Apple vs. Android: Why Tim Cook Was Right to Slam Google

Source: applecom. 

Last week was all about Apple  (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) as the company held its annual developers conference. CEO Tim Cook used his keynote address to take swipes at Microsoft and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG  ) . But while the criticisms were accurate (and hit the nail on the head), Cook's complaints against the Android operating system won't cause Google to lose market share anytime soon. So what exactly did Tim Cook say -- and why doesn't it matter?

Cook made several comments about Google's Android. The one about China was downright misleading. Cook boasted that almost half of Apple's customers in China had switched from Android to an iPhone. Cook neglected to include the fact that Apple only began a major iPhone push in that country late last year, so it stands to reason that customers would jump at the chance to try an Android alternative. But Cook's other Google criticisms were more on point.

Google's low adoption for newer Android
Cook's key Google criticisms came down to newer versions of Android having a lower adoption rate and that the Google Play app store isn't as well monitored as Apple's. 

The slide Cook showed for adoption rates pointed out that only about 9% of Android users have installed version 4.4, the newest release that goes by the nickname KitKat. Cook then pointed out that iOS 7, which was released a mere month earlier than KitKat last fall, is present in about 89% of iPhones. 

Is that true? 

According to data Google collected during a recent seven-day period, KitKat represented nearly 14% of Android version distribution. Jelly Bean, which was released in 2012, had the highest distribution with 58% across its three versions. But that data came out after Cook's keynote and still supports his general notion: older versions of Android have far more users than newer versions.


But one of the reasons that Android has leapt ahead of Apple's iOS in market share is that Android comes with phones of all shapes and prices. So newer, high-end Android phones will have KitKat installed. But cheaper devices -- including the Moto X and the lower-tier prepaid phones available from StraightTalk -- will run Jelly Bean or earlier. 

And that tactic has given Google a large advantage. According to Gartner, Android phones held 78% of the worldwide smartphone market last year. Apple came in second with about 16%.

But Tim Cook did make a better point with his Android security comments.

Android more prone to malware
Cook claimed that 99% of mobile malware occurs on the Android platform. He followed with a slide quoting ZDNet's Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, who wrote: "Android fragmentation is turning devices into a toxic hellstew of vulnerabilities." 

And neither Cook nor Kingsley-Hughes is wrong that Android has far more security problems than iOS devices. Part of that does come from the fragmentation (or the coexistence) of too many versions at one time, but Android's app store was built with an eye toward open source and personalization. So Google doesn't have as rigorous of a screening process as Apple and that can lead to security issues. 

But Android users with KitKat who use the app store with the same responsibility of web surfing -- or not clicking a link in an email from a Nigerian prince -- aren't likely to run into a major problem with an Android device. Many users of low-end Android devices simply can't shell out the money required for an iPhone, and have to live with the app store's positive and negative aspects. 

Foolish final thoughts 
Tim Cook made a good point against Google but it won't help Apple bulldoze Android's market share. Android has too many devices across price ranges that can appeal to a wider audience. That's not to say Android doesn't have some glaring flaws, but Apple shouldn't throw stones in glass houses ... lest someone point out the Maps problem, to name one flub. 

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Read/Post Comments (6) | Recommend This Article (2)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On June 09, 2014, at 11:18 AM, charlenekow wrote:

    Tim Cook's comments are misleading, at best, about the malware issue. Malware is a serious issue if you buy outside the Google Play store. It is virtually nonexistent inside the Google Play store.

    As for "the latest release" gig - KitKat is a minor release. If you look at the numbers per every generation, you note that the 4.x version dominates adoption at 84.3% - not far from where iOS 7 is.

    The real reasons, however, why Apple won't be crushing Google's market share, is because Android's features continue to remain way ahead of Apple's, and the phone caters to people who like more freedom to tinker. And it can appear on affordable phones. The iPhone is a good product, but it not worth the price difference. If you want a flashy phone that indicates status, buy a Vertu.

    As for the Moto X - I own one, I just bought it a couple of weeks ago, and it came with KitKat installed. Not only that, but Motorola itself is pushing updates at a furious pace, already getting the latest minor release out to its customers on the X, G and the E. Get your facts straight.

  • Report this Comment On June 09, 2014, at 12:35 PM, JohnyRoberts wrote:

    >> So newer, high-end Android phones will have KitKat installed.

    >> But cheaper devices -- including the Moto X

    Actually, this is not true. Motorola is doing a bang up job of getting the latest versions of the OS on its phones. And the Moto X/G and E are some of the lower cost Android devices. As are the Nexus devices. And even though Moto is now a Google company, it's executives complain (somewhat bitterly) that Google is keeping a chinese wall between the two entities and they now have worse access than before they were acquired by Google. I hope Moto continues with this attitude.

    Price generally has had less to do with OS updates really than attitude. Manufacturers that value customer satisfaction are more likely to provide updates than those that don't. I'm seeing encouraging signs from some traditional laggards like LG. Samsung is somewhat middle of the pack and HTC brings along the rear.

    This is definitely one area Apple should be deservedly proud of.

    Having said that, things are a little more nuanced.

    All though iPhones update to the latest OS. Not all features of an OS are available on earlier phones. And device capability is certainly not the reason. eg. There was no reason why the iPhone 4 could not get turn-by-turn navigation with iOS4 when an earlier and inferior device in the original Moto Droid could manage that wonderfully. When Android gets an upgrade the device gets the full OS. With iOS lately, there is always feature fragmentation.

    And on the Android side as well, it's not all black and white. Google is continuously updating its apps and the Play Services so you don't see one Big Bang OS update, but constant updates throughout the year.

  • Report this Comment On June 09, 2014, at 2:54 PM, symbolset wrote:

    85% of Android devices are on version 4+, and getting most of their updates through Google Play services, which works around slow carrier updates for security issues. Far less than 1% of Android users have malware issues if they stick to official sources, so this is pretty good too.

    Tim Cook should not have said this. There are more than 6 times as many people who have never had a problem with their android device than Apple has sold mobile devices all together.

  • Report this Comment On June 09, 2014, at 6:19 PM, alderran wrote:

    Apple is losing so of course they lash out. How's the thermonuclear war going? Android is what 80% of the market? Guess the war isn't going so well

  • Report this Comment On June 10, 2014, at 2:49 AM, solarfuture wrote:

    Tim Cook is a liar and a loser. This is from a JR Raphael article:

    Apple tends to stick to the traditional approach of updating its software in giant chunks a couple times a year -- and consequently, its idea of an "upgrade" revolves around those major releases. Google, on the other hand, has actually unbundled most of its key system components from the core OS so it can update them far more frequently, bit by bit (and in a way that reaches all users at the same time, regardless of what type of device they have).

    Services ranging from the system keyboard to the search/voice control app, Web browser, messaging and email apps, and calendar are all maintained via Google's Play Store, which means they can be updated with a moment's notice just like any regular app. Even behind-the-scenes components like Google's Play Services are now updated frequently in this a-la-carte manner, allowing significant new functionality to be rolled out universally throughout the year and independent of formal OS releases.

    Think about it this way: Over the last month alone, this decentralized system has provided Android users -- anyone with a device running software from 2011 or later (95% of ALL Android devices) -- with a refreshed Gmail app, a rewritten music app, an on-demand music streaming service, a new universal messaging system, a new series of context-sensitive Google Now commands, a new and improved Google Maps, a new version of Google+ with advanced and automated photo manipulation tools, a new universal gaming center, an updated Calendar app, and an updated system keyboard. That's enough stuff to amount to a major update in Appleland -- and with Android, it happened outside of any such parameters. And 85% run 4.x or higher. Read the link below and you too will understand why Tim Cook and Apple are full of it

  • Report this Comment On June 11, 2014, at 7:02 AM, BigDady wrote:

    In business as well as politics when your losing you attack the guys that are winning so I will take that as a good sign for Google I bet he didn't have anything to say about BlackBerry.

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Brandy Betz has written for The Motley Fool since 2011 and primarily covers health care, ETFs, and dividend stocks. You can follow her on Twitter @BrandyBetz.

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