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.