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iPhone Apps Crash More Than Android Apps, Study Shows

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Now this is surprising.

Since its inception, Apple's (AAPL) iOS platform has been touted as being one of the most stable and secure mobile OSes around. Given its "Walled Garden" and rigorous app review, Apple's ecosystem is, for better or worse, stringently controlled and monitored -- certainly more than Google's (GOOG) Android platform. Ostensibly, that would create greater stability and a smoother app experience. And considering iOS preceded Android's launch and has amassed a giant number of developers since -- a number that Research in Motion (RIMM) and Microsoft (MSFT) couldn't match even when added together, despite being around longer -- many would expect it to deliver the most solid app experience around.

However, according to a study from mobile app monitoring startup Crittercism, iPhone apps are far more crash-prone than those on Android devices.

Highlighted in a recent Forbes article, the study was conducted from November through December 2011 and analyzed over 214 million app launches across Apple and Google's platforms. Shockingly, Crittercism found that, under certain conditions, an iPhone app is nearly 3.5 times more likely to crash than an Android app.

In the top quartile of apps -- or apps with the lowest average crash rate and highest user base -- iPhone devices failed 0.51% of the time, as compared to Android's 0.15%. In the second quartile, the iPhone's crash rate, 1.47%, "merely" doubled that of Android's 0.73%. In the most unstable data set, the fail rate was much closer: iPhone's 3.66% to Android's 2.97%. But under every condition, iPhone apps crashed more -- even significantly more -- than Android apps.

Crittercism CEO Andrew Levy attributes this to a number of reasons.

Since the largest proportion of crashes were within iOS 5.01 -- Apple's latest version of its mobile OS -- Levy believes that developers had yet to update their software to work on the newest platform. But given the high fail rate of older versions of iOS, this might not be the main factor. And how could it still contribute to more crashes than the seemingly hundreds of iterations of Android -- not to mention all the different skins from HTC, Samsung, and Motorola (MMI) -- as well as the different chips, display sizes, speeds, etc?

Levy also mentioned hardware issues -- Internet connection, GPS service, cameras, etc. -- that can contribute to a higher fail rate. But Apple has always been known for superb build quality -- aside from the occasional Antennagate -- so it would be strange that hardware be the issue.

Then again, Steve Wozniak himself deemed Siri to be less stable and effective than Google's Voice Commands, along with wishing iOS was as versatile as Android, and mentioned spotty Internet connection was a problem.

Levy added that developers have had difficulty working with iAds and found that they'd run into problems if they didn't adhere to specific conditions, which is also a curious factor. iPhone users are far more likely to encounter paid apps, ones without advertising, than Android users. The latter could deal almost exclusively with ad-supported apps during daily smartphone operations. Could iAds really be that bad?

Overall, Levy concluded, "It can be a mix of both hardware and software issues that developers may or may not be responding to." But that still doesn't pinpoint the chief reason why iPhone apps are crashing more often than Android apps, and why iOS developers can't seem to fix the bugs that would contribute to this.

Crittercism aims to continue monitoring app stability across both platforms. Hopefully by the time it delivers its next round of results, Apple and its developers have uncovered the reason behind its higher fail rate and polished the OS so that it lives up to its esteemed reputation.

(See also: Apple Will Unveil iPhone 5 in June, Says Report and iPhone Can't Match Android's Versatility, Says Steve Wozniak)

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