Apple’s senior vice president of marketing Phil Schiller tried to make the case last night to the Wall Street Journal that Android users "suffer in part because different elements come from multiple companies." Really Phil?
On examination, Mr. Schiller’s assertion does not holdup. Apple’s iOS is a branch, called a fork, of BSD Free Unix. Android is a fork of the Linux Kernel 2.6 that is a descendant of Unix. And in all iOS smart mobile devices, the processor is licensed from ARM. In most Android smart mobile devices, with the exception of a small but growing Intel Atom segment, the processor is licensed from ARM. In the tear-downs of iOS devices compared to Android devices, one finds a very similar set of components from companies such as STMicroelectronics, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, Broadcom and Samsung. The implementations of the Apple A4, A5 and A6 processors are licensed from ARM and built by Samsung. The biggest similarity between the teardowns of iOS and Android devices is that none of the components are built by either Apple or Android’s OS partner Google.
The hardware and operating systems used by both families of devices are very similar. If one were using a system of biological classification, they would be the same species. What is different is the tool chains used to develop apps for the two environments. iOS employs one based on Objective C, and Android on Java. The availability of Android source code is also a difference. iOS source is not available, whereas Android source code is useful.
Android source code is very helpful for developers who want to understand the interaction of their app and the operating system to debug or optimize it. Developers building apps that require an operating system function that is not part of Android can use the source code to create the needed function and merge it into their own version of Android, called a ROM, and distribute it with their app.
Because Android source is available, hardware manufacturers can build devices for many different types of customers. Older versions of Android, such as Gingerbread, persist because they are tied to very low-cost hardware platforms. Phil Schiller and Apple does benefit from this, but not as much as Google. Schiller cited "Apple's own research shows that four times as many iPhone users switched from an Android phone than to an Android phone in the fourth quarter," which intuitively can’t be true when compared to IDC's stats that showed Android’s market share has grown to 70% while Apple’s dropped to 19%. He is right, however, in describing the benefit that Apple receives from Android initiating feature phone users to provide their first low-cost Android smartphone, who would never have purchased an iPhone because of its high price.
Schiller’s comment that "Android is often given as a free replacement for a feature phone and the experience isn't as good as an iPhone" should be amended to include that the free Android replacements are not as good, and therefore not as relevant, as those that actually compete with the iPhone: the Galaxy SIII, the Nexus 4, or HTC One.
The spoiler alert is that Schiller and Apple are actually worried about the Samsung Galaxy 4 announcement later today at Radio City Music Hall, because the iPhone 6 is not ready to be announced and he wants to keep everyone out of the theatre.