SDK showdown: iPhone vs. Android

Mobile applications developers discuss how each platform’s SDK stacks up

In this corner: the current champion of the mobile phone market, the iPhone. In the other corner: a scrappy open source challenger, Android.

While the iPhone has without a doubt been the big success story of the past year in the mobile phone world, many other companies are planning to release similar devices this year to challenge its status as the undisputed king of smartphones. Some of the more intriguing competitors for the iPhone will be those devices that are powered by Android, Google's open source mobile platform.

Google said in November that it developed Android to spur innovation among developers to create applications for mobile phones that wouldn't be exclusive to particular carriers or devices. In contrast to the iPhone, which developers previously had to unlock in order to create and distribute their own applications, Google said that Android would create a truly free environment for third-party developers.

Months later, Apple decided that it wanted to encourage third-party application development as well and released its software developers kit (SDK). Additionally, Apple said it would help developers distribute their applications by creating an AppStore that would let consumers browse and purchase individual applications much as they do with music and movies on the iTunes store.

So now that Apple and Google are both openly courting third-party developers to write applications for their platforms, the question becomes just what those platforms offer developers in terms of ease of use, support and distribution models.

Jason Cline, a senior software engineer at Web application developer Sitepen, says that the broad differences between the iPhone and Android SDKs are related to trade-offs between greater freedom and greater accessibility. Thus, for instance, while Apple may control which applications it will allow onto the iPhone, it compensates by having an AppStore that makes distributing and selling the applications a relative snap, says Cline. Additionally, Cline says that the iPhone operating system and presentation is so accessible and user-friendly that it has set the standard for other mobile operating systems.

"Android is a completely open system, while Apple is definitely more of a closed system," he says. "They say, 'Here's a very small box that you can work in.' It's a very nice box that has a lot of nice features, but as a developer, you're a little bit constrained."

Benoit Schillings, CTO for software developer Trolltech, notes that Apple not only gets to pick and choose which applications it will sell in its AppStore but also prevents developers from making applications that modify or compete with existing iPhone applications, such as Web browsers.

"Apple definitely puts restrictions on what kinds of applications can be written," he says. "It blocks the door to Java and other applications frameworks. In their SDK contract, they prevent you from opening up new programming language and they keep control of putting new language on the phone."

The programming language used for each platform is one of the key differences between the iPhone and Android SDKs. Android is a Linux platform that uses Java as its programming language, whereas the iPhone employs a mobile variation of the Mac OS X that uses the Apple-developed Objective-C as its programming language. Hal Steger, vice president of marketing for open source software company Funambol, thinks that Android has the upper hand in this particular matchup since Java is a more widely known programming language.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Brad Reed

Network World
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?