There's no real question about the two current juggernauts in the smartphone industry. On one hand, you have the iPhone. In the other, you have the Android family. Both have their advantages, both have their disadvantages. The specs of the two are nearly identical, but they still very distinct. Let's go through both platforms and figure out which one is best for you, the customer.
With 1.5 million iPhone 4's sold in one day and over two billion apps downloaded on the iOS platform to date, the iPhone is an industrial juggernaut, swallowing the domestic cell phone market one model at a time. But just because it's popular doesn't mean it's good, right?
Well, to some degree that is true. Talk to any iPhone owner, and you'll hear nothing but raves. They love the apps, the look, the feel, the quick response, nearly everything superficial. They love to be able to play the music from their iTunes account and watch Youtube videos, all the while being able to text their best friend just like in their iChat account. It takes the concept of a phone--an engineering marvel that is the sum of millions of coded and physical parts--and gives the end user a fluffy bunny to play with instead.
But just wait until you ask them about making a call. They'll say that they get dropped calls. Sometimes this happens once or twice a week (or once or twice a day, depending on where they live). They call the reception "spotty." They proceed to mention that the worst part of the iPhone is the phone.
Now, not all of this is Apple's fault, though some of it is. Apple could have moved the phone to another network, or picked a more stable network in the first place. But beyond that, this is an issue with AT&T. See, AT&T was not, still is not, and probably will not be ready to match the demand for 3G voice and data that the iPhone users keep on imposing. If the iPhone ran on T-Mobile--the other popular GSM network in the USA--along with AT&T, this likely wouldn't be an issue, and the iPhone would be almost universally loved by all.
So the iPhone is for the Average Joe. They want a smartphone that is smarter than they are. It can do cool stuff, but that cool stuff better not try and show Joe how the cool stuff works. It should just work. There are all of these debates about Apple's Draconian app approval policy, their closed-off development process that produce gargantuan engineering gaffles, and their hypocrisy towards open programming frameworks, but I can count the people I know who care about that stuff on one hand.
The Android family truly is a family. Each phone is completely different, with its own quirks, features, and personalities, though in the end they all have the same last name: Google. Android is the highly customizable, and growingly more powerful cousin to the iOS platform, and it's becoming increasingly more clear that it is here to stay.
But why would anyone choose an Android phone over an iPhone? Well, if you want apps, the Android Market provides over 30,000 apps for your disposal, a ton of which are ports of popular iPhone apps. If you want tight software integration, Android phones require you to have a Gmail account, which is a part of one of the most tightly integrated web platforms on the internet. You also have access to DoubleTwist, a desktop app that promises to be the "iTunes for Android" in terms of the ability to sync up files effortlessly.
So in the end, it's not as tightly knit of an end-user experience as Apple's, but it allows for some more customization that you won't get in the iOS platform. Android allows both the manufacturer and the end user to customize their phones to no end, giving you access to widgets and extensive UI tweaks that you can only get on an iPhone if you jailbreak it.
The Android phone is for someone who cares about choice. They want to customize everything about their phones, and they don't want some monolithic organization controlling every aspect of the user experience. They don't like that Apple holds grudges, and want to be able to run Flash on their cell phones, or install apps that are coded in the programming language of the developer's choice.
But one last note on this topic. Our phones are like a symbiotic connection to the rest of the world. They are our bridges to our social existence. As much as we would hope for otherwise, phones keep us connected to the rest of the world, and without them we would be a mess of a society. Just don't forget that these phones have built-in features whose sole purpose is to make sure that you have fun. Install a game or two to play on the subway. Don't forget that phones have become entertainment devices, and damn good ones at that.
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