Android vs. iOS

My iPhone 4S came this last week. Previously, I was a proud owner of the HTC Evo 4G, a great phone. But still I switched. Since I've had a few people ask me why, I decided I'd better just blog it. Sorry for my rambling.

Both platforms have their advantages. I suppose I'll go platform by platform and examine some pros and cons:

iOS

With iOS 5, an iPhone was finally a valid alternative to my Android phone. Previously, I never would have switched, because of the lack of a good notifications system. If a push notification came in, it would interrupt whatever you were doing, sometimes to the effect of restarting your progress in a game or something. This in and of itself was an annoyance, but could be overlooked. The main problem was that once a notification popped, if didn't immediately go to that app and take care of it, it was gone. Poof. You couldn't decide to leave this or that notification for later, because they weren't being stored anyplace. That all changed with Notification Center in iOS 5.

This was basically just a modified copy of Android's version of notifications, which they got right from the beginning. Drag from the top of the screen and you have a list of all the notifications which you have not yet acted upon. In my opinion, Apple did it even better than Android -- you can define the order in which notifications are shown manually, or you can have it based on the time of the notification. You can also act on the notification straight from the lock screen by sliding-to-unlock using the notification icon. (Hard to explain, ask someone with an iPhone to show you if you don't know what I mean) It's a pretty schweet feature.

Other things iOS has going for it:

  • Very stable (rarely crashes, almost never have to reboot, etc)
  • Very clean (everything is hardware accelerated, so every action is smooth out of the box)
  • Higher resolution screen than most Android phones, even the ones with bigger screens. People complain about the screen size on iPhones, but you don't even notice because of how clear the retina display is.
  • More secure (all apps are sandboxed, making malware pretty much nonexistent)
  • More polished apps (I don't know why this is the way it is -- perhaps because of Apple's app store policies, but apps are so much polished on average. It's true of both OSX and iOS) This is a huge one. The general level of quality, both of games and of daily-use apps, is much higher on iOS than on Android.
  • Better hardware, with very little fragmentation. You have great battery life, on every iPhone. It's very compact for its power. You almost never have to worry about your phone not meeting "minimum requirements." This is probably a large part of what makes the previous statement (polished apps) true -- developers can focus on the quality of the app, rather than focusing on making the app work for hundreds of different phones. You're also guaranteed to get all the iOS updates for at least a couple of years, something which 99% of Android users do NOT get.
  • Great camera. Yes, some Android phones also have great cameras, but many of them are pretty much junk.

The iPhone is a pretty great phone, but it does have some cons:

  • Limited customization. Can't replace the stock keyboard, very few homescreen customization options, etc.
  • Sandboxed apps. This is both a pro and a con. Apps can't really interact because they're sandboxed. You also don't have a file system in the classic sense, which makes it more limited for a computer replacement. Most people don't care about this con, but it's still there.

Those are the only cons I can think of right now, leave a comment if you find one I missed.

Android

Android is also a great platform. I love Google, and love their products. Things Android has going for it:

  • The same type of notification system, tried and true.
  • Tons of customization options. There are many great options for homescreen apps which can change the look and functionality of your homescreen and app drawer drastically
  • Separation between homescreen and general apps. This means you can use your homescreen more like the desktop on your computer, with only apps you use often showing there, and the rest hidden in the "app drawer," which you can open at will from your homescreen.
  • True multitasking. This means that apps can run in the background and perform tasks without being open, which is very uncommon in iOS, which utilizes push notifications. However, it can have performance and battery ramifications, which we will explore in the cons section.
  • Apps have more freedom. This means that you can have Google Voice, for example, seamlessly integrate with the phone app, as opposed to being separate. It also allows problems like malware.
  • Dedicated menu and back buttons. This is both a pro and a con, but I find myself missing a dedicated back button on iOS, and having these buttons as hardware buttons saves space on the screen which would be taken up by these buttons.
  • Much better integration with the Google-sphere. Since everything I use is Google, (Gmail, Calendar, Contacts, Voice, Talk), having this integration is really nice. You can get pretty decent integration in iOS, but it takes more setup and is not as seamless.

Here are some cons:

  • Instability. I had to restart my phone every few days because it would become unresponsive or strange bugs would rear their heads. A pain when your phone takes a few minutes to restart.
  • Reliance on phone manufacturer for operating system updates. This is a big one -- unless you've rooted your phone and are using custom roms, most OS updates either never come, or are 6 months to a year late, and by then a new version has been released. This also causes problems with app requirements.
  • Inconsistent hardware quality. Another big one. Most Android touch screens are not as precise or as quick to respond as the iPhone screens. In addition, some of the Android phones are cheaply made, and/or have really bad battery life.
  • True multitasking. Like I said, this is a pro and a con. The con is that a frozen or buggy app can rampage in the background, sucking battery power and processing power. Even the ones that don't act up can continually such battery life in the background. In addition, apps are much harder to kill on Android, since you have to go into system settings and wade through the list of apps to do it.
  • Malware. Without Apple-esque restrictions on apps, there is much more danger of malware. This is becoming an increasing issue as Android becomes more popular.
  • Lower app quality standard. We've visited this already.

Summary and Other Resources

I decided to switch from one of the better Android phones to an iPhone 4S. And unless something big changes in the future, I'll never go back. The stability and polish is important to me, as is battery life. I also will get the newest versions of iOS right as they are released for at least a few years, where Android users are often left out in the cold when new versions of Android come out. What you get will depend on what's most important to you. But even as a power user, I chose iPhone.

Here's a recent article on the subject: Link

Sorry for my rambling, be sure to leave a comment below with your opinions.

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