There are many misconceptions about smart phones. Most consumers, by no fault of their own, are misinformed about what’s going on in the cellular market. The first major point of confusion is operating systems.
When the first iPhone was launched in 2007, it introduced the world to apps. Even though the original iPhone OS had no app store, and the intention behind the app design was that the iPhone would come with everything you would ever need, creativity of iOS users quickly forced Apple to accidentally start the app phenomenon.
The iOS App Store first launched in July of 2008, and Android followed suit in October of that year with the Android Market, now known as the Play Store. The significance of apps is that it allows a user to personalize most of the software that they’ll interact with on their devices. We don’t think of it that way, but the flexibility and usefulness that apps grant us was unforeseen by software designers before smart phones.
Android has fallen behind because the ecosystem is broken and messy. First, to be clear, Android is an operating system, not a phone. Google didn’t have the resources or motivation to manufacture hardware at the purchase of the Android, Inc. back in 2005. Unlike Apple, Google has always left its mobile OS open-source. This means that companies like Motorola, LG and Nokia can take Android, change it however they like, and stick it on hardware of their own design. The way these companies sell devices is through cellular carriers like AT&T, Verizon, etc. Which means that, to this day, if you buy a phone running an android from your carrier, it’s going to come pre-loaded with the modified version of AndroidÂ plusÂ a whole lot of AT&T/Verizon apps that you will never, ever use. Ever.
Apple, on the other hand, makes both the software and the hardware, so everything is under their control. This means less mess. iOS is the same for everyone, and it only comes on iPhones. Also, due to developer restrictions in the App Store, there is no chance of downloading an app that contains a virus. Yep, you can do that on Android. Granted, you have to be pretty oblivious to download one of those sketchy apps, so don’t worry about installing a big app like Facebook and getting a virus or something. But the fact that those malicious apps still exist isÂ bad.
For most consumers, the iPhone is fine. Most people don’t care about personalizing their experience on their phone, and the iPhone is just easier to use. Android is for the Apple-haters and adventurous types. It requires more tweaking and thought, but there’s more flexibility. Also:Â widgets. iOS still hasn’t really done widgets right, even in iOS 7.
iPhones also have the best camera, but the worst speakers. Open-source Android means hundreds of hardware options. As an example and an FYI to iPhone users: your left speaker isn’t broken, it’s a microphone. The right speaker is all you get, apart from the tiny speaker for phone calls below your front-facing camera. On a phone like the HTC One, however, Beats Audio has given the user a listening experience of better quality and louder volume than most laptop speakers. Choosing your device will ultimately involve some sort of compromise.
Now, GoogleÂ hasÂ tried to get its crap together by making sure its “stock” operating system is accessible without being mangled by other companies. They sell their Nexus phones through the Play Store, and the HTC First also essentially has stock Android on it. Devices like this offer an overall more pleasant software experience.
My final note on mobile operating systems is this: Yes, youÂ canÂ get Emoji on Android. I swear. For lots of complicated corporate reasons, Emoji aren’t always going to appear correctly everywhere on an Android device. You’ll often at least get a cute little alien version of the emoticons. But since most Emoji use is going to be via text messaging, there’s an easy fix. If you download the Hangouts app, you’ll not only get a prettier replacement text messaging app for your phone (note: you’ll have to deactivate your default SMS app or at least turn off notifications) but you’ll also get your own adorable version of the Emoji. (Seriously, they’re way cuter than iOS Emoji. I’m just saying.) An added benefit to Hangouts is that, when linked to your Google+ account, it becomes Google’s version of iMessage; when talking with another Hangouts user, you’ll get read receipts and a typing visual, as well as support across devices.
The next major point of confusion around smart phones is the carriers. Seriously, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, etc. want your kidneys in return for mobile connectivity. Next week, I’ll try to explain how they get away with it.