Which is better, the closed or open system?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| Published: May 1, 2012


Yesterday I asked you what you think Apple should “budge” on when it comes to their next iPhone, along with the next version of their mobile platform iOS. In that article, I brought up the idea that maybe Apple could give a little bit on the file access front, and let the end user have a little fun on the internal side of their iPhone. While that’s not likely, we can all dream.

But, it got me thinking, and a few tweets I saw scattered around the Twitterverse today certainly helped. While I think Apple does need to budge on a few things, I don’t necessarily think file access is going to be one of those things. In fact, Apple’s walled garden is probably something that will never be taken down.

Does it have to be? Or, better yet: should it be?

As it stands right now, even with companies like Research In Motion doing their best to impress with their latest and greatest software, it really comes down to the two biggest players in the software zone: Apple and Google. You don’t have to look too hard to realize that they both stand for some pretty polar opposite viewpoints, especially in the mobile industry.

Google is about the open platform, and (at least on the broad scale), and allowing customers the ability to do what they want with their phone. There are obviously limitations, as carriers and specific manufacturers have different viewpoints on this, but as a whole Google is pretty open about creating an open platform.

On the other hand, you have Apple, which is about creating something for the end user, and then making sure that the end user can’t do anything to that experience. Apple wants you to enjoy what they create -- and nothing else.

On paper, looking at it right there, you’d think that Apple’s closed wall approach is pretty archaic and barbaric. Not allowing the customer to let them do whatever they want to their phone? Ridiculous. Then again, we just have to look at the Android side, and things like locked bootloaders, and obviously that point of view isn’t just an Apple-only situation.

Let’s keep it on the broad scale, though. Open versus walled. Which is better? It wasn’t too long ago that I actually didn’t have an opinion on this particular subject at all. I just didn’t think in those terms at all. It wasn’t until I started using Android a lot, and started rooting and adding custom ROMs, that I started to pay attention to it.

For me, one of the basic bonuses of the Android platform is the ability to root your device, and add custom ROMs. It was great to do, a lot of fun, and it was a way to make my phone different from everyone else’s. It didn’t last long, though, as there were always bugs. So doing hard resets on my phones became second nature.

The iPhone isn’t without its hiccups, though. While resetting my iPhone has never been as vital as it was on any of the Android devices I’ve owned in the past, there have certainly been problems. Apps closing right after launch. Lag in the keyboard. The worst thing though, and it has been much worse on the iPhone 4S than any Android device, is connectivity. I drop Verizon’s 3G service a lot. And I despise it.

I can’t honestly say which is better. While I have a belief that the open nature of Android, and the fact that there are many different companies building different versions of it, leads to a means to have a lesser experience than other platforms, I can see where the trade-off for the ability to do whatever you want with your device is pretty clear.

But this is where you come in. Which do you believe is better? Let me know in the comments below.