Apple iPhone vs. Android: which smartphone?

When choosing a smartphone, one of the first questions that needs to be answered is which manufacturer’s Operating System (OS) you should buy into. The two front-runners, iPhone (iOS) and Android, have very different business philosophies, and we’ll go into the pros and cons of each. You might notice I seem a little prejudiced toward Android. I am. I find the iPhone to be kind of like AOL or a tricycle – Great if you’re a beginner, but soon you might start to chafe and want to do more.

I think both are equally easy to use, and you can get high-end devices with either. (all of this also applies to tablets – iPads and Androids.)

Google Android: Google is a services company that started out writing search engine software. They make money from your use of their services, which are now too many to list. The Android operating system is “Open Source”, which means anyone can alter and customize it as much as they want. Android is a little like the Wild West – you have the freedom to do almost anything with it – and, yes,  there’s a small chance of shooting yourself in the foot.

Google’s philosophy is, “Go ahead, tinker with it! Improve on it! Change it if you want! We love it when you do that!”

Pros:

  • Integrates perfectly with all the Google services you probably already use.
  • “Widgets” – Icons that display live information without opening an app.
  • “Live” animated wallpapers for your home screen.
  • Freedom of choice: Available on hundreds of phones and other devices, in all price ranges.
  • Almost infinitely customizable — Don’t like the keyboard or the home screen? There’s an app for that!
  • More of the apps are free. Many have free and paid versions.
  • Can connect to a computer without any special software. The device shows up as a removable drive.
  • Standard, inexpensive, micro-usb connectors on most devices for charging and data transfer.
  • If you’re a programmer, you can alter the OS to your taste.

Cons:

  • Since apps are not vetted by anybody, and you can get them anywhere, the possibility of getting a malicious app is a little higher than with iPhone.
  • Since Android is available on a multitude of devices, some low-priced devices are of low quality, and could be very frustrating.
  • Many manufacturers (Because they can) customize the OS to their taste – which can add a little confusion, because they don’t all look alike.

Apple iPhone: Apple is a hardware company that started writing software to match it’s hardware. They make money from sales of their hardware, and take a cut from sales of apps. Apple products are a “Walled Garden” – A wonderful experience, but you have to stay inside their fence.

Apple’s philosophy is, “It’s perfect as it came from the factory! Why would you ever want to change anything?? As a matter of fact, we won’t let you change anything, because we know what’s best for you!”

Pros:

  • You will never get a low-quality Apple device, since their software is only available on their hardware, and their hardware is high grade.
  • All iDevices will work pretty much the same way, for the above reason.
  • More hardware accessories that integrate well with the device.
  • High “Cool” factor.
  • Fewer options means fewer things to screw up… Theoretically.

Cons:

  • Expensive.
  • No widgets or live wallpaper.
  • Very few hardware choices. Want an iPhone with a bigger screen? You’re out of luck.
  • No removable storage.
  • Also far fewer OS customization options.
  • You cannot “Sideload” apps. This means that if an app is not on iTunes, you don’t get it. Period. Any app that Apple doesn’t approve of, even if they just don’t like it’s politics, does not get released.
  • You need iTunes to connect to a computer.
  • Proprietary connectors that cost more.

Bottom Line: Decide what you’re going to be doing with the device the most. If you want maximum options, both in hardware and software, go with Android. If you want a high “Cool” factor and lots of “Made for” accessories, and you don’t mind paying through the nose, buy Apple.

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