The question of Android vs. iPhone is a personal one.
Take myself, for example. I’m someone who has used both Android and the iPhone iOS. I’m well aware of the strengths of both platforms along with their weaknesses. Because of this, I decided to share my perspective regarding these two mobile platforms. Additionally, we’ll take a look at my impressions of the new Ubuntu mobile platform and where it stacks up.
What iPhone gets right
Even though I’m a full time Android user these days, I do recognize the areas where the iPhone got it right. First, Apple has a better record in updating their devices. This is especially true for older devices running iOS. With Android, if it’s not a “Google blessed” Nexus…it better be a higher end carrier supported phone. Otherwise, you’re going to find updates are either sparse or non-existent.
Another area where the iPhone does well is apps availability. Expanding on that: iPhone apps almost always have a cleaner look to them. This isn’t to say that Android apps are ugly, rather, they may not have an expected flow and consistency found with iOS. One example of exclusivity and great iOS-only layout would have to be Dark Sky (weather).
Then there is the backup process. Android can, by default, back stuff up to Google. But that doesn’t help much with application data! By contrast, iCloud can essentially make a full backup of your iOS device.
Where iPhone loses me
The biggest indisputable issue I have with the iPhone is more of a hardware limitation than a software one. That issue is storage.
Look, with most Android phones, I can buy a smaller capacity phone and then add an SD card later. This does two things: First, I can use the SD card to store a lot of media files. Second, I can even use the SD card to store “some” of my apps. Apple has nothing that will touch this.
Another area where the iPhone loses me is in the lack of choice it provides. Backing up your device? Hope you like iTunes or iCloud. For someone like myself who uses Linux, this means my ONLY option would be to use iCloud.
To be ultimately fair, there are additional solutions for your iPhone if you’re willing to jailbreak it. But that’s not what this article is about. Same goes for rooting Android. This article is addressing a vanilla setup for both platforms.
Finally, let us not forget this little treat – iTunes decides to delete a user’s music because it was seen as a duplication of Apple Music contents…or something along those lines. Not iPhone specific? I disagree, as that music would have very well ended up onto the iPhone at some point. I can say with great certainty that in no universe would I ever put up with this kind of nonsense!
The Android vs. iPhone debate depends on what features matter the most to you.
What Android gets right
The biggest thing Android gives me that the iPhone doesn’t: choice. Choices in applications, devices and overall layout of how my phone works.
I love desktop widgets! To iPhone users, they may seem really silly. But I can tell you that they save me from opening up applications as I can see the desired data without the extra hassle. Another similar feature I love is being able to install custom launchers instead of my phone’s default!
Finally, I can utilize tools like Airdroid and Tasker to add full computer-like functionality to my smart phone. Airdroid allows me treat my Android phone like a computer with file management and SMS with anyone – this becomes a breeze to use with my mouse and keyboard. Tasker is awesome in that I can setup “recipes” to connect/disconnect, put my phone into meeting mode or even put itself into power saving mode when I set the parameters to do so. I can even set it to launch applications when I arrive at specific destinations.
Where Android loses me
Backup options are limited to specific user data, not a full clone of your phone. Without rooting, you’re either left out in the wind or you must look to the Android SDK for solutions. Expecting casual users to either root their phone or run the SDK for a complete (I mean everything) Android backup is a joke.
Yes, Google’s backup service will backup Google app data, along with other related customizations. But it’s nowhere near as complete as what we see with the iPhone. To accomplish something similar to what the iPhone enjoys, I’ve found you’re going to either be rooting your Android phone or connecting it to a Windows PC to utilize some random program.
To be fair, however, I believe Nexus owners benefit from a full backup service that is device specific. Sorry, but Google’s default backup is not cutting it. Same applies for adb backups via your PC – they don’t always restore things as expected.
Wait, it gets better. Now after a lot of failed let downs and frustration, I found that there was one app that looked like it “might” offer a glimmer of hope, it’s called Helium. Unlike other applications I found to be misleading and frustrating with their limitations, Helium initially looked like it was the backup application Google should have been offering all along — emphasis on “looked like.” Sadly, it was a huge let down. Not only did I need to connect it to my computer for a first run, it didn’t even work using their provided Linux script. After removing their script, I settling for a good old fashioned adb backup…to my Linux PC. Fun facts: You will need to turn on a laundry list of stuff in developer tools, plus if you run the Twilight app, that needs to be turned off. It took me a bit to put this together when the backup option for adb on my phone wasn’t responding.
At the end of the day, Android has ample options for non-rooted users to backup superficial stuff like contacts, SMS and other data easily. But a deep down phone backup is best left to a wired connection and adb from my experience.
Ubuntu will save us?
With the good and the bad examined between the two major players in the mobile space, there’s a lot of hope that we’re going to see good things from Ubuntu on the mobile front. Well, thus far, it’s been pretty lackluster.
I like what the developers are doing with the OS and I certainly love the idea of a third option for mobile besides iPhone and Android. Unfortunately, though, it’s not that popular on the phone and the tablet received a lot of bad press due to subpar hardware and a lousy demonstration that made its way onto YouTube.
To be fair, I’ve had subpar experiences with iPhone and Android, too, in the past. So this isn’t a dig on Ubuntu. But until it starts showing up with a ready to go ecosystem of functionality that matches what Android and iOS offer, it’s not something I’m terribly interested in yet. At a later date, perhaps, I’ll feel like the Ubuntu phones are ready to meet my needs.
Android vs. iPhone bottom line: Why Android wins long term
Despite its painful shortcomings, Android treats me like an adult. It doesn’t lock me into only two methods for backing up my data. Yes, some of Android’s limitations are due to the fact that it’s focused on letting me choose how to handle my data. But, I also get to choose my own device, add storage on a whim. Android enables me to do a lot of cool stuff that the iPhone simply isn’t capable of doing.
At its core, Android gives non-root users greater access to the phone’s functionality. For better or worse, it’s a level of freedom that I think people are gravitating towards. Now there are going to be many of you who swear by the iPhone thanks to efforts like the libimobiledevice project. But take a long hard look at all the stuff Apple blocks Linux users from doing…then ask yourself – is it really worth it as a Linux user? Hit the Comments, share your thoughts on Android, iPhone or Ubuntu.