Verhasselt: It’s all about the apps

Heath Verhasselt

Xbox vs. PS3, PC vs. Mac, Chrome Vs. Firefox, rivalries and fanboyism are rampant in the world of technology and other consumer products. Why is yours better? “Because it just works.” Or “At least Xbox Live didn’t go down for close to a month.” Or maybe there’s some hard data to back it up, such as processor speed, market share or pricing. The list goes on and the excuses go on.

However, the further these products develop, the more they become alike, and the fewer differences there are. OS X Lion vs. Windows 7, they’re both easy to use. Chrome vs. Firefox, they’re both really fast. The few things that still separate these products is incremental innovations and the applications that run on these platforms. I want to talk about an emerging rivalry that has already set up two different camps with different ideas about which product is better or what can be done with your device, and I’m referring to Google Android vs. Apple iOS.

As hardware becomes more and more similar, dual core smartphones with amazing displays becoming more commonplace, it becomes increasingly hard to distinguish between which phone or OS to go with. I’ve even told friends to buy Windows Phone 7 phones just because they felt it worked better for them. And as Google launches its fourth iteration of the Android operating system, titled “Ice Cream Sandwich,” the look and feel of Android has finally caught up with, if it hasn’t raised the bar compared to iOS. The aesthetics of the two operating systems seem to be coming closer together as far as what looks and works the best, leaving the only separating factor to be apps.

Apps are what make or break these phones. As developers launch hundreds of new apps each day on these phones’ respective App Stores, there’s a certain quality to iOS apps that Android has yet to catch up with. This probably has something to do with the specific aesthetic requirements that Apple has enforced on its developers. With the launch of Ice Cream Sandwich, this is something Google is adopting, but it will take time.

As of now, however, Apple has or has had the best apps. Now, of course, they cost more money, but they’re there. Infinity Blade or Epic Citadel for example, some of the best graphics intense games available on a mobile device are exclusive to the iOS App Store. Most of the great games, now on both platforms — We Rule, Angry Birds, Words with Friends  — all started on iOS.

But as time goes on, with more free apps, an easier application approval process and an increasingly large developer base, Android is catching up and it’s catching up fast. In the coming months, the innovation in terms of mobile apps and games will be unimaginable, unthinkable. New social media, productivity apps, location-based apps that go beyond our current method of thinking. I think if 2011 was the year of the smartphone, 2012 will be the year of the app.

And as I sit here browsing the Android Market for recently released apps to try, I can only say, I can’t wait for what’s to come.