A (wordy) smartphone debate

When someone I know wants to buy a new smartphone, I am always given the same question – should I get an iPhone or an Android? (Windows or BlackBerry is never part of the question for some reason). Many years ago, I used to be able to give an answer rightaway. Depending on how tech savvy they were, I’d recommend either Android or iOS. Not to say that iOS users are dumb and don’t know anything, but because of how easy it was to use based on own experiences and what I’ve heard from other people. I have never heard anybody complain about an iPhone being hard to use.

However, it’s been a few years since then, and I would say that Android has improved in terms of its user friendliness. My mom switched from an iPhone to Android over a year ago, and she didn’t have much problems with it. So did some of my friends. Google did a good job improving the UI – and so did phone manufacturers with their custom skins and overlays.

So what do I recommend to people these days?

I still check how tech savvy they are, and recommend them on the same criteria. But if they have previous experience with a smartphone, I ask them what they used before and whether they liked it. If they did, I will tell them to stick with it, and if they want something new – I’d recommend the alternative. Honestly, there is no “better choice” – it all boils down to personal preference. Something which I learnt varies from person to person.

I might love Android, that doesn’t mean everybody else does. Same thing about people who love iOS. There really is no need to belittle other people for their choice of operating system (unless they’re on BlackBerry – JK). People should use what they know and/or are comfortable with – unless they’re looking for something new.

On a fundamental level, there really isn’t much difference between iOS and Android these days. They both make calls, surf the web, run apps, take photographs and allow you to share content and communicate. In terms of features, both operating systems seem to be incorporating features found in the other one. All the popular apps are found on both operating systems. And you can get both operating systems in devices at varying prices (albeit a lot less choices for iOS).

So why do I use an Android phone?
Unrivaled customizability – if you’ve seen my phone, you’d understand why. The way I have my homescreen set up, notification drawers, widgets, gestures etc – wouldn’t be possible on an iOS. I love how I’m not forced to show all my apps on the homescreen. I love how I can add/remove screens at will. I love how I can tweak the size of my icons, the grid arrangement, heck I can even change the DPI of my phone if I wanted. There’s just so much you can do on an Android phone.

Custom ROMs – one of my favorite aspects of Android is I get to use community-developed builds of operating systems if I don’t like what comes with my phone. It’s something I’ve been messing around with since my first Android phone, and haven’t looked back since. One thing custom ROMs do, besides giving you a fancy new UI, is breathe new life into your device. I was planning to replace my current phone, the Moto G, earlier this year due to it feeling sluggish and having poor battery life. However, after installing CM12 on it, performance improved, battery life got better – and now I think I can use this phone an additional year before I replace it.

Root – root access on my phone greatly opened up the type of apps I could run on my phone. Examples of some rooted apps I use: AdAway – an adblock app which blocks ads not just in your web browser – but in apps as well. WiFi Pass Recovery – a handy app which I think should have been an operating system feature which shows the WiFi passwords which you have saved on your phone. On my previous phones I used stuff like Titanium Backup, Root Explorer, and ROM Manager. There’s a lot more you can do with root access than without.

Now I know, most people could care less about the features I mentioned but hey – that’s why I use Android in the first place.

Also, just to be clear, I’m not anti-iOS. I have experienced it with and without jailbreak on my iPad 2 and on the iPhones of people I know. I think it’s great but it’s just not customizable enough for me to use on a phone.

UPDATE 15/8 – I missed out some points I wanted to add in my original post:

Other reasons to switch/stick with your current mobile operating system:

Google service integration – most Android phones (those that don’t run variants of Android which don’t use Google services i.e. some China devices) feature tight integration with Google services. A really useful feature if you have your life tied to Google products (like me). If you use a lot of Google products (Gmail, Drive, Keep, Maps, Calendar) you might want to consider switching to Android.

Sharing – Android’s sharing feature is amazing. You’re not limited to where you can share content on. If you have an app that supports whatever content you want to share – you can share to it, unlike iOS which restricts you to a few available options.

App ecosystem – over the years you might have already built up a library of paid apps on your iPhone/Android device. If you’re switching to another operating system, take note that you won’t have the same apps available in your library – you’ll have to purchase them again on the new operating system. Not a big issue for most people since the most popular apps are already free, but if that isn’t the case, you might want to stick with your current operating system so you don’t have to waste money buying the same apps again.

That’s all I can think of for now, but I will continually update this post in the future.

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