iPhone or Android?
Here is my honest answer: “it depends”.
This is really a two part question I will discuss over the next two articles. The first part is which phone is right for you to USE. The second part is directed at clients: which platform should you BUILD for.
So which phone should I USE?
The type of smartphone you choose should reflect the type of technology user you are. Regardless of fanboy-ism on each side of the debate, the reality is that both Android and iOS are fantastic platforms.
In the early days, iOS maintained a considerable advantage over Android devices. In terms of hardware quality, innovation and software polish, iOS was the top dog. But those days are long gone. One could easily make the argument that current Android phones meet or exceed iOS in all 3 of those categories.
Let’s make this easy. Ask yourself this question: Are you a person who likes to tinker and customize? Or are you a person who wants your phone to be simple to use and understand? This is really the crux of the choice between the two platforms.
iOS Mobile Devices
iPhones, iPads, iWatches, etc, all have a reputation of being the “hip”or “cool” device in their space. Apple has done a fantastic job of marketing their products over the years to make them desirable. They have successfully turned them into status symbols that denote style, youthfulness and wealth. However this has very little to do with the reality of what the phone actually DOES as a piece of technology.
Why a person should consider an iPhone comes down to simplicity. IOS offers little customization in comparison to Android. There is very little variety in devices – an iPhone is an iPhone and only Apple makes them. The interface is more or less constant (rows of icons) and the hardware is pretty much the same for typically two annual cycles (the first year release and the follow-up year two “S” release). The general look of an iPhone has not changed much over the years with the exception of getting slimmer and adding a few new colors. The software has had only one significant change to how it looks since it’s inception. All of this provides a consistent experience.
Ease of use is a big consideration in the iPhone or Android wars. If you were to ask which device you should get for the first time smartphone user or grandparent, the answer is easy: an iPhone. As iPhone fans love to say: “it just works”. This is largely true. Partially this is because, in comparison to Android, they don’t do much beyond serve as a phone/camera repository for 3rd party apps that you mostly use one at a time. They are not well suited to multi-tasking nor are Apple’s own apps particularly compelling. But once you load it with your favorite apps such as Facebook, you are good-to-go.
Android Mobile Devices
Android is something else altogether. In many ways Android is like having a personal computer in your pocket. Although Apple markets itself as the big tech innovator, the truth is, most of iOS’s recent software advances are concepts copied from Android.
Customization and variety are the big draw with Android. There are literally hundreds of different Android devices produced by nearly as many different companies around the world. This can be a dual edged sword: what produces a huge variety to choose from also produces a vast difference in quality levels (many not so great). However there is an upside to this: the variety in quality level also means a variety in price. People who can’t afford an iPhone can definitely find an Android phone they can afford.
As mentioned above, when making the choice between iPhone or Android, keep in mind Android has a steeper learning curve due to it’s available level of customization. However, if you are a tech lover who wants a device with a unique look and uniquely configured software that you can tinker with forever, Android is for you. Additionally, Google produced software is some of the most popular in the world: Gmail, GoogleMaps, Youtube, Google Docs, Google Calendar, etc. In fact, I would argue that some of the most useful apps on Android devices are Google’s own offerings. Not to mention Android devices are great at multi-tasking.
iPhone was once the undisputed leader in hardware quality and software polish. As I mentioned above, this is no longer the case. The latest stock version of Android is every bit as polished & stylish as iOS. The hardware of the current Nexus 6P stands toe-to-toe with the current generation of iPhone. Samsung’s hugely popular Galaxy series of phones are beautiful devices that can easily be compared to an iPhone. So either way, quality and style is something available to fans of both platforms.
Personally, I don’t have a dog in the iPhone or Android fight. I use an iPhone for work and a Nexus 6P for personal use. If I was forced to choose between them, I would pick the Nexus hands down over the iPhone. Having said that, I am a developer who loves to tinker and customize, so the simplicity of an iPhone is not appealing to me. But if my 61 year old mother asked me today which phone she should buy for her first (which she did once), I would instantly recommend an iPhone (which I did).
To me there are upsides to both but draw backs to each. So you should go with the best tool for the job.