and directions. I also have TomTom on my phone and I don't need a separate GPS unit.
  12. Tim
    Tim Yes, there are people who really DO need a smartphone, but there are many people who have one who don't need it. You've seen them walking around. They are suckers for all the slick marketing and tv ads. I see people all the time with their ear mounted bluetooth things, and I know very well they aren't going to be getting any important calls from the president. Some of them don't even have jobs. Or kids, or anything else of significant importance in their lives that necessitates a smartphone.

    It annoys me to see so many falling for the marketing BS and dumping tons of money to big companies for stuff they don't need like this.

    People need to think for themselves more and don't let the television tell you what you need to be in style, hip, trendy, or up to date.
  13. Thrax
    Tim wrote:

  14. Alex Tim,

    I really disagree,
    Your saying that people only should buy stuff that they really need.

    Do you really need a tv?
    Do you really need a playstation or xbox?

    People can buy things like smartphone because they enjoy all the features it provides.

    I dont NEED it, but i sure cant life without it anymore.
    for me its a pleasure to have my email with me all the time, to have all the nice apps that make it more fun and actually are useful in certain situations.

    Like a atm app that tells you were the nearest atm machine is via google maps.
    very useful if your not a local.

    So i dont understand why you are so annoyd by this.

    just because you dont feel like owning a smartphone.

    Concerning the iphone - android article..
    very true, iphone is feeling android is gaining on them.
    android has the advantage of having different types of hardware.
    i dont like the look and the size of the iphone.
    but if i want an iphone, i have no choice.

    android does give me a choice.

    android ftw
  15. Hamish Call me a Google fanboy, but this makes me so happy.
    I can't wait for the day Apple burns (again) Such a dirty, greedy company.

    It's a shame though - because the opposite end of the scale (the Apple fanboys & iPhone zombies) probably have little or no idea what android is. they'll never be exposed to it because they believe that Apple are the only option out there.
  16. ardichoke
    ardichoke Android may not have push built in... but it does have K-9 mail which supports the IMAP push protocol. My Nexus One actually gets work email before my desktop does. It's kind of nuts.
  17. Kwitko
    Kwitko Yes, there are people who really DO need to play WoW, but there are many people who play it who don't need to. You've seen them. They are suckers for all the slick marketing and tv ads. I see people all the time with their level 70 druids, and I know very well they aren't going to be going on any important raids with the president. Some of them even have jobs. And kids, or anything else of significant importance in their lives that doesn't necessitate WoW.

    It annoys me to see so many falling for the marketing BS and dumping tons of money to big companies for stuff they don't need like this.

    People need to think for themselves more and don't let the television tell you what you need to be in style, hip, trendy, or up to date.
  18. Chris Wilson @Thrax,

    Android, by default, does not ship with a Task Manager. It can be added in through many freeware add-ons, but out of the box it doesn't have one.

    Also, Jailbroken iPhones have a task manager, even if they don't have Backgroundr to do multi-processing. And there is an App like iStat Nano for the iPhone, which features a task manager amongst its swiss-army knife of app tools.

    So I guess neither platform has failed, unless you choose to install something to make it "fail".
  19. Snarkasm
    Snarkasm There's a form of task manager if you go into the settings - you can go to application management and view the resources it's using, force it to close, and uninstall it. That's the default task management.

    There are easier options (TasKiller, Advanced Task Killer, etc), but it does come with one.
  20. Thrax
    Thrax As Snarkasm has said, Android has a task manager in its menus, and it also has an application-swtching interface when you press and hold on the desktop.

    Jailbroken iPhones are also immaterial to the discussion, because they violate numerous carrier and vendor policies.
  21. ardichoke
    ardichoke I thought Android's application-switching interface was when you press and hold the home button ;)
  22. joe 20 years ago I get news from news paper but today I get news instantly on my smartphone. I stay connected with my family with Facebook through my smartphone. Yes, I still can do all that with my old land line phone and newspapers but I don't.
  23. Yeah right This article is absurdly biased, that feature list includes tons of features that were NOT new to iOS 4 and some that have actually been around since pre-3.x.x and beyond...

    Tap to focus has been around since 3.x, home screen wallpaper is listed twice, lock screen wallpaper has been included from the first second, every multitasking API is listed individually, recent searches isn't new, and data-only settings have been around forever. You're making yourself look silly to anyone who isn't biased and knows the ins-and-outs of each device.
  24. Yeah right Also: "growing dominance" haha let's be serious here... I support trying to get Android out there for some competition and like the OS but articles like this don't help your case.
  25. ardichoke
    ardichoke Hate to burst your bubble there Apple troll, but Android is quickly becoming quite dominant. As of the last quarter, it is now the 2nd fastest selling smartphone platform on the market behind Blackberry (which has been steadily declining for at least the past year). iPhone is a lowly 3rd, lagging 7% behind Android. Don't believe me? Read it and weep: http://www.pcworld.com/article/195958/android_outsells_apple_iphone_at_last_says_npd.html
  26. Annes
    Annes I hate that article. People keep mentioning it. You mean an OS installed on many phones on many carriers is outselling the OS of only one phone on only one carrier?!??! MADNESS.
  27. Yeah right Typical android fanboy response, call me a troll then bust out some miniscule irrelevant fact while ignoring the rest of my post.

    Pro-tip: 2nd fastest selling != "dominance".

    Again, I support you all fighting the good fight and I used to be right there with you, but acting like this and publishing blatantly false information is only serving to set you guys back and make it look like you have something to prove instead of letting Android's features do it's talking.
  28. Thrax
    Annes wrote:
    I hate that article. People keep mentioning it. You mean an OS installed on many phones on many carriers is outselling the OS of only one phone on only one carrier?!??! MADNESS.

    It proves plenty. WinMo, anybody? Three times as old as Android, more handsets, more carriers offer phones, and it still isn't a blip on the radar.
  29. ardichoke
    ardichoke It stands to reason that the faster a platform is growing (all other things held equal), the more likely it is that developers will develop for that platform. At least if I was a developer, that's what I would do. It stands to reason then, that Android outselling iPhone will result in wider adoption from an application sense. Which then fuels more sales and can potentially turn into one large feedback loop of sales -> developer support -> improved ecosystem -> sales. Apple has hamstrung itself by tying the iPhone to one carrier and being ridiculously anti-consumer with their policies on it, and they're going to reap what they've sewn.
  30. Yeah right Completely different argument. No one is going to refute my argument about the chart? Exactly, because I'm right, I don't care; it's just hilarious that you went as far to make a grossly biased chart because none of you can stand Apple is simply marketing and they make money from it... It's business and they simply do it better than the others.

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