Is Apple's svelte, skinny iPhone 5 strong enough to fend off the challenge from the big, bold Android muscle phone?
Smartphone deathmatch: Application support
Another area where Android has come a long way is apps. The selection in Google Play is now quite large, especially for content-oriented apps and gaming. It's also easier now to buy an app on your desktop and send it to your Android devices. But some apps aren't compatible with all Android devices, given the wide range of Android versions and other customizations in the Android universe. Version compatibility is an issue with iOS, as well, but much less so. If you buy an app for iOS, you can get it instantly on all your devices -- no need to install on each independently.
There are more, better apps on iOS related to business productivity. For example, Android has just Quickoffice and the weaker Documents to Go. iOS has those two plus Apple's solid iWork. (The productivity app selection for the iPad is even better.) There are many great apps for photo editing, drawing, music editing and creation, and so on in iOS than in Android.
Both the iPhone 5 and the Galaxy S III support dictation, as long as you have a live Internet connection, and both have a voice-based assistant. Apple's Siri service on the iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, and (if you're running iOS 6) third-gen iPad responds to questions and can take actions based on your voice commands.
The stock Android OS has long offered simpler voice command support, but Samsung has augmented it with the "Siri light" S Voice feature. Samsung's S Voice has been improved since its launch to be more like Siri, able to answer questions such as "What is 2 plus 2?" and "How do I get to San Jose?" But in the InfoWorld Test Center's tests, Siri is faster, more accurate, and more contextual in its responses than S Voice is. Android 4.1 "Jelly Bean" promises to improve Android's voice features, and Samsung says the Galaxy S III will get "Jelly Bean" by January.
Apple's AirPrint protocol is reliable and widely supported in apps and many printers, and AirPrint is easy to add to your network even if your printers don't support it. Android has no such simple printing facility.
Apple's big app gap is in maps and navigation. iOS 6 replaced Google Maps with Apple's own service, and it doesn't work very well. CEO Tim Cook last week apolgized for the mess and recommended that iPhone users switch to competing services until Apple fixes the problem. One of his recommendations matches mine: the free Waze. It's even better than the built-in navigation app in Android.
The iPhone both legitimized and popularized the whole notion of mobile apps, and five years later, no one yet does it better.
Smartphone deathmatch: Security and management
Another area where Android has historically lagged is in business-grade security and management. iOS 4 in 2010 swept aside the limitations that kept most organizations wedded to the BlackBerry; as a result, the iPhone has become the de facto corporate standard at most businesses. Meanwhile, IT folks who now accept iPhones as legitimate business devices want nothing to do with Android.
That prejudice is a bit unfair. Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich," which the Galaxy S III uses, put in the basics that businesses want: on-device encryption and support for the most-used Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) policies. Samsung and Motorola Mobility both produce business-capable devices using these features as the norm.
iOS does have better VPN compatibility than Android does, and many Android devices have difficulty connecting to PEAP-secured Wi-Fi networks. The Galaxy S III isn't one of them, but it shares the more limited VPN compatibility of other Android devices, especially with Cisco IPSec VPNs. Fortunately, Cisco has a free AnyConnect VPN app in the Google Play market that overcomes those compatibility issues for its VPNs -- but you need to pay for a client license for it to work.
The Google Play market is full of malware, unlike the Apple App Store, so Android devices are inherently riskier to bring into a business environment. But the major mobile device management (MDM) vendors offer Android clients to provide secured apps for business email and related information, and there are efforts afoot to create a highly secure version of Android that the U.S. defense agencies could use. Samsung provides strong security in the Android context, and with the right management tools, the Galaxy S III can be safely used and properly managed.
Still, the iPhone 5 -- like any iPhone -- is business-ready without the uncertainties and variabilities of Android. Apple is good about adding management hooks for iOS's new capabilities, as it has done again in iOS 6.
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