The iPhone 5 is likely almost here, and for at least a few people pondering a new smartphone purchase, it’s already better than the alternatives, sight unseen. Two bloggers explaining why that might be caught my eye today, and since I’ve been using a Samsung Galaxy S II for the past couple weeks, I have a few thoughts of my own to add to their excellent points regarding why an iPhone 5 is already a better prospect than any current Android phone.
Inconsistencies and the app problem
In a post on his personal site, Mark Polino lists six great reasons why his next phone won’t be an Android device. He cites some very technical problems, like the fact that a lot of apps grow in size as you use them, and can’t really be trimmed because data gets stored as difficult to remove data instead of in an easily clearable cache. But he also points to more obvious practical issues, like the fact that finding accessories for your specific Android device may be difficult, and even if you can find some, the range of choices just can’t compare to those that are available even for Apple’s older phones. Some of Mark’s issues come from using an older Android device (the original Motorola Droid), but most apply in a broad sense to the OS as a whole.
Over at ZDNet, blogger David Gewirtz posted a very similar lament about his decision to stick with Apple smartphones, despite the fact that he doesn’t appear to be that big of a fan of the iPhone 3G he currently owns. Gewirtz has a very different list of 10 reasons he’s going with Apple over Android for his next device. Some highlights include inconsistent user experience across devices, inability or difficulty of upgrading if you’re not a technically proficient root user, and malware issues, which Ryan Kim recently pointed out are a growing problem for Android devices. In all of the above examples, iOS offers a better alternative; that’s not the lopsided view of a fanboy, it’s just the truth.
Once place where there’s overlap between both Polino’s and Gewirtz’s perspective is on the subject of apps. Android has many, but Apple has more, and as Polino notes, marquee apps tend to hit iOS first, and Android second, if at all. Apps also aren’t necessarily compatible with all, or even most Android phones when they do come out. I had to hunt down a copy of the official Netflix application outside of the market, because my GS2 wasn’t recognized as supported.
There’s also the problem that Android devices ship with lots of bloatware, a problem ZDNet’s Adrian Kingsley-Hughes also pointed out today. Apple devices don’t have to suffer the same indignity. Apps also aren’t necessarily compatible with all Android phones when they do come out
Not stagnant, but repeating mistakes
I’ve only taken a few examples out of the thorough lists provided by both Polino and Gewirtz, and it’s well worth checking out the rest. But even if you only consider the issues highlighted, I think you can start to see how Apple might benefit from, rather than suffer because of, the aggressive spread of Android over the last few years. The problem is that Android hasn’t done enough to smooth over its faults, and the ones that remain could cause a migration to Apple’s side of the fence, even if Android’s lower cost of entry and greater range of hardware choices proved the jump-start needed to get more cell phone owners on smartphone devices.
Don’t get me wrong, Android hasn’t been stagnant over the past few years by any means. The Samsung Galaxy S II phone I’ve been using easily beats my Nexus S on most measures, and even that device was no slouch. But even though it’s an impressive piece of hardware, the GS2 still suffers from the problems mentioned above. I recently tried to figure out how to update Android to 2.3.4 on my international unlocked version and was left pretty much confused, for example, and seeing battery life take a huge hit, then having to dig through running processes to find out why, didn’t provide a positive experience.
I was definitely impressed with the device in the short-term, but I can see how, after owning one for a year or longer, these and other issues with no fix in sight could dull my enthusiasm. There are often third-party solutions or tweaks that can fix areas where Android is deficient, but over time, finding and implementing these can become a chore.
Taking the easy way out
It’s not exactly inspiring to think that Apple’s biggest advantage in the smartphone war could be due to to customers growing annoyed with the alternative, but it also isn’t a new phenomenon: Apple positioned OS X as a better Windows alternative based on similar circumstances. OS X continues to gain ground, and while Apple might’ve started on top with Android and then suffered a modest fall, it’s beginning to look like the tide could turn in its favor once again.