Updated October, 2011 to reflect changes in the technology and availability
This is not going to be your usual iPhone v Android post. This is because I think the iPhone is an excellent phone, and I think some Android phones are excellent phones. I don’t have a problem recommending either type of phone.
What Will This Post Tell You?
I have no intention of going into the minutia here. There are numerous tech sites that will give those interested in detailed comparisons detailed breakdowns of every possible part of any kind of phone. The practical differences between the phones are what matter to me, and I imagine what matter to you too.
I also will be judging the phones as they come out of the box or are meant to be altered. I will not therefore look at the capabilities of an iPhone that is “jailbroken.”
If you want a more detailed technical analysis check out a blog like Gizmodo, one of my favorite tech blogs. If you decide to go with an Android, I suggest you go to Gizmodo, CNET or one of the other tech review sites to get the particulars.
iPhone vs. High Level Android Phones
Comparing a basic Android phone to the iPhone is silly, I see no point in doing so. The only Android phones that can really compare to an iPhone are the top of the line ones, i.e. the latest Droid, the EVO, Photon, etc.
I don’t like to compare items I haven’t used for a reasonable period of time. I have played a bit with other phones, but the only ones I have used for a long time are the EVO and the iPhone. Fortunately these two phones are reasonable to compare and it is from these two phones I will be making my comparisons and drawing my conclusions.
For those who are unaware, the iPhone has one operating system, at this point 5.x and the Android phone has a different one. Right now there are various Android operating systems out in the wild, depending on the phone’s release date and whether the owner updates the phone.
Let’s Get Down To It
When it comes down to it, anything you can do on an iPhone you can find an Android phone to do. So what’s the big deal?
There is no doubt in my mind that the iPhone is a better starter phone. The argument about iPhone vs Android makes me think back to the argument between Mac vs PC in the 90s. Back then one of the arguments in favor of the Mac was that the Mac was easier to use. And it was. Well the same is true of the iPhone.
The iPhone is Easy to Use
After 12 years in CLE if there is something I know about the legal profession it is that most attorneys want technology that is easy to use. Most lawyers are not technologists and are focused on other things. As much as possible most attorneys want something that they can plug in and have work with the least training possible. If this is you and you don’t have or want someone to help you set up and learn to use your phone, you want an iPhone.
One of the reasons the iPhone is so easy to use is because of the notoriously closed environment in which it is encased. The iPhone is not meant to be modified. It can be, for those who are interested in doing so, but it isn’t meant to be and any modification beyond downloading and installing apps is something most attorneys won’t care to do.
If you are on AT&T or Verizon and have never had a smart phone before, and want the easiest smart phone to use, get yourself an iPhone. You won’t regret it, it has an amazing number of apps, and if you decide after six months or a year you are ready to move on, sell it and pick out an Android. (See my blog post on selling your old phone.)
NOTE: There is a difference between what you can obtain on different providers. For example on an AT&T iPhone you can chat on the phone and search the Internet at the same time. You cannot do this on a Verizon iPhone. As more details come out about the Verizon iPhone we will learn about any other differences between what is available on a Verizon phone vs. an AT&T phone. But the basics of the iPhone 4S remain the same.
Main Negatives of the iPhone and Resultant Positives on the Android
Most of my readers won’t see the controlled environment of the iPhone as a negative, so I won’t list it as one. To me the biggest negatives of the iPhone are:
1. Inability to change the battery
2. Inability to increase the memory
3. No true multitasking
4. No Flash
The Android is an Open Environment
The Android is the opposite of the iPhone. It has an open environment, can be found on any provider, and most have replaceable batteries and memory cards.
The open environment means that one Android can differ markedly from another. Google has also been introducing new operating systems relatively frequently, and only certain phones get the new operating system. This means some applications will work on one phone and not on another. This also causes issues for those creating applications trying to make an app that will work on various phones.
Androids Can Be Hard to Use
The open nature of an Android phone can be the very issue that makes it difficult for the average smart phone user to use.
For example, when I decided to get my EVO, I still wanted to be able to play music on it. It took me a while to find the right mixture of applications for my phone and my laptop to make my EVO an easy to use music player. One of the things I still prefer about the iPhone is the ease of transfer of music and movies to my phone and the subsequent ability to play music and movies.
When I got my Android I had to spend a bit of time searching for apps to do things that the iPhone did out of the box.
More on Multitasking
An iPhone cannot do true multitasking. It can do an iPhone version of multitasking, but it does not provide what the Android provides. This is another reason I chose to change from the iPhone. I was tired of having to constantly close one program or open another, even after the psuedo-multitasking of the iPhone came into being.
I absolutely adore the multitasking of my Android and this is one of the reasons I will not consider going back to an iPhone unless this issue is resolved.
More on Flash
An iPhone, as shipped out of the box, cannot use Flash. Android phones can use Flash. This either matters to you or it doesn’t. Flash is all over the Internet at the moment, so when I had an iPhone I frequently found myself running into problems while trying to view various Websites. I do not have this problem on an Android.
More About Battery Power
The ability to engage in multitasking tends to give high level Android phones terrible battery life. I resolved this issue on my EVO by purchasing a better battery. Now I have wonderful battery life, but a slightly thicker phone, which means my phone cannot fit in most cases. In addition I had to pay an additional $50 for something which arguably should have been included with the phone in the first place.
I have found most powerful smart phones to have shaky battery life, but I have no doubt that Android battery life is worse than iPhone battery life. I think this is because the companies want to keep the phones as thin and inexpensive as possible. So the batteries installed simply aren’t up to the challenge. I am also willing to bet that the iPhone 5 will have better battery life then the iPhone 4. I hope Android phone manufacturers develop improved battery life over time. I feel it is unfortunate to sell a phone that cannot operate as intended by including a battery that cannot support the very items that are supposed to make the phone superior.
Much like the phones themselves, the app store for the iPhone is closed while the app store for the Android phones is open. This means, for the most part, the chances of getting a virus or a harmful app on your iPhone is limited to whether Apple makes a mistake in approving an app. Android has had a few scares (none of which have been real) about harmful apps. No doubt about it though, if someone decides to be malicious, it will be easier on an Android.
However, this very nature of the app stores means that the iPhone has eliminated some apps that users really would like to have. This has caused a black market for the iPhone which requires people to go through a process of altering their phones so they can utilize apps from other sources. This is, for the most part, completely unnecessary with an Android phone. The Android phone is also not limited to downloading apps from the Android store. Apps can be obtained from numerous sources.
To me then, the Android operating system encourages a certain amount of experimentation that the iPhone does not. Numerous application designers have complained about the process of getting an application approved on the iPhone. But remember the difficulty that having various operating systems and slightly altered platforms can create for programmers.
There Are a lot of Android Phones
If you make the decision to purchase an Android phone, your choice isn’t over. Now you have to choose which Android phone you want. This is certainly a benefit of the iPhone. If you decide you want an iPhone your research is over, you just need to decide whether to go with AT&T or Verizon. If you decide you want an Android phone I suggest you pick your provider and then decide whether you want a phone with just a touch screen or require a keyboard. Then pick the best phone that offers the features you desire with the provider you choose.
As I noted in the beginning I did not discuss a jailbroken iPhone when doing my comparisons. It is true that a jailbroken iPhone can erase a lot of the problems I have with an iPhone. As an attorney I am loathe to jailbreak my phone and keep it that way. I will admit, I did jailbreak one of my iPhones just for the experience and I saw an improvement in terms of the issues that caused me grief. But I then restored the phone to its original state. I understand why people jailbreak their phones. It is frustrating to see a phone that is very good, yet capable of so much more, hobbled from its true abilities.
I don’t recommend the average reader of this blog jailbreak their phone for three reasons:
1. While the government has stated jailbreaking is not a crime, Apple continues to fight over this issue
2. Jailbreaking will probably void your warranty
3. You might brick your phone
So Which Should You Get?
Which should you get, an iPhone or an Android? In the end, it doesn’t really matter. Both types of phones have positives and negatives.
I can only tell you why I chose to switch to an Android phone. I wanted what the iPhone simply cannot provide without being jailbroken, true multitasking and Flash. I also wanted to leave AT&T and go to Sprint. Finally I wanted to have freedom of control over the phone and to change the battery and memory.
You might not care about any of the above, and the very freedom that comes with an Android phone might well be a strong negative for you.
What Should You Do?
What I suggest you do is try out your colleague’s phones. Think about what you need your phone to do, and find out whether there are applications that will help you do it. Also see what phone is comfortable in your hands since it will no doubt spend a lot of time there.
If you need help making a choice, well, you know where to reach me. I’ll be happy to spend a few minutes with you on the subject.