Tuesday, April 22, 2014

What phone to choose...???

So…when looking at buying a new smartphone, you really need to consider two things – hardware and operating system.  You need to be careful about how you assess opinions of Andoid/iOS/etc users as it is very much a religion.  Many will simply say, “Android is better, it’s surpassed iOS!” or “iOS is really the only way to go”, but in reality, the answer is much more complex.  A lot depends on what you’re looking for and when you’re buying – the hardware tends to leap frog each other every year – or what kind of user you are (general user vs hardcore user).
Android smartphones are manufactured by multiple vendors; iOS comes only from Apple.  The current generation of iPhone (5S/5C) is an interim release for Apple.  Each year they release a new model; in alternating years, it is a full upgrade that is “market impressive”, but the interim update is usually relatively minor upgrades.  On the Android side, though, you have a wide range of choices in hardware as there are several manufacturers.  The most recent generation of Android phones, on the high end (such as the Samsung S5) have a stronger hardware profile than the most recent iPhone.  They have faster processors, more pixels on the screen, bigger screen, better camera….  That said, you have to find the right manufacturer to get those better hardware specs – the low end, freebies are typically less impressive and, at best, only equal to the iPhone’s hardware.
On the operating system side, however, things are more clear.  iOS is an end-user’s OS – it is designed with the normal, everyday user in mind.  Android is more for techies and can be challenging for everyday users.  iOS upgrades come regularly – minor updates every few months, major updates roughly each year – and they are usually supported by at least the last 3 or 4 years of iPhone models.  Android upgrades are typically every year or so, supported by newer models and select older models.  iOS is fairly well locked down; it can be customized to a degree but not like Android where you can get dynamic wallpapers, themes, and even change the look/feel if you know what you’re doing.  Apple has truly integrated iOS with the entire Apple ecosystem – calendar and contact updates on one device carry over to all devices, including those running Mac OSX; you can share files between devices; and more.  Android is getting there but not quite yet as well integrated, largely because the software is designed to run on multiple platforms.  Apple’s strength is that they control everything whereas Google must accommodate many platforms, manufacturers, etc.  Configuration/settings are more intuitive in iOS whereas Android is a bit cluttered; that said, both have roughly equivalent functions.  Android tends to be more app driven for features where iOS incorporates them; for example, you can set up quiet times on iOS right in the phone (no calls, no texts, no sound, etc) but Android you need to download an app to do the same.  The user interface in iOS is more fluid, “prettier”, and easier to use; if you sit them side by side, you’ll see what I mean.  For the hard core geeks, Android is well liked because it is a more “open” operating system than Apple; Apple is very closed off and kept close to the vest (as I’ve mentioned above).  For upgradeability – iOS blows Android away.  Each manufacturer must come up with a customized version of its particular fork of Android, especially among the less expensive models.  iOS…it just works.  Siri vs Google Now (the virtual assistant interface of the two operating systems…Google Now has the stronger showing.  It can offer more information in response to your inquiries than Siri.
Generally speaking, I recommend against getting the wireless carriers’ “freebie” upgrades.  They’re simply not up to snuff; you either end up with antiquated technology (iPhone 4S or Motorola Razr), or you get a recent model that has limited upgradeability and less features (slower processor, lesser camera).  The latter can also be said for most $50ish upgrades and any smartphones for $100 or less.  If you’re going to upgrade, it’s worth it to spend $99-$199 to get the newer version of a mainstream, higher-end phone like the S5 or iPhone 5C.  Remember: you’re going to have this phone for 2 or more years and even though you may not be a heavy user of the non-calling features, it’s best to get something decent.
Case in point - I used to carry Android phones until I decided I wanted a fully integrated ecosystem to increase my operational efficiency.  At that time, I moved from Windows to Mac OSX and from Android to iOS.  I bought each of the first 3 iPads but skipped the fourth generation as I was awaiting the iPad Air.  I chose to add memory to my iMac rather than upgrade to the latest as the newest models only offer faster processors (again, considering my overall needs/usage).  And on my iPhone, I moved from a 4S to a 5 because the 5 offered a serious upgrade *BUT* I am waiting for the 6 as the 5S/5C does not offer anything significant over the 5.

The end analysis – If you’re looking for something that is intuitive, mature, and just works, iOS is the better choice.  If you want the best hardware today (can’t wait), then the latest Android smartphones (like the S5) is the right choice.  Android diehards, the Samsung S5 is the right way to go; iOS followers should wait for the iPhone 6 to come out later this year.

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