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The iPhone may be late to features, but only Android users care

Android users are correct to complain that the iPhone often gets new features that are old for Android, but as loud as they may shout, they're the only ones listening.

Apple iOS 6 introduced new features, some of which Android already had.
James Martin/CNET

Whenever Apple introduces a new version of iOS, it's guaranteed that Android fans will protest that Google's operating system has long had most of the new features. Apple is late again, they'll say, and only following Google down the smartphone innovation trail.

Truth is, I don't really blame them for making that case. Indeed, I've done the same when reviewing iOS updates (most recently with CNET's iOS 6 First Take) so I understand where their fervor is coming from. But as right they may be, Android fans forget one important thing. Apple may be late to a feature party, but iPhone users really don't care.

Of course, iPhone owners will gripe when their phone is missing an important feature. The wait for real notifications, for example, was particularly galling and it took until iOS 6 to add a button for attaching a photo to an e-mail that you're already writing. But even with those complaints, most iPhone users will forgive Apple and be patient. Because deep down they believe that when Apple finally delivers the feature, they'll get a better experience than their Android friends. Tear off the front page, but Apple takes its time to deliver the experience it wants. That's how it's always been and its customers know it.

Of course, I'm not saying that Apple always hits the highest mark -- the iPhone's multitasking is still a bit of a mess -- but sometimes it does. It took a while to get video editing, for example, but it was a dream when it arrived. It's those moments that really matter to Apple users. They'd rather sit on the bench than get a half-baked product. To them, Apple doesn't have to invent it as long as it adds the signature Apple touch that customers expect and love.

In the end, it's really about two distinct philosophies of a smartphone user experience. On one side you have an OS that can do almost anything, offers oodles of choice, and is exhaustively customizable. But at the same time it can feel messy and a tad unrefined. That's fine for some people, but others will prefer an OS that's less buggy and that's tightly integrated and exceedingly easy to use. Sure, that same OS also is limiting and occasionally less powerful, but users should be allowed to choose what works for them.

So, yes, Android users, I feel your pain. When Apple announces a feature that you've had for months, I know that it is frustrating. And when Apple gets only thunderous applause in return I see why it makes your blood boil. But even though that's the reality, Apple fans won't hear you shouting. Their new iOS feature may be late, but to them it was worth the wait.