Has the Iphone really been designed for the free flow of media? As a ‘locked’ device, or in other words, a smartphone that cannot be modified through coding like a laptop or desktop can be, it seems that it is limited in its use. Fundamental to its design is its software, which only allows Itunes App Store apps to be downloaded onto the operating system and which has always operated in a very specific way, central to the Iphone brand.
In opposition to this is the Android (Google) software that is used on many other smartphones such as HTC products. It is an ‘unlocked’ system which has a greater possibility of customisation down to the very code of the software; an ‘open garden’ (1) platform which is not monopolised by one phone company, but by many.
The most important question to ask is not ‘which is better’, but which best ‘empowers’ a user? Which system is more applicable to everyday life; Iphone or Android?
Realistically, most people don’t want to customise coding or change the software they get when they purchase a phone, and they are generally accepting of the standards that the marketers and economists behind smartphone app stores propose. The popularity of the Iphone throughout each of its phases of evolution indicates that despite the invention of Android to rival the device, the ease of use that accompanies the Iphone software, its dependability and its aesthetic value has made it very easy to look past the smartphone’s ‘closed’ capability as a computer. I mean, just look at their sales of the Iphone for the last fiscal quarter; as of January 2012, Apple had shipped 37.04 million Iphones, and it’s only just broken into the Chinese market (a largely untapped sales area insofar).
Whilst Android has clearly proven its popularity, where Android phone sales have recently outsold Iphone sales (see graph, data from Gartner, September 2011), its App store and Linux based system raises problems with security. While Apple’s purposely ‘locked’ Iphone software has proven that it can protect our identities and phones, the Android system has illustrated that malware and data stealing apps, amongst other shady applications that float about on their market, can easily infiltrate Android phones and cause them to get viruses and to crash. As this article shows, Fortinet, a security vendor, has tracked malware families, and between 2010 and 2011, in line with Android’s increasing popularity, there was a 90% jump in malware families.
In terms of the ‘usability’ of IPhones… Well Apple’s safe-sharing, completely integrated network of products that are as easy as ever to link using ICloud, shows what real content flow really looks like. The nature of the smartphone is to be able to do everything in one place, but then also to share the content you accumulate on the phone across other media platforms, which are alternatively designed in exactly the same way. Apple makes this easy by monopolising the market… Isn’t it easier to just buy Apple everything so that your music can be on every device in an instant, you can access your photo and video collection that’s on your laptop through ICloud, and keep a compendium of favourite websites like Twitter and Facebook constantly running through the Wi-Fi throughout the day?
In terms of media convergence, Iphone is a definite winner. And in terms of the way it empowers us? Despite the fact that you are locked into buying apps from the app store, anyone can download an app creation kit, and generally, it seems that as long as your creation is not of an inappropriate nature, you can upload it to the Itunes store.
So I’d have to say that despite the fact that Apple has created a ‘locked’ appliance, it is great at empowering users in everyday life.
What do you say?
(1) Mitew, T 2012 I love gadgets: platforms, permissions and ideologies in technological convergence, lecture, BCM112, University of Wollongong, delivered 19/03/12