Categories: Thoughts

In recent years cell phones have morphed into mini-computers, or “smartphones”. Phones can tweet, facebook, manage clients, pay bills, and even let you update your website. There seems to be no limit to what it can do.

If you’re new (or even old) to the world of smartphones, it can be a daunting task deciding which of the hundreds of phones on the market will suit your business today… and tomorrow.

A client asked me recently “I want to get a smartphone, but should I get an Android or an iPhone?”  A good question. For those who are not tech-savvy, it’s not easy. I know when I don’t really understand a product, I just gather “specs” from the website and pick the best match.

But what do you do when they all look the same? Consider this: each hi-tech product is more than just “specs”. Some technologies like phones and computers grow with us over time. Understanding the development of a gadget can give us clues on how well it will complement our “technological personality”, and thus serve our needs. It’s all part of being a Geek.

In the next 3 installments we’re going to take a look at the two major forces in the smart phone market: Android, an operating system developed by Google, and Apple’s juggernaut the iPhone.

Note: Windows new device launches in a few days, so for now we’re just comparing Android and iPhone.

Fundamentals and Philosophy

So what IS Android? Android itself is not a phone. Android is the name of the operating system Google develops for cell phone manufacturers like HTC and Samsung to run applications on their devices. Android is open to anyone who wants to put it in their tablets or smartphones. The result? Lots and lots of Android phones. Awesome? Almost.  It is up to each manufacturer and phone carrier (ie. ATT, Verizon, Sprint) to decide how Android is going to run on their phones. They determine how it looks, how you access applications, how you configure your phone or even what kinds of services you are allowed to install. Unfortunately, not every feature of Android makes it to a phone because Android phones ultimately serve the interests of the Phone Carrier. For example, Google recently came out with a reported “Pure Android” phone, the Galaxy Nexus. Verizon trumped Google and didn’t allow Google Wallet on it because Verizon is developing it’s own payment system. Plenty of politics and in the Android community.

What’s an iPhone? It’s Apple’s phone that runs on their proprietary iOS operating system.  Every version of iPhone runs exactly the same user interface, with minor differences between updates. iPhone is created, developed and manufactured by only one company: Apple. Carriers have negligible power over what features can or can’t be installed on iPhones, so you get the same iPhone experience no matter whom you pay your phone bill to.

What does this all mean?
By it’s nature, Android offers variety to the masses. There are infinitely more options of hardware and user interfaces. EVERY model of Android phone is going to be different in some way from another. They have a basic foundation, but you’ll need personal curiosity to find a phone that matches the way you use it. You can get models with keys, small screens, big screens, flip screens … the hardware options are there to suit your physical needs. There should be an Android phone for every taste and “technological personality”. But what happens when your Android doesn’t work quite right?

In technology I believe “with variety comes chaos”. You simply cannot have 100 different ways of doing one thing and expect the same result. Sorry to say there is no consistency of quality, reliability or experience between Android phones.

The biggest problem right now with Android phones is the total lack of upgrades and major bug fixes. For 95% of the Android community they don’t exist. I can almost guarantee the version of Android you buy with your phone will be the one it dies with. Whether or not you get an Android OS update lies on the promises and good faith of the Manufacturer. You may hear that “Android” is coming out with a new version, but don’t count on it coming to the phone you just bought.

If your Android OS is really buggy, or the phone suffers a physical ailment , you’ll need to negotiate with your Carrier for a return, refund or repair. Unfortunately there are no set protocols on what to do with a broken Android.

As for the iPhone? Knowing that Apple has control over every aspect of production, you’ll be guaranteed at least 2 years of operating system upgrades and bug fixes. As long as Apple feels your phone can handle the upgrade, you’ll get it.

If anything happens to your iPhone within the warrantee period: Call the nearest Apple store and make an appointment. You’ll walk out of the store with either a repaired phone or a replacement. Few questions asked, no matter who your carrier is.

Owning an iPhone may seem like heaven, but must agree to conform . If you want choices of hardware, Apple will disappoint. There is only one iPhone. If you can’t type on a touchscreen, you’re out of luck. If you want a bigger screen, too bad. Apple’s philosophy is to do one thing and do it “right”. Your single choice is:  Are they are “right” or not?

In Summary so far:
Android encourages choice and independent development. However, Android is only as good as the Manufacture and Carrier who makes it. Grab your pith hat and machete, find your favorite Android, and enjoy the ride on your own.

iPhone is one with their universe. You’ll be a part of a family that stays with you till the very end.  Just don’t ask for ham when they serve turkey on Thanksgiving.

I’m sure that’s alot to digest for now. Next time we’ll compare the nature of iPhone and Android applications…

ProfitGeek CTO