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Apple's iOS 9 Passes Google's Android in 48 Hours: Here's Why It Matters

By Jamal Carnette, CFA - Sep 23, 2015 at 8:00PM

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There are benefits to Google Android's fragmentation; this is not one of them.

Source: Apple

Although there have been reports of a sluggish, slow experience, Apple's (AAPL 4.08%) iOS 9 has had a strong uptake. As of the 44-hour mark, 20.1% of all iOS devices are running the new operating system according to data from Mixpanel, a figure similar to the previous version: iOS 8. It should be noted, however, both of these numbers are far behind iOS 7's figure of 43% at the same time frame.

Although it's important to take note of uptake figures via iteration, mostly to discern trends, it's important to note Apple's only in competition with itself as far as upgrade time frames go. When compared to the market share leader, Google's (GOOG 4.16%) (GOOGL 4.20%) Android, the competition isn't even close.

Specifically, when compared to Google's newest version of its operating system -- Lollipop -- Apple's in a much-stronger position in terms of upgraders. For a comparison, as of the 48-hour mark, 22% of all iOS users upgraded to iOS 9. That figure is similar to the number of Android consumers that are running Lollipop over prior versions -- the problem is Lollipop has been on the market for nearly a year.

The oft-referenced fragmentation problem
Although Apple's iOS is actually an older mobile operating system, Android is by far the dominant version in terms of market share. In IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, Android racked up a massive 82.8% market share in the recently reported second quarter. Apple's iOS came in a distant second with 13.9% of the market. And while this seems like a strength for Android, and it is in many aspects, there's a seemingly negative side to its success.

Unlike Apple, which maintains a tight control of all facets of hardware, software, and ecosystem (outside of the actual apps themselves), Google grew by making its underlying Android open-source and working with a disparate group of handset makers, instead choosing to control the ecosystem through its application programming interfaces, or APIs, that it uses to ensure its host of Google services are used on most phones.

The upside to this approach is it spurs innovation and collaboration (remember Microsoft's dominance over Apple in the 90s with PCs?), the downside is it introduces fragmentation and can result in an uneven and varied customer experience. And there's probably no better example of fragmentation than Android upgrades.

For Android users wondering why Lollipop is still not available for their phone, check out this graphic from vendor HTC. You'll see the upgrade process is a series of carefully collaborated steps between Google, the vendor, and even the carrier that would make Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire seem clumsy. If any of these entities have issues, or simply don't have the time to address the modifications, the upgrade can be severely delayed.

And why do I need a new operating system, anyway?
For Apple, operating system updates are a critical part of its appeal. As of the last update, Apple introduced its News app, an updated and more comprehensive Siri function, and multitasking functions for the iPad. In addition, being able to quickly update mobile systems comes in handy when security concerns, flaws, and other vulnerabilities arise as a result of prior-gen OS shortcomings and a simple patch can't fix the problem.

That's not to say Google isn't working to improve the user experience as well. The company can -- and does -- perform regular updates to its host of services on the phone. So, most likely, your Google Play store and the company's suite of apps is generally up to date.

However, that's only one facet of your phone experience  -- core operating system changes, especially those involving a hardware component, need no true OS update. In short, Apple's control over its entire operating system leads to a better functioning device, and strengthens the user experience.

 

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