Neil from England writes:
I am coming up to the end of my mobile phone contract and will soon be upgrading. I currently use the iPhone, and while happy with it, but I am thinking along the Android line also. Would it be possible to do a article of the pro’s and con’s of both iOS and Android?
The Android vs. iOS debate has blossomed into quite the war among sides. So, what’s the deal? Is Android really the blissful open enviroment that lets people truly customize the device – or is it a virus-ridden monster which has more junk then quality? Is iOS the simple beautiful, functional device that just does what you expect – or is it horrible, crippled and limited by “big brother” at Apple? The answer to everything above is Yes.
But which points really matter?
Let’s compare Android to iOS in 5 popular ways for smartphones:
Use the phone as a… phone:
Android offers a fantastic set of contacts and call management features which automatically sync to your google account. Voicemails on many popular carriers are visual voicemail (meaning you see them as individual messages to play instead of the old dial 1, type your pin code, press * etc etc) and offers clear big controls.
iOS offers a fantastic set of contacts and call management features which sync to your iCloud account. Voicemails are delivered by visual voicemail and the controls are big and simple to use.
Android lets both the device manufacturer and the end user customize their device… a lot. Everything from different user interface designs to widgets and screen effects. You can also do all the basic customization like wallpaper, ringtone and notification alarm sounds.
iOS lets you customize your wallpaper and ringtones, but the basic interface is the same from phone to phone.
Android has hundreds of thousands of applications, and the limits to what can be installed on an Android phone are almost non-existent. The catch is there is no general interface design rules or compatibility requirements, so many applications can be copies of other applications, simple software (ringtone app) or just not run on a specific device. Virus and spyware is also a concern, and the fact that Android has anti-virus software available in its app store is a bit of a worry.
iOS has just as many applications in the store, but limits users to specific design rules and an approval process. Applications are limited in what they can do to your phone and how they can interact, but due to piracy safeguards higher quality paid applications seem to come to iOS more often then Android. iOS apps are checked for viruses and spyware, and the design of the operating system makes writing viruses nearly impossible.
Web Browsing and E-mail/Messaging:
Android has a built-in version of Chrome web browser and offers other web browsers via the Android market. Adobe has given up on mobile Flash, but it is still available for Android where it is not for iOS – so websites that use Flash will display correctly under Android, but not iOS. The Gmail client works very well, and the variety of e-mail clients support most of the popular message functions. The notification area of Android lets users know when there are new messages and replying to text messages is very easy.
iOS has a built-in version of the Safari web browser and has other skins for web browsers (like Atomic Web Browser), but does not support apps which replace the core applications – so you’re stuck with the integrated e-mail and web browser for system-wide functions. There are downloadable applications, such as Gmail for iOS, but they will not integrate with other applications when you click an e-mail link in a game or web browser. Notifications are now handled in a very similar way to Android and replying to a text message is very easy. A huge bonus is iMessage, which allows you to message any other iOS device free of charge – and with tens of millions of them out there that’s a huge bonus.
Android has dozens upon dozens of devices, with quite a few different versions of Android on them. The same version of Android can look and preform drastically different from device to device due to CPU speed, memory and customizations made by the manufacturer. On the plus side, if you want a small pocket phone or a giant 5″ screen you can find what you want.
iOS has only 2 current versions of the device, but both with nearly identical design and built to very high quality demands. The look of the software and way the phone works is so similar, that if you’ve used an iPod touch you can probably operate an iPhone without any difficulties. The downside of this standardization is that screen size is locked at 3.5″ and device choice is limited to 2 models with minor performance/specification differences between them.
So what’s the answer? Do you go with iOS and love the beautiful “it just works” design? Do you go with Android and make your phone yours? Do you worry about the possibility of a virus from that “free ringtones” app you got off a webpage on Android, or complain when Apple decides not to allow a certain application to be sold because it might compete with iTunes? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, they say – and which phone is better may be, too.