No, Apple apps are not compatible with Android. The iPhone and iPod touch and the Android phones use different operating systems. End of story? Not quite. Although you cannot literally use an Apple app on an Android, you can get different versions of the same app — one for Apple products, the other for Android products.
Why Apple Apps Are Not Compatible With Android
It comes down to programming. iPhone and iPod touch apps are written in a programming language called Objective-C, while Android apps are written in Java. Objective-C, which was developed by Apple during the late 1980s to early 1990s, is a proprietary programming language, which means only Apple products may use it. Java, which was developed at around the same time by Sun Microsystems (a company known for its pivotal role in the open-source movement), is an open programming language, or one that can be used by anyone, for any purpose. As a result, it is not possible to run an iPhone or iPod touch app on an Android or vice-versa.
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Why Some Apple Apps Seem Compatible With Android
You can get Facebook, Twitter, The Weather Channel, Bump and hundreds of other apps for both iPhone and Android. App developers who write the code sometimes write multiple versions of the same app. So if the "New York Times" wants to create a mobile app for both platforms, it can hire a developer to do so, but the developer has to create two entirely separate sets of code in two entirely different programming languages. The two apps may look the same, walk the same and quack the same when used on different phones, but in their guts they are completely different.
How to Get Android Versions of Apple Apps
If you are looking for an Android version of an Apple iPhone or iPod touch app, you have five options. You can search for the app by name using an Android app directory; visit the website where you downloaded the Apple app to see whether an Android version is available for your phone; directly contact the developer of the Apple app and ask whether an Android version exists for your phone; wait for the developer to release an Android version for your phone; or become an app developer yourself and write the code from the ground up.
Android Market and Other Android App Directories
Android Market is the digital repository for Android apps. Like the Apple App Store, Android Market offers free and paid apps for download either from the Web or direct to your phone. Unfortunately, Android Market posts its available apps by category only; you cannot enter a keyword to search for a specific app as of January 2011. To fill that role while Android improves the official directory, third-party app directories such as Mplayit, AppStoreHQ and Appolicious have sprung up. These particular directories allow you to search for not just Android apps but also iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, BlackBerry and other smartphone apps, making for a quick way to compare different versions of the same app. See the Resources section for some suggested Android app directories.
The Future of Android Apps
According to Mashable, the number of Android apps available in the Android Market doubled from 100,000 to 200,000 in the last two months of 2010. That puts Android within sprinting distance of Apple's App Store population of 300,000 and counting (according to Apple as of January 2011). Mashable further reported that paid Android apps became available for purchase in 20 more countries, and that for the first time ever, phones with Android operating systems outsold iPhones in the second quarter of 2010. Androlib, which tracks Android app-related statistics, forecasted continued exponential Android app growth for 2011. As long as Android keeps closing the Apple-Android app gap, most of your favorite iPhone or iPod touch apps are likely to be available in Android versions soon, if they aren't already.
- Javalobby: Android vs iPhone Development — A Comparison
- Mac OS X Reference Library: Why Objective-C?
- Binghamton University: An Introduction to the Java Programming Language
- Mashable: Android Market App Count Doubles to 200K in 2 Months
- Mashable: Google Expands Android Marketplace to 20 More Countries
- Mashable: Android Now Top-Selling Smartphone Operating System
- Androlib: Statistics
- Apple: iPhone
- Android: Android Market
- Appolicious: Android Apps
- Android: Android Developers