After 10 years, Android apps are still worse than their iOS counterparts

Instagram on a OnePlus 6
Instagram on a OnePlus 6 (Image credit: Android Central)

You probably have a handful (or more) of apps installed on your phone. Apps are a big part of what makes a smartphone "smart," and whether for business or pleasure, an app store is what keeps a platform alive. Every person who ever owned a Windows phone knows the sting and that it's true. Even the best smartphone platform will wither and die without strong developer support.

One of the more awesome things about Android is that anyone can develop an app for free, and publish it in the Google Play Store for just $5. You don't need any specific equipment outside of a phone to test it on, and even that can be done virtually through testing services. And we've seen some small independent developers make some amazing apps for Android; browse the application development forums at XDA next time you're looking for something to do. You'll love much of what you see.

On the other hand, some apps from names everyone knows are, well, total crap when you compare them to their iOS counterparts. Apps like Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and others with millions and millions of Android users don't look as good and more importantly, don't run as well or have the same features as they do for iOS. I'm not just talking about fun or social apps, either. Apps that you would use for work or personal finances, to book a flight, or control the smart devices in your home can be and often are the same way — not as good as they are for iOS.

With more than 10,000 different devices running Android, working with the hardware can be difficult.

There are valid reasons for this reality. When it comes to things like using the wireless radios for Bluetooth or Wi-Fi it's easier to develop for iOS because you know exactly what every single device can and will be able to do. For Android, those sorts of apps have to be written to work with the latest models from Samsung and hope they work for everything else. I get it. Android is diverse, and that's great almost all of the time — writing apps that need to interact with hardware isn't one of those times.

This is something I always thought had gotten better recently because I haven't used an iPhone in a while. I was wrong. My wife picked up an iPhone 8 before Christmas and some apps we both use are still much better on iOS. Android has more than 80% of the smartphone market. Why can't these big developers get it right? I fully expect an app installed on a Galaxy S9 (or Pixel, as they are still "reference" devices) to be just as good as it is on her iPhone, but many aren't.

I've seen and used Google's development and layout tools for Android apps. They're fine. I hate working with Java but know it's more than capable as a development language. And we know it's entirely possible to have great apps on Android because we use some every day. I'm just not able to understand why there is such a disparity when it comes to apps. I'm not an app developer, but I have to think there is a reason or list of reasons.

The "money" argument fails when the product isn't worth buying.

Are your favorite apps better on the iPhone? Or if you're an app developer, care to shed some light on this? We've all heard the bit about money and how iOS is the only way to make any, but I like to think that an app needs to be worth paying for first.

Anyone with any real insight, please share. This bugs me.

Now back to the Wemo app and hope I don't have to borrow my wife's iPhone again to get things set up.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.