It’s no secret that the smartphone wars have been heating up. The undisputed contenders for the top title have been Apple’s iPhone with its iOS operating system and a variety of phones running Google’s Android operating system.
Finally, there is a clear winner in this contest…the consumer! For years, Android phone manufacturers have been playing catch-up to Apple’s iPhone. This effort has included many attempts to duplicate the great features available only on the iPhone. Now, the latest iOS upgrade from Apple offers many of the great features available only on some Android phones.
The end result of this tit-for-tat has been the introduction of a spectacular variety of phones in both form and function. The good news for consumers is that they finally have many choices when selecting a smartphone.
So which one is best for you? Because this decision is part emotional and part practical, the best method of deciding is to look at all the specs and then to trust your gut about which phone feels right for you, your family and your budget.
Here are a few factors to consider:
- Fashion – Let’s face it, some people think the iPhone is cool and want to buy the Apple brand even if it’s not the best phone for them. Regardless of how good their phones are, you don’t see many Samsung or HTC decals on automobiles!
- Apps – Both Apple and Google claim to have in excess of 800,000 apps for their operating systems. Apple apps tend to be more reliable because they are written for only one device and, unlike Android apps, the distribution is tightly controlled. For the same reason, Apple apps are also a little less likely to contain malware.
If you are already attached to apps that are only available with Apple, then making the switch to Android may be a sacrifice. For most people, Google’s Android now offers plenty of good alternatives to the Apple apps. But if you’ve already purchased apps for one platform or the other, than you would be better served sticking with the same system.
- Multi-Media – If you are already an Apple iTunes or iCloud user, you probably won’t find a more seamless phone experience on an Android device. Switching to Android may be inconvenient, to say the least. However, if you aren’t already tethered to these Apple services, similar offerings from Google and others are available for Android devices.
- Size – The latest iPhone comes in just one screen size. While a four-inch screen works well for most people, there are many alternatives available on Android phones. In fact, the Samsung Galaxy Note II tops out at a whopping 5.5 inches. If you are elderly or even an aging baby boomer, you may find that a larger screen is easier to read and navigate. Other users may prefer larger screens for games, books and movies. Some Android phones even include a stylus.
- Open Source vs. Closed Source — The Apple operating system is a closed system. It will only run on an Apple device. Android is an open source system and can run on many devices. The closed source operating system provides for a tightly controlled and more reliable environment. The open source system encourages variety and innovation. This is why there are so many choices when selecting an Android phone. Sophisticated users and developers are able to customize their Android systems. With Apple, what you see is what you get.
- Price – When it comes to smartphones, you get what you pay for. A new iPhone 5 will cost $199 with a two-year plan, while some top-of-the-line Android phones can be had for $50 to $100. Remember that most of the cost lies in your monthly plan, so saving $100 at the outset may actually cost you money if you’re locked into a plan you’re not happy with.
It’s worth noting that for tablet users, Android is clearly cheaper than iPad, with the Nexus 7 starting at $199 versus $329 for the iPad mini.
If you are STILL having a hard time making a choice, perhaps you can look at it this way:
If Apple currently offers all of the features that you want in a smartphone and you aren’t bothered by some of the limitations or the price, go ahead and buy the iPhone. You aren’t going to find a better Android phone with the exact same features.
If, on the other hand, there are things you simply don’t like about the iPhone such as the flexibility, size or price, then you are probably better off going with an Android device. You can almost certainly find one with most of the cool features available on the iPhone while still meeting your other criteria.
If you don’t like either one, look for an alternative. Yes, there is a world without Apple or Android. Hard core business users who want to optimize integration with Microsoft applications may find some benefits with the Windows Phone 8. Users in some countries such as Indonesia may have good reasons to stick with a Blackberry.
Whatever you do, don’t agonize over this decision. You can always change your mind! The smartphone landscape is changing rapidly and you will most likely be revisiting this decision within a couple of years anyway.