Sunday, 22 April 2012

That Old iPhone vs. Android Question

An apple with the logo of Google made with laser 

A question that has been bothering this blog for a while but which hasn't been discussed lately is that greatest water cooler discussion ever: which smartphone should one buy, an Android or an iPhone? I thought I'd offer my latest views on this matter.
I would like to start by explaining why I'm dismissing the other contenders. Windows Phone 7 has been there for two years now and is still not managing to take off, while Blackberry has probably been there the longest but has run out of fuel and is heading for a crash that perhaps already took place. Which sort of leaves Android and iOS (iPhone) on the table.
I will start with my conclusion: the way things seem to be heading, I suspect my current iPhone will be replaced, eventually, by the latest generation iPhone. Given that I have been championing the superiority of the Android operating system quite heavily in the past, I will now explain my revised opinion.
The way I see it, there are three factors involved here:
  1. The functionality factor:
    High level speaking, Android gives its user more power than iOS; that power comes at the price of not offering as slick an out of the box experience as the iPhone. However, between the latest iOS 5 and the latest Android's Ice Cream Sandwich versions, the differences between the operating systems became drastically smaller. The iPhone, for example, now offers synchronization and upgrades sans an iTunes running PC. There really isn't that much of a difference between the two operating systems anymore in this age of the cloud: Google Maps' navigation facilities on the Android are comparable with those from the free Waze app, music can be listened to from the cloud via various services, Flash is no longer supported on any mobile platform, and tethering is now available on the iPhone.
    It therefore seems to me the choice between the two comes down to the environment one is already invested in.
  2. The iPad factor:
    The matter of environments we already have vested interests in brings me directly to the matter of the iPad. Why? Because in the same way most of us have ourselves a smartphone, most of us will also have ourselves a tablet. If we don't already have one then we will have one shortly; it is inevitable. It is our destiny.
    If you agree with me that tablets are in our near future, then you would surely agree with me those tablets will be called iPads and will come from Apple. The reason is simple: the Android platform is yet to offer anything that comes even close to the iPad's tablet experience. True, tablets like the Asus Transformer Prime offer significantly superior hardware in certain respects, but it is also makes it clear there is more to a tablet than its specs.
    The inevitable entrance of an iPad to our lives means we have vested interests in the iOS environment. From that point onwards the path to an iPhone is much better lit.
  3. The Google factor:
    During the time I preached the virtues of the Android platform I was under the impression that Apple is the evil company trying to milk as much money as it can out of us. All the while, Google was the "do no evil" friendly champion by our side. That impression has changed somewhat over the last year or so: while Apple is still evil, Google can no longer boast superiority; it is, in many respects, just as bad. In certain critical respects Google is even worse: by holding a lot of information on us and our preferences in life, and by clearly doing its best to abuse that information in favor of its bottom line, Google had become as despicable as Apple but much more dangerous.
So, were my iPhone to break down tomorrow, would I buy the iPhone 4S? I don't know. I really like the bigger screens on Androids like the Google Nexus, screens that make the iPhone look rather pathetic in comparison (retina or not). The Google Nexus' price advantage would also be a factor: Kogan is currently selling it for $430  compared to $650 for the iPhone. On the other hand, that price difference also speaks volumes of the way Android models disappear into the abyss so quickly after their release while the iPhone seems here to stay.
I'll put it this way: an iPhone 5 with a bigger screen and a quad core CPU should reign supreme.

Image by missha, Creative Commons license


The iOS Moshe said...

I like the elegance and simplicity of Apple's products. You buy an iPhone, you get an appliance that works smoothly. Of course there are issues from time to time, nothing is perfect.

I own iPad 2 and Android phone. I like them both. I have never had the need to jailbreak the iPad. I bricked my Samsung last week after making a mistake. I decided to get another phone and settled on the Galaxy S plus (GT-9001), as it was considerably cheaper than the S2 and iPhone 4S.

First thing I did was to upgrade the OS to 2.3.6, root the phone and install superuser apps. Would I have done it had I bought the 4s? I don't think so.

Having played for years with Windows Mobile roms, and now Android, I am getting tired of this. So many roms and firmwares for Android, and I've learn there will be no ICS for my phone... With the iPhone it's so straight forward. And yes, I can live with Apple's restrictions on their equipment. Last week, when I was trying desperately to resuscitate my Galaxy, I wished I had the iPhone instead.

Moshe Reuveni said...

I totally agree. I've heard similar stories to yours from several people, and I also think that by now Apple's imitations are not as painful as they used to be (mostly because of the way we use the cloud).
I had a Windows Mobile phone for almost five years, and it gave me such misery I couldn't believe the iPhone experience when I first got it: a smartphone that just works, and works well!
Android definitely suffers from too many models and too many versions. To be fair, ICS is much better than previous versions, but still - I don't think it's as revolutionary as it should have been. The fact you can't upgrade your phone without excessive tinkering, and upgrades rely on manufacturers + telcos generosity, gives the iPhone a huge advantage.

Moshe in Israel said...

I've read in xda developers forum that ICS is still buggy, so I am settling on my 2.3.6 with some ICS interface mods for now.
When I bought my phone this week, the Israeli seller showed me his 4s compare to the Galaxy S2. Side by side he opened web pages and told me, "This is why I've got the iPhone". I had not realised until then how really good is the iPhone's screen.
So I am waiting for the iPhone 5 now...

Moshe Reuveni said...

In my experience ICS' performance varies by phone. It's great on the Google Nexus, but it introduced bugs (and severe performance reductions) to my wife's Nexus S.
As for the screens, I love the AMOLED's ability to render text. Together with the larger screen sizes, my vote goes to the better screened Androids. Like you, however, I am waiting for the iPhone 5 to supply the bigger screen.

Moshe Reuveni said...

P.S. Are you a full time Israeli again?