Android and iOS have been compared to one-another with each new OS update and hardware release for the past two years. Undoubtedly, the two have traded blows in terms of new features and unique updates, but each operating system ultimately brings its own blend of function and form to the table which appeals to each user differently. Some might enjoy the Android experience more than they would iOS, but that doesn’t necessarily mean one is better than the other.
In this article, I’ll explain some of the features that make Android appealing to a wide range of users from students to IT professionals and all points in-between.
Before you comment on this being an article written by an Android fanboy, let me get the disclosures out of the way. I’m writing this from the perspective of a former employee at Apple, current user of Apple products including the iPad, iMac, iPhone, and iPod nano. I’m also a former Samsung Captivate (Android 2.1 – 2.2) user. I switched back to the iPhone only because of some disappointing updates that were delayed for far too many months. This was one setback I noted in a previous article on why Android might not be for everyone. That said, I’m an optimistic follower of Android news and a potential future user. What I’ve seen from Ice Cream Sandwich leads me to believe that Android has reached a point of maturity that makes it an even match for iOS.
Here are five reasons to choose Google’s Android over Apple’s iOS.
Where iOS leads in controlled software, Android leads in choice. The size of your screen, carrier, color, and even build materials are all dictated to you in the iOS environment. You can buy from one family of devices made by one manufacturer and that’s all you can really do. Android is installed on smartphones and tablets made by a variety of different manufactures and made available on virtually every carrier.
The Transformer Prime, Amazon Kindle Fire, Samsung Galaxy Tablet, etc. are all great examples of the kind of diverse hardware you can choose from while still enjoying a single base OS. Apps you purchase on one device may be easily used on others in a variety of form factors and price points.
Open Software Environment
Android is an open environment when compared to iOS. This makes it a perfect playground for programmers and users that enjoy modifying their user experience to meet their own specific needs. Android offers you more control over your device where iOS sets limits that can only be overcome by jailbreaking. Even then, a jailbroken iPhone may well be bricked by an update from Apple which itself warned users that doing so was illegal before a court ultimately determined that users have the right to modify products they purchased.
Android doesn’t force software developers to pass through an intense approval process that may deny an app if Apple deems it as being uninteresting or otherwise undesired. Android is open, which means that you can pretty much do whatever you want with it as long as it keeps the phone in operating condition and doesn’t violate any regulations. If you jailbreak your iPhone, good luck getting it replaced under warranty should an update brick it.
Many of the most popular programs you can find on iOS are also available on Android. Because Android has such a large grasp on the overall smartphone market, there’s no reason not to expect more developers to start concentrating more on the open platform moving forward.
Part of the open software environment is the widgets. Apple is very controlling as to what does and doesn’t appear on the home screens. Android, on the other hand, allows the software to spill in to this screen and provide at-a-glance information to the user. For example, the weather and your social network updates can be accessed without specifically launching the program. This is a huge advantage for people who just want to take a glance down and get back to what they’re doing without having to check programs one-by-one.
Voice Recognition on Every Phone
Apple made headlines when it announced Siri for the iPhone 4S. Siri is a virtual assistant that operates through voice recognition and a link to calculation engine Wolfram Alpha, Wikipedia, and a number of other sources. Siri is an incredibly fun addition to the iPhone, but it’s only available on one device. iPhone 4, 3GS, iPad, and iPod touch users are all unable to take advantage of Siri.
Android has built-in voice recognition and control software available out of the box on any Android device with a microphone. Granted, this software is slightly less functional than Siri, but it gets the job done when it comes to music playback, web search, and dictation. Google is one of the largest information resources on the planet, and being linked to a voice recognition app on your Android device makes it a fairly useful feature of the OS.
iOS has had voice recognition for a while for things like dialing. Even an on iPhone 4, you can use voice recognition to call specific people on your list. This doesn’t work for dictation or application control, however.
Having options is great, especially when you’re choosing a mobile carrier. Some carriers have strict bandwidth caps, hidden fees, high prices, and a number of other problems. Finding a carrier that’s right for you might mean straying from the beaten path and choosing a dependable company that doesn’t carry the iPhone. Some people live in areas that T-Mobile, Cricket, or others serve better than AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon. To those, there is Android.
Because Android is a more open platform, more manufacturers and carriers are able to take advantage of it. Apple has specific agreements with a limited number of carriers across the world that enables features like visual voicemail and others on the device. These agreements were once exclusive only to one carrier per market, but are now offered to three in the US alone, with more options becoming available around the world. Still, this does limit users quite a bit more than it does on Android.
There are expensive Android devices on the market, don’t get me wrong. Where the advantage of Android comes is in the value one can find in the budget market. Prepaid phones running on Android can run about $100 with no contract required while the cheapest iPhone without a contract is several times that amount. If you do sign a 2-year agreement with a carrier, you can get an iPhone for free, but it’ll be a fairly old model. The newest iPhone runs at a minimum $200 while many of the newer Android phones go for about half that. Some brand new Android devices may actually be free with a contract.
In the tablet realm, there’s the iPhone and everything else. The iPad 2 is currently going for $499 for the 16GB model. This is a baseline model that offers Wi-Fi connectivity only. On the Android side, a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 runs about $430. You can also find the Sony Tablet S and the Asus Transformer Prime with 32 GB of storage capacity for the same price as the iPad.
If you really wanted a drop in price, the Amazon Kindle Fire is $199 and is an exceptional tablet for the price.
What about 4G?
I didn’t add 4G speeds to the list of advantages for one specific reason. 4G and 4G LTE are marketing terms that describe signals that carriers can only provide to certain parts of the country. 3G connectivity is even limited between cities in many areas of the US, and newer 3G technology can actually compete head-to-head with the speeds you’ll find on most 4G devices.
For example, the iPhone 4S supports AT&T’s HSDPA 14.4 network, giving it data speeds that equal (and even exceed) some phones carrying the 4G label. As with any current wireless technology, results vary depending where you are in the world, and sometimes where you are in a specific room. At one corner of my home office I get incredible speeds while the other may as well be a Faraday cage.
This is one area where many industry leaders agree. CNET recently released an article explaining the 4G situation in detail. In it Darren Warren, the senior director of technology for the GSM Association said, “The term 4G is basically meaningless.” I’d agree with that statement.
That said, better speeds mean very little when there is an imposed data cap on the service. That only means you can hit that cap even faster.
Is 4G an advantage of Android over iOS? I’d say not inherently, but there is potential there if carriers actually do develop a revolutionary new wireless technology that Android-enabled manufacturers can take advantage of faster than often late-arriving Apple.
Android is an excellent OS, and one that I personally feel has reached a point of maturity that makes it a viable candidate for a wide variety of users. There are plenty of great apps out there that appeal to just about anyone from Mom and Dad to IT professionals and programmers. What makes Android so interesting is that it offers users choice. Choice of manufacturer, hardware, software, UI, and more.
Apple’s iOS is a great solution, and may be better for many users. Android delivers on a promise of choice. If choice is important to you, then I can’t see any reason why it shouldn’t be considered a great candidate for your primary phone and/or tablet OS.