iPhone or Android: Which Should I Choose & Why?
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The Great Debate
These days it is hard to choose which smartphone you should get. We are spoiled for choice and often it is hard to determine which is easier or better. This article, I hope, will help you decide which phone type you should go for. This particular article takes into account only iOS (the iPhone & iPad operating system) and Android. Windows Phone 7 (WP7) and Blackberry are not taken into account because 1) both are not as popular as iOS and Android and 2) I don't know as much about WP7 & Blackberries.
iOS 6 Demo
Android 4.0 Demo run on a computer emulator
Unity vs Customization
If you want a solid, totally self-contained operating system, user interface & device, you will want iOS devices. iOS has the extreme advantage that it is VERY well controlled by Apple and is solidly structured. The limit is in form factor. Apple has taken a one size fits all approach to smartphones that is in many ways very limiting. It has a unified experience strait out of the box., but if you are into customization and changing things then Android is for you. Android is also solid in structure, but it is looser in that it allows for customization. The customization of Android is AMAZING! You can so many things to streamline your phone to make it unique you both internally and externally.
You may hear the word "Fragmentation" used when in relation to Android. Those who mention it are mostly talking heads. Android provides a solid and unique experience. Some phone makers are better at keeping their phones up-to-date over others (HTC being among the best), but Apple suffers from fragmentation as well. Fragmentation is defined as the user experiences degenerating or fragmenting over time or due to customization. The original iPhone can't sent picture messages (mms). The 3G can't do things the 3GS can do. The 3GS can't do things the 4 can do and the iPhone 4 can't do things the iPhone 4S can do. The more up-to-date the hardware is the more likely you are to get the best and brightest experience. So pick based off of customization rather than fragementation and you won't go wrong. In both cases the newer and "faster" the hardware the better. At the time of this writing the iPhone 4S runs a dual core processor. The majority of high end Android devices do as well. It is interesting to note that there are an increasing number of Android devices that are running Quad core processors as well. As an example, ASUS released the Transformer Prime, which ran the first mass produced quad core processor consumer electronics device over 4 months before Apple released the iPad 3 (or the New iPad as Apple calls it).
It has been said by some that the iPhone (and iOS) has better apps. This is not true. The selection of apps for both Android and iOS is about on par. As of this writing iTunes says they have over 500,000 apps and Android has somewhere in the range of 600,000. But this is just numbers. The real separation for the two major app stores is cost. For iOS Apps, expect to pay a little more. There are free apps, yes, but to fully take advantage of iOS you will need to buy at least a few apps.That being said, most applications arrive for iOS first and then are released to Android. We can see this in popular games like Angry Birds and Cut the Rope. Still, these games are now available on Android, so it isn't an end all issue if you wait just a little bit. Further more, many developers are now releasing apps for both operating systems simultaneously since both have demonstrated themselves to be solid operating systems.
The quality of the applications is the key, and Android & iOS both have plenty of those with more on the way. Another thing that separates Android from iOS though is that there are several Android market places including the Google Play Store, GetJar and my personal favorite is the Amazon Appstore. The last one gives away one paid app every 24 hours. From games to customization apps to productivity apps you can get a ton of stuff for no money at all. I do recommend purchasing apps through the Amazon Appstore because they are competitive with the other stores AND developers get a little more money for their work. And considering that the average developing companies are small businesses who invest at least $50,000 into making said app this is a very good thing. Another selling point for the Amazon Appstore is the ability to use the same app multiple times on multiple devices. For example, since my wife has an Android phone as well, we can both use the Amazon app store apps on our phones without having to double purchase and having issues of sharing info from our individual calenders or contacts (an issue we encountered with sharing the same Android marketplace purchases). You can do the same with the Google Play store, but you have to be sure to turn off syncing of other information such as apps and calender information.
The issue of hardware is huge for both phone and tablet types. Apple has an advantage because they have a TON of control over the hardware. BUT you are limited to one screen size. One type of keyboard (on screen, not physical) unless you buy a special case for your phone. Also, if you buy an older iPhone or iPad, you are limited by the older hardware. The more up-to-date the better. The iOS devices are wonderful, but one size does not fit all.
Android has the opposite issue. Too much choice. I have a few suggestions to make sure you have a good experience with Android here. First, anything less than 1Ghz for the processor is not worth your time. This is considered mid-range for Android devices. That being said, go dual core or quad core if you can! Don't worry too much about whether the phone as a 1, 1.2 or 1.5 Ghz processor. This is important, but not nearly as important as RAM. Try to have at least 512MB of RAM or higher. 1GB of RAM is the best. The higher end devices are better. The extra cost is worth it. The cheap phones are cheap for a reason. Steer clear of those.
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Last updated on 8/28/12.
The iPhone is really easy to use. It is something that is simple almost to distraction. Most of the time the iPhone experiences is more about form than function. It is beautiful, but not for me. Still, out of box it works very nicely and you are guaranteed a unified experience from it.
Still, Android devices are also easy to use. In some ways they are more complicate than the iPhone, but we are talking about more complicated like getting a water bottle out of the refrigerator is more complicated than being handed one. There isn't much of a difference. The question here is do you want to customize or not? If you like having your phone be unique then Android is definitely for you. You don't have to customize, but if you like to, this is the device for you. Heck, you can leave it as is and it still is very nice. In either case, just remember that the super cheap Android devices are just that, cheap. Go for high end or at least midrange Android phones if you want quality. If you were to get and iPhone you are looking at at least $200 invested. Think about the same for investing in your Android phone. Things are trending towards cheaper Android phones that are high quality, but it isn't there yet. If you spend the same amount of money on an Android phone as you would on an iPhone you will make up the cost in cost of applications.
The thing that will really make the difference for you is actually using these devices. Be warned, if you get a fanboy for one or the other showing it to you, you will hear tons of arguments for one and against the other. The most important question you should ask yourself is "Does it fit what I WANT in my smartphone?" If you don't like the feel, be honest with yourself and go towards the one that works best.
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