Configuration management. Regular readers of my column know Im no fan of software patching, but Im also realistic enough to know that its often times the best real world option we have in dealing with security defects. To that end, Apple has done a great job at making software updates easy and quick (to the chagrin of the underground community of iPhone unlockers). If you can sync an iPod in iTunes, you can install security patches for an iPhone. Plug it in and wait a few moments. Its that simple. The only thing better would be a periodic over-the-air updater along the lines of Apples Software Update or Microsofts Windows Update.
I couldnt find how the Android folks will address this, so Im guessing itll be at the discretion of each actual handset manufacturer. Some of them do ok with software updates, but the vast majority fail miserably. Lets hope they learn from Apples lead here and come out with updaters that really work.
Qualitative score: Android gets an INCOMPLETE while iPhone gets a B+.
The criteria Ive listed here are, in my view, pretty important to the long-term security of the products. Even though I dont yet have two devices side by side to really run through their paces, there are some pretty good indicators. Everything Ive found leads me to conclude that Android is likely to be a more secure and safer platform for the end users.
Ill add here that Apple has recently announced a soon-to-be-released software development kit (SDK) that should at least somewhat open the platform up to third party software installations. That hasnt seen the light of day yet, so I can only guess what itll actually be like, but my hope is that theyll address some of their security shortcomings when they release the SDK. Ive heard wild speculation bordering on rumor that Apple is at least considering some form of virtual machine technology to separate third party applications from one another. If that ends up being the case, I might have to re-visit my conclusions significantly, but if I were to bet today, Id put my money on Android.