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.


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143Comments
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 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 10:17PM
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For someone who likes the technical stuff, Android is for you. If you like a phone that is intuative, and easier to use, get an iPhone. The Android phones do give you much more flexibility, but the average person would only recognize the larger screen as the major difference. It all boils down to whats more important for you, and what suits your personal preferences.

 

In short, get the phone that best works for you and what you do with it. Either way, they both are great phones.

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. 
Jan 24, 2013 8:36AM
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Apple is like a cult. Apple owners think they are smart for buying Apple, but in reality Apple is relying on their ignorance of what's available and what's possible. Beside the hardware and software limitations of Apple products. Most people who swear by Apple either never owned any other product or had a no-so-great Android, Blackberry, or Palm product. Then for Apple it became the "Lexus syndrome" of electronics. A basic phone with overpriced or better parts which they could have sold for much cheaper - just like Lexus! Like the "Retina" display that most Apple owners don't even understand, and those that think they do actually and falsely believes that this display has just as high a resolution as the human eye in all conditions!

Now the real Apple dummies get one simply because to have one somehow makes them feel superior to other people. Collateral companies know this and now you have whole businesses dedicated to making products, also overpriced, just to work on Apple phones!

The worst is though, Apple at one point had tens of thousands of US employees, yet chose to move the bulk of operations and manufacturing to China where these phones, IPODS, and other Apple products are made for literally pennies on the dollar, and sold back here in the US for more than any other product! The late Steve Jobs and the current Apple management must laugh their collective asses off every time they introduce another Apple product and watch people camping out for days ahead of the sale!

It must be nice to know you can build and ship a phone for less than $50. and sell it here for $800. A phone that is certainly not the worst, but just as certainly not the best either, and one that the owners can run around with dancing in the streets! If there was a legal method of robbery and fraud, Apple wrote the book on it!

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 24, 2013 12:09AM
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apple has great products ...just like sony had in the 70's and 80's...remember beta, it was superior to other video but you had to have a sony player. VHS dominated because most other video player companies could use the VHS format.

the point is, closed or restricted systems never sell when there is an available, somewhat equivalent open system, even if that system may have technological weaknesses (which are usually compensated for due to the easy access to apps that do almost anything apple can do)

Jan 23, 2013 11:49PM
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Ha.  I recognized this prior to dumping an unrealistic amount of money on Apple products.  Nope.  Android all the way.  Also, if you're looking into purchasing a Tablet, I highly recommend the Samsung Galaxy 10.1 Note.  It does things that iPad loyalists can only dream of.  Two open windows at once?  Yep... the Note can do that.  Plus it's easier on the pocketbook.

Jan 24, 2013 8:12AM
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We bought Galaxy SIII from the Walmart evil empire for 98 bucks each. Since our tv is also a Samsung, the All Share feature works great for beaming content to the tv. The S Voice feature is, for the most part, pretty accurate. Our 15 year old granddaughter figured out more about the available features in 30 minutes than we had figured out in 3 months, and she didn't need to try and read the 376 page manual we downloaded. It's tough getting old. The low price is the main reason we upgraded and is something Apple doesn't offer. I also avoid ITunes like the plague.

 

Jan 24, 2013 9:50AM
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For all of Apple's customer loyalty they learned nothing from RIM and the blackberry nose dive. Once other providers started making comparable products Blackberry relied solely on the loyalty of their customers and are hardly in the running anymore in the smart phone market they helped create.
Jan 24, 2013 12:45AM
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I might leave iphone too but for different reason.  The screen is too small.  I want big screen like Samsung.
Jan 23, 2013 8:53PM
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i had a iPhone 3GS but by then i went trough a series of Nokia's that worked awsome. By chance i had the iPhone the same time i had a Blackberry, and Blackberry i could change about anything on it. I loved it untill i stubled upon Android. i admit i have to figure out how to edit the themes etc but i defently like it since i have a ton of options, and i really think Apple is so limited that i feel i can't do much with it. i have a habit of obsessing about software on a phone and till now Blackberry is the best to custumize the theme's, install new software etc. Android gives you a better quality in the phone itself. so there you go i vote for Android :D
Jan 23, 2013 7:06PM
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Droid=aps and more aps ,who would you rather design for?
Jan 24, 2013 12:00PM
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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.

Jan 23, 2013 8:58PM
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I have ahd ever IPhone untill the IPhone 5 release, it didnt appeal to me at all. I look at my 4S as was like really noe difference, i loved all my iphones and my ipod touch and my ipad, but then i discovered the samsung family. i first bought the galaxy s3 which was a huge step up from any iphone i have ever own. i change my carriers do to moving to a different state and i now own the Galaxy Note 2 which by far is the best phone on the earth. all the exciting things i can do to and with the phone are out of control. the phone is huge i can see every thing and i have never need to blow up my pages, all the free customizing i can do turn me into a andriod fan for life. But yes i would still recommend the Iphone to any one that was intrested in it.

Jan 24, 2013 1:43PM
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Apple is a the company for people who THINK they're hip, but who actually can't function unless they have someone leading them around by the hand telling them what to do, what to think, what to watch and what to read.  I once had some one raving to me about how wonderful Apple stores were and the fact that they are always crowded as a sign of how great Apple was.  I simply said that Star Trek conventions are said to be well attended too and for the same reason, fan boys will always flock to the temple to show their devotion and get their fix.
Jan 23, 2013 8:49PM
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DROID RAZR M=MOTOROLA=ANDROID=WORKS GREAT NO COMMENTS  =APS ,APS,APS----------
Jan 24, 2013 1:55PM
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I like Android as well - the downside is PRIVACY - I have apps on Android that do insignificant stuff like turn my phone into a flashlight - and in order to download them I MUST accept privacy terms that give the developer access to all kinds of info - like GPS, Contacts, ability alter my microSD card, etc.  I hate that the trade-off for convenience is giving over my life story.
Jan 24, 2013 1:02PM
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I had the first iPhone then went to an Android when those came out but Android was still working out a few kinks at the time so my experience with wasnt that great. Now Im back with an iPhone and I dont need anything fancier than this. As long as I can get to the end of my contract and my phone still work like it should, I'm completely happy with what Ive got. I guess if I was a little kid I would feel cool with the latest and greatest but technology is old the second you buy it, half the bells and whistles the new phones have are silly and really not needed. I get my emails from work and can get online almost anywhere. I have a life and dont let technology get in the way, I dont do Facebook and really if it wasnt for my job I doubt I would have this fancy phone.
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I don't like apple products and much prefer the Android which I am switching to the phone AND the Galaxy Tablet.
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