As hardware innovations continue to push mobile devices into new areas of modern life, it's sometimes hard to guess where exactly the future is taking our favorite operating systems. Steve Cheney, the head of business development at GroupMe, has published a blog entry examining what lays ahead for iOS and Android based on their recent developments and current hindrances.
iOS and Android are moving beyond mobile, with advancements in mobile now driving the progress of all hardware and software. Android is growing worldwide, but studies show its popularity is in decline after topping off in the US. While Android's mobile market share may be taking a hit, the OS is taking off on tablets and low-resource computers. Much in the same way that Linux has been a popular open-source OS for over a decade, Android is positioning itself to be an open-source OS player on non-mobile devices in the future.
Meanwhile the great strength of Apple's iOS products is their consistency and battery life. The integrated hardware and software of iOS devices will likely help maintain a performance advantage over Android, tweaking and optimizing chips to work with iOS software in a power-conscious manor.
Android is still struggling to deal with the repercussions of having an open ecosystem, with OS fragmentation perhaps one of the most prevalent issues. Apple's integrated ecosystem allows developers to be given access to the system's APIs, leading to more stable and consistent apps. The controlled ecosystem allows Apple to launch backward-compatible updates like iOS 7 across old and new hardware alike. A majority of Apple users have an iPhone 4S or higher, meaning that when new features like AirDrop are launched in iOS 7, almost the entire user base will suddenly have access to these capabilities.
Meanwhile Cheney claims that only 30 percent of Android users upgrade, or are even able to upgrade, to new Android releases within a year of launch. The staggering of software upgrades creates a slow adoption of services thanks to an effective 12- to 24-month gap behind iOS users for the latest updates. Developers aren't going to start development of an app with Android when they can't count on a majority of its users being able to use it. They'll start with the less chaotic world of iOS.
Cheney sees the issue of fragmentation as the biggest obstacle facing Android in the future. It isn't worth a developer's time to create different versions of cutting-edge apps to ensure that they'll work with every different variation of Android device in the ecosystem. Cheney points to Tile's recent US$3 million fundraising boom and its lack of Android support as an example of just one area where developers are already focusing just on iOS.
Head over to Cheney's blog for his in-depth look at where the future of mobile operating systems appears to be heading. It paints a fascinating view of mobile computing's near future.