A new program called Cider, developed by post-graduate researchers at Columbia University, lets Apple apps run on Android devices.

One of the biggest problems with having multiple operating systems (OSs) powering smartphones and tablets is that certain apps are incompatible across platforms—and the most notorious incompatibilities involve Apple and Android, the two most common mobile OSs. Many popular apps are initially released on one platform, leaving a large portion of smartphone users without a compatible version on their devices. Cider and the researchers behind it have broken ground on a solution, but there is still got a long way to go.

The Obstacles

There are many reasons why Apple apps don’t work on Android phones, but some big ones include Android’s inability to run apps that utilize Apple iTunes and a lack of support on iOS for Flash-based content. “Getting an application written for one OS to run on another often involves a technique known as virtualization,” according to BBC. Virtualization programs run one OS within another OS, and then launch the desired app within the secondary OS. Of course, using an app while running two OSs instead of one greatly decreases performance speed and uses a lot of power. This might be a viable option on desktops and laptops, but less powerful mobile devices do not have the strength or the battery life to sustain virtualization for extended periods of time.

The Solution

In order to get around the speed traps of virtualization, “the Columbia researchers adopted a different approach that involves the core or kernel of the Android OS,” reports BBC. Instead of booting up an entire OS to run one program, Cider essentially takes the Apple app and changes the iOS-specific code to make it Android-friendly.

Cider is still a young technology, however, and it isn’t perfect. Android Authority points out that “apps that rely on features like the phone’s camera, GPS module or Bluetooth either don’t work or have limited functionality.” Further work is being done by the researchers to fix this.

As of now, the researchers have no plans to commercialize the program, but it proves that there are solutions available to run Apple apps on Android phones. However, it is important to note that Cider only lets Apple apps run on Android devices and not the other way around, again due to differences in ways that the OSs work. It may be a small step, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.

Would you pay for a program that lets you play Apple apps on Android devices?

Image courtesy of Flickr


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