Is Apple About Control and Android about Openness?

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It seems that Steve Job’s dislike of Android is growing every passing day. When he was recently asked if future versions of the OS that runs his mobile devices would ever enable unsigned (non-App Store) applications like Android and Palm OS do, Steve’s reply was shocking, and deliberately so: “There’s a porn store for Android… you can download it, your kids can download it. That’s a place we don’t want to go, so we’re not going to.”

Two of the best ways to get your app kicked out of the App Store (or not approved for inclusion in the first place) is to duplicate functionality that already exists on the phone, or to have “inappropriate material” in your app (such as political satire and any form of nudity).

What’s worse, Apple can not only reject a developer’s app at any time (preventing it from being downloaded), they can also revoke it (and remove it from your device – without a refund).

It’s rules like these that have kept competing web browsers, Google Voice, and various other apps from being included in the App Store: they all “duplicate features already found on the phone”.

Other rules have caused the rejection of applications such as image galleries (because they could be used to pull “inappropriate” images from online galleries), political satire apps (because they could make fun of political figures). (One developer had his initially rejected political cartoon app approved due to public pressure and coverage in the media.)

Let’s compare the two platforms.

Android versus iPhone

Apple

– Developer Fee: $99

– Can Run Unsigned Applications: No

– Free Speech: No

– Development Environments: Mac OS

– Ability to Run “Rejected” Apps: No

– Form Factor / Design: One (to-date)

– Choice of Carrier: Very Limited

– Widgets: OS 4.x+ only

Android

– Developer Fee: $25

– Can Run Unsigned Applications: Yes*

– Free Speech: Yes

– Development Environments: Windows, Mac OS, Linux

– Ability to Run “Rejected” Apps: Yes*

– Form Factor / Design: Many

– Choice of Carrier: Very Diverse

– Widgets: Yes

Steve Jobs is Wrong

I guess I don’t understand Steve.

His company has rejected app because they could be used to view pornographic images – of course they could also be used to view fine art.

Safari, however, has not been banned. With it you can view pornographic websites, websites that are full of hate-speech, even terrorist recruitment sites.

The camera has not not been disabled. With it you can make your own pornographic or hate images (or videos for that matter). With recently added MMS capabilities you can text that “inappropriate” material to anyone with a phone – or receive the same from others.

The phone has not been disabled. With it you can make and receive phone calls, the content of which are up to you, and not subject to parental controls.

Of course I’m not advocating anyone do any of these things, I’m simply illustrating a point.

Steve’s refusal to allow applications distributed though “alternate” channels means he’d have to give up his ability censor anything he wants, any time he wants. Disallowing unsigned apps was never about pornography, that was just Steve deflecting from what I think was his true intention: control. Apple, it seems, wants to control your hardware, your software, your content… And by filtering your access and your information, Apple hopes to control you.

Android, on the other hand, subscribes to Google’s philosophy that information should be freely accessible, anywhere, any time. It’s up to the individual to decide what information is and is not “appropriate”. Of course they filter what they list in their Market, but they don’t prohibit you from installing applications from other sources. (* Except for one AT&T phone which has removed that functionality. AT&T also has exclusivity with another phone, care to guess which one?)

Your Thoughts?

What do you think? Is Steve jobs really trying to control everything you can do on your iPhone and iPad/iPod? Or is he a hypocrite for banning some apps because of what you could do with them, and not his apps (even though you can do the same sort of things with them)?

Which philosophy will win out? Apple’s or Android’s?

Does Apple’s seemingly arbitrary censorship (or Android’s comparative openness) weigh on your purchase decisions?

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About The Author
Joe Levi
Joe graduated from Weber State University with two degrees in Information Systems and Technologies. He has carried mobile devices with him for more than a decade, including Apple's Newton, Microsoft's Handheld and Palm Sized PCs, and is Pocketnow's "Android Guy".By day you'll find Joe coding web pages, tweaking for SEO, and leveraging social media to spread the word. By night you'll probably find him writing technology and "prepping" articles, as well as shooting video.Read more about Joe Levi here.