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.
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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.
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"Apple's garden is beautiful" "everything is checked to make sure it works properly"
You surely are joking!?!
That's why I did not buy a iphone last year when I replaced my old cell phone.
The screen is to small and you have to buy a lot of app. for them.
I don't like apple pro. they are junk. Over priced over rated.
Funny that Apple is now so dictatorial with its products and applications for them, considering that in 1984, they ran that dystopian, "we'll smash the limits you have placed on ManKind with our new products" ad - now they the ones imposing the limits - they are doing exactly what they set out to destroy. Wonder if that's ever occurred to the Apple Magnates....
So you can get an Apple with an app that does 90% of what you want to do, or you can get an Android which has 90 apps that do <90% of what you want to do, but by switching between them, you can do 100% of what you wanted to do? Sounds like a lot of trouble for an extra 10% of functionality. And don't forget about that little issue called "compatibility". Since each Android phone generally runs it's own version of the OS, some apps won't run on all devices, or won't run well. And you're generally locked into the one that came with your phone, unless and until your vendor issues an update. If you try to update to an unauthorized new release, you risk creating a new brick.
And the WD media hub problem? Typical issue we've seen for decades from the 3rd party industry. They come out with a product and have drivers for every version of Windows imaginable, but nothing for Apple or Linux. Even if they do come out with one, it will never get updated, so your new toy will likely quit working with the next OS upgrade. WD could take care of this with an app of their own, or paying a small royalty to Apple and actually implementing fully-compatible airplay support. Don't blame Apple for Western Digital (or Seagate, or whatever their parent company's name is) for being cheap.
At some point you will realize that you have traded Apple's walled garden for your ISP's. After waiting for over a year for a new update from Verizion, I finally jumped to the iPhone and haven't looked back. There's a reason there's such a small percentage of Android users that are using the current OS...
Then there's also the point that you know that Apple's new OS will always be backward compatible through many phone versions....not true with the other phone manufacturers. Been there done that, sticking with my iPhone.
A well thought out article for a change, and one that doesn't bash one side or the other. I'm impressed.
Personally, I won't buy anything Apple for the simple reason that they try to control everything you do. I don't appreciate any company that does that and I won't buy products from such companies regardless of whether or not they are better unless there just isn't any suitable alternative. History has shown that proprietary products really don't last. Apple has continually managed to avoid that thanks to extremely well done advertising and strong planning to make all their products work together. But it can only last for so long. At some point, people are going to start looking elsewhere for products that don't try to control you. And considering that more and more young people are tech savvy, it probably won't be too long before that happens. Tech savvy people don't appreciate it when their tech won't do what they want it to do.
There is no doubt that Apple products are simple to use and work very well for people who don't know much about what similar products are capable of, or who only use the features Apple provides and don't need anything else. But for everyone else, there are better options available in most cases. Sure, you do things differently. Sure, a specific app or program you use on Apple may not be available in the exact same format with the exact same features on another system... but something similar will be available. There are some really great Android phones (my Samsung Galaxy S3 that I got recently works great). People often compare apps, but you really can't compare them except on an app-to-app comparison. It doesn't matter how many apps are available or how many apps are junk. What matters is what apps you will want to use and how they compare to apps on the other platform. However, having more apps is useful because there is a greater chance of finding an app that does what you want it to do. And it doesn't hurt to support the "little guy" whose app may not be perfect. Supporting him or her can mean that the person will continue to learn to develop and will get better with time. In the end, that person may develop a great app that you'll love. If you deny all the "little guys," then you greatly reduce the number of potential developers in the future. Programming was started by individuals long before it became corporate. Even now, there are many great Indie games and apps out there.
Anyhow, everyone should get the phone they prefer, but I would strongly recommend trying other options now and then to see the differences. Phones and software change over time and what you might not like one day, you may like later on. Also, don't just test another phone for a few minutes. You really need to give yourself a few days to get the hang of the phone and see what it can do. Otherwise, you're almost guaranteed to not like it because it's different and confusing because you haven't given yourself time to learn the new phone.
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