Why I might ditch my iPhone for an Android

Apple's hardware is great, and its well-tended operating system is beautiful. But behind the garden walls are bars that restrict your choices in all kinds of ways.

By MSN Money Partner Jan 23, 2013 4:14PM

A man examines an Apple Inc. iPhone 5 while holding a smartphone running Google Inc.'s Android operating system (© Daniel J. Groshong/Bloomberg via Getty Images)By: Mathew Ingram, Bloomberg Businessweek  


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After being in love with my iPhone for several years now, my attentions are increasingly being pulled elsewhere -- and I'm not fighting it. I've been an iPhone fan since I first got my hands on one: It instantly made my BlackBerry feel like an ugly brick that was designed by orangutans.


All I wanted to do was hold my iPhone forever, and that's almost exactly what I've done since I first got one -- until I switched to using an Android phone over the holidays.


I didn't decide to try an Android phone because I was dissatisfied with Apple (AAPL) or the iPhone. I still think the iPhone is one of the best-designed, most appealing products I've ever used. I have a MacBook Air and an iPad that I also love using, and I recommend them whenever I get the chance.


But I will confess that I have been looking enviously at Android phones after seeing friends using them and even more after borrowing one last fall for a trip to Amsterdam.


Beyond these walls

Part of what interests me is the larger screen on the Nexus and other phones. I like to read Web pages and documents and to look at photos on my phone, so more screen real estate is appealing. But I'm also interested in the openness of the Android ecosystem, and I wonder if that would be a benefit, compared with the walled garden that Apple runs for iOS.


There's no question that Apple's garden is beautiful, as walled gardens go. It is extremely well maintained: Nasty or disturbing apps are kept out, and everything is checked to make sure it works properly, which is a big benefit. In other words, the bars are hard to see behind all those beautiful flowers.


But in some cases, useful things are kept out as well -- content, applications or ways of integrating with other networks and services that may not meet Apple's standards (or that aren't willing to pay Apple for the privilege of connectivity).


Here's one anecdote that sums up the differences between the two platforms for me: When I took a photo with the Android phone, a Motorola Razr HD, it suddenly occurred to me that maybe I could beam it to my TV somehow. I have a media hub from Western Digital (WDC) that has all my photos on it. Usually, I have to copy the pictures from the iPhone to a computer with iTunes and then share them with the WD hub. I thought perhaps I could beam them from the Android because the hub is a DLNA device. (DLNA is essentially the open version of Apple's AirPlay standard for wireless networking.)


Within five minutes, I had downloaded an app that beamed my photo to the WD hub, and we were looking at it on the TV. I did the same thing with a YouTube video.


Doesn't play well with others

Another light-bulb moment happened when I went to share a Web page from the Motorola. When you do this on the iPhone, you get to choose between Twitter, Facebook (FB), email and printing, but on the Android the sharing menu is longer than the screen. You can share just about anything with just about anything else, whether it's a Web service or an app.

 

For me, that's a potent difference between the two platforms.


It's probably possible to beam your photos to your television with an iPhone or iPad, but to do that you would need an Apple TV and AirPlay and be hooked into other parts of the Apple ecosystem (such as iTunes, which I have always loathed using). If you have a motley crew of non-Apple technology the way I do -- such as the Western Digital hub and my desktop that runs Ubuntu -- you are a second-class citizen in some ways, because Apple often doesn't play well with others.


I've gradually been replacing many of Apple's services and default applications, such as maps and mail, with Google ones or those made by others. The iPhone hardware still appeals to me, because it is so well-made and great to hold. But for services, Apple has never really been the best, and you can see that in services like iCloud.


I would miss things about the iPhone. I'd miss iMessage; a lot of my friends and family also have iPhones. I'd also miss Photostream, which is a great way to have pictures I take automatically show up on my iPad and MacBook Air. But I have replicated much of this by using auto-upload with both Google (GOOG) and Facebook, as well as an open-source photo hosting service called OpenPhoto that uses Amazon.com's (AMZN) S3 for hosting.


When I try to describe the difference between the two platforms to friends, I put it this way: With iOS, if you want to do something, there may be one or two apps that will let you, and they work pretty well. But if you want a feature they don't have, you are out of luck. With Android, if you want to do something with the phone, there are 15 or 20 apps that will help you, and many are free, but most won't do everything you want and only a couple will actually work the way you want them to.


For me it comes down to this: Apple has great design, but it restricts your choice in all kinds of ways.


I have been seeing those restrictive bars more and more, despite all the beautiful flowers. Android offers a kind of "tyranny of choice." But in the end, I think choice and openness are better, even if they seem less attractive at first glance. That's why I'm thinking of making the switch permanent.


A version of this post first appeared at GigaOM.com.


More from Bloomberg Businessweek

143Comments
Jan 23, 2013 8:49PM
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DROID RAZR M=MOTOROLA=ANDROID=WORKS GREAT NO COMMENTS  =APS ,APS,APS----------
Jan 23, 2013 8:47PM
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I use my iPhone5 for everything. It is far superior to any junky android phone. I have an iPhone 4, iPhone 5, iPad2 and Apple TV. There is nothing that I can't do with these devices. My co-worker owns an android and complains about it all the time.
Jan 23, 2013 8:45PM
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YES ,Andriod is GOD's choice and ours also.
Jan 23, 2013 8:02PM
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I phones used to be the "cool" thing that the young people on the cutting edge had.  Now, my 70 year old parents use the iphone while we have androids.  They are becoming a thing of the past for exactly the reason the author gave, they have so little real compatability with other technology.  Apple makes great quality hardware, but we more and more want our devices to all work together, and Apple is extremely poor at that.
Jan 23, 2013 7:55PM
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That is why I jailbreak my iPhones. Once you do that, you can even run android on them.
Jan 23, 2013 7:37PM
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I am an Android user will always be. Android is an open market, You can do with your device whatever you want with it. Customize to your colors,fontz,layout, apps widgets and too many more to mention. That why I love this devices. Apple has only ONE and everybody has that same.

No customization, no freedom and no choices. You are stuck with iOS and what iOS does.

Apple decides for you what you can do with your device.

 

But Apple is great for folks who don't do much with the phones, If you only do calls , text , see the game scores, weather and call Grandma on the weekends then That Apple device is for you.

 

Android is for me because have the freedom to do whatever I want.

I am an HTC fan

My device.. HTC Evo LTE.

 

Jan 23, 2013 7:29PM
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Apple is making the same mistakes Microsoft did in the 90s. Relying on consumer loyalty rather than innovation leads to tricks like "planned obsolescense" and even intentional design flaws to force users to buy new models more frequently. You can't tell me these unethical tricks won't come back to bite them. It'll take a while but Apple is on its way out. I predict the stock will be less than 1/2 its current value in 3 years. Go ahead and call me on it if I'm wrong.
Jan 23, 2013 7:10PM
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They are both fads and junk.   There will be something else out next week.  just a way to keep money flowing  marketing.
Jan 23, 2013 7:06PM
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Droid=aps and more aps ,who would you rather design for?
Jan 23, 2013 7:05PM
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Why would you copare an operating system to a phone? 0_o
Jan 23, 2013 6:51PM
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 . . . or you could take the training wheels off altogether and go for a Windows 8 phone!  Yes, Windows currently only has TENS of THOUSANDS of apps compared to Apple's and Google's HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of apps, but how many apps do you actually use?  I used to download apps all the time because I thought they'd be fun or useful, but a month or two later I'd be uninstalling them because I never used them.  I also used to have 200 hundred channels on my TV (before I cancelled), until I realized I was only watching 5 of them on a regular basis. 
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