My eldest son had a birthday recently, receiving numerous presents. This in and of itself is not unusual, but there was an aspect to one of those presents that triggered a revelation of sorts for me. Before I delve into that, let me preface it with a disclaimer: I currently own no Apple products. Zip. Nada. Zero. In the realm of cell phones, I’m partial to Android. I love the customizability of it, the screen widgets, and how I can choose to integrate it with my PCs. My son, not yet a cell phone user, owns an iPod. Consequently, towards his birthday he wanted some accessories for it. A quick trip to the internet revealed there were MANY accessories available: headphones/earbuds, cables, docks, cases, screen protectors such as I might find for my Android phone. Then I encountered something I knew he’d like, a small stereo CD/radio/MP3 player that integrates with either an iPhone or iPod. As it turned out, he loved it. I liked it too, so much so that I went about looking for a similar stereo dock for my Samsung Captivate.
So I searched. And searched. Oh I found many standard accessories, some “universal” like headphones or generic car mounts, but nary a self-contained stereo dock similar to the variants for the iPhone/iPod. On reflection, I realized that the perennial Apple versus Android arguments of the ilk I encountered at my workplace invariably dwelt upon how the individual devices stacked up one to another, overlooking perhaps the more important aspect of how the devices integrate with the user’s overall lifestyle.
In many ways, the Apple and Android differences have shaken out much in the way the Windows versus Mac has. Android, like Windows, is really a software standard where the hardware, and even the OS versions and GUIs can vary widely. Apple, on the other hand, is more an integrated software/hardware (and its distribution) ecosystem providing more limited device options, but this limitation actually serves to augment the 3rd party development of peripherals around the more consistent design specs. In my son’s integrated stereo example, the stereo supports all generations of iPhones/iPods.
Truth be told, I did encounter some Android-capable stereos, but these required the use of the 3.5mm jack as the connector. As the position of the jack differs from Android device to Android device, there really aren’t for example any universal stereo docks available.
Try this: Go to Best Buy or say Circuit City and do a search on “Android”. Do the same with “iPhone”. See any difference? In my experience there were vastly more variations of iPhone/iPod (and iPad) accessories encompassing more varied uses than Android types, especially where the device is a part of the experience as opposed to the focus of the experience (e.g., GPS use versus a stereo or even image/video projector).
As an aside, perhaps to add insult to injury to the unmentioned Windows Phone, I came across a PC motherboard that featured a Super Charger…for an iPhone or iPad!
All in all, it is interesting and ironic to me how Apple, ascribed as nearly totalitarian in it device/OS control, has, in such control, created an environment where its users have more choices, from the sublime to the ridiculous, for augmenting their lifestyle, as opposed to my beloved Android, whose myriad device/OS configuration choices have perhaps unwittingly limited the scope of Android’s usability or at least ease of use in a broader end-user context.