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iOS vs. Android: The Difference Between Today’s Top Mobile Operating Systems

The common smartphone or tablet user typically knows very little about the core technical attributes of their device’s operating system. Whether you’re a device guru or an informed consumer, the major differences and similarities in these operating systems may surprise you.

The Origins of iOS and Android

Both iOS and Android are derived from UNIX. While Android is based more so
on Linux, iOS is based on its Desktop system MacOSX which is originally based on Darwin and as such, has a UNIX origin. While UNIX has long existed in open source and enterprise platforms, Linux branched from this platform and has become the most popular Desktop platform among open source users today. Apple originally derived OSX based on the Mach kernel and code implementations taken from FreeBSD and NetBSD. Linux in itself is a kernel and is combined with GNU to produce today’s Linux operating systems. Regardless of their directional approaches, both iOS and Android are based on UNIX and Linux.

Staying True To their Roots

Although both systems originated from open source code that was released under the GPL (General Public License), Apple holds the iOS platform as proprietary and closed source software controlled completely by the Apple company. Android on the other hand, remains true to its roots while being backed by Google’s open source development. While developers are free to make applications for either platform, the Android operating system can be modified by anyone because it upholds the open source principles that it was originally developed under. Apple on the other hand, used those principles to develop iOS and then release it as a proprietary closed source platform.

The Development Point of View

Among developers, Apple’s iOS isn’t considered the friendliest platform to make new applications for. iOS uses a layered aspect that seperates the system’s core from its other layers. This can make developing some applications quite challenging. Android developers however, have the luxury of a freely available SDK. This provides a straight forward API that produces a universal development standard. From a development perspective, this makes Android far more user friendly to developers while ensuring new programs adhere to a universal compatibility standard.

How Android And iOS Differs For Users

For most people, the important differences are features, usability, application availability and performance. Both operating systems provide the functionality needed by today’s device users, but there are some very unique differences. A common complaint among all iOS user is the lack of control. Up until this year, the ability to kill (completely shutdown) an application process required the application had the ability. iOS recently introduced task managers, a feature Android has made use of for several years.

No matter how powerful the device hardware is, if applications are allowed to run indefinitely, processor and memory usage will result in a sluggish performance of the device. This makes the ability to control your processes of great importance on mobile operating systems.

Today’s mobile device users have a high focus on music and sound. While iOS requires all music be placed on the device via iTunes, the Android platform allows you to simply put mp3 files on your device by hooking it to your computer via USB. The device will be recognized as a storage area and you can transfer music, video or images directly to the device without using additional software.

When it comes down to it, there is one ultimate difference between iOS and Android. That difference is control. While Apple strives to keep control over iOS functions, Android is a “for the people” operating system that remains true to typical open source standards. While both platforms can essentially “DO” many of the same things, the user and developer’s ability to make these things happen differ greatly.

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About Allen Morey

Allen Morey is a freelance writer and co-developer of . His industry experience includes system administration, web design, SEO and marketing. Visit on Google+ for more information.


  1. I’m lost. Totally, and utterly lost. They ALL have control over me…..Android, iOS…I am the technological equivalent of a cave-woman. What is comes right down to it for me, is: WHICH one is better???


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