I got my first cellphone, a Motorola, in 1993. Compared with today’s handsets, it was heavy enough to give me a wrist-ache, and the battery would drain out after a few conversations. It’s a different matter that each conversation would cost an arm and a leg.
Over the last 18 years I have run through many handsets: a few Nokia phones, a Samsung, the Motorola StarTAC, the RAZR, and now an iPhone. What mattered was the design (and, of course, the price) and not so much the menu or the megapixels of the camera. The clamshell StarTAC was bought because it was cute and had a geek charm, and the RAZR was straight out of a sci-fi movie (flip it open and say, “Beam me up, Scotty”). It was also a good phone.
If I were to rank my most favourite phone to date, it would be the iPhone. It’s a quantum leap in design and technology, the sum of all phones I have used so far. I’ve had it for three years, and though I still like it a lot, I am also a bit bored with it. I don’t know what exactly I am looking for, but I would like to try something different—provided, of course, it’s affordable.
Taking sides: Android and the iPhone.
Maybe an Android phone? Unlike the iPhone, Android is not a single device; it is an operating system (OS) developed by Google, much like Apple’s mobile operating system iOS. But while Apple does not license its OS to other brands, Android is open source. Many companies are making Android handsets: Some Samsung, Motorola and HTC phones, in fact, look quite stunning.
According to The Nielsen Co. survey of US mobile consumers for January-March, “31% of consumers who plan to get a new smartphone indicated Android was now their preferred OS. Apple’s iOS has slipped slightly in popularity to 30% and RIM Blackberry is down to 11%. Almost 20% of consumers are unsure of what to choose next.”
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These numbers indicate a neck-and-neck race, but I’m still not sure if I should try an Android-powered phone. I have trawled the Net but failed to find five good “non-techie” reasons—apart from the price of some models—why an Android device is better than the iPhone I use.
Both are touch-screen phones, and quite a few Android handsets resemble the iPhone. In fact, HTC Incredible, an Android phone, looks like an iPhone clone. So if the criterion is looks, there’s no reason why I should switch to an Android phone.
An iPhone gives you more talktime but it’s not easy to replace its old battery; Android phone batteries are quite easy to remove, and their storage, too, can be expanded. They come with microSD expansion slots—much like the ones we use in our digital cameras.
Android phones don’t need to be synced with the computer; they sync “over-the-air” with your Google account. And since Android is Google’s creation, these phones obviously do a good job of linking with everything that is Google (Gmail, Google Contacts, Google Calendar, etc.). Android phones also have FM tuners.
Apart from the look of the phone, what matters to me next is apps. I have a set of staple apps that I use all the time—for email and appointments, to check news and read blogs, and to listen to music. And then there are apps such as Angry Birds that I download purely for fun or out of curiosity. Apple has a fantastic range of some 350,000 apps, and while Google’s Android Market is said to be fast catching up, compared with the Apple Store it looks a bit like the unorganized sector.
I know some nerds who argue that Apple is a control freak and monopolistic whereas Google is open source and so stands for freedom of choice and so on. Meaning that we should go the Android way. But I am not a techie; I just enjoy gadgets.
On the whole, as things stand, I feel my iPhone is a better bet than an Android phone. If I were moving up from a regular cellphone to a smartphone, I would perhaps take a serious look at Android phones and weigh the pros and cons vis-à-vis the iPhone. But I already have an iPhone and I like the experience. I’ll wait to see where this competition between Apple and Android takes us.
Shekhar Bhatia is a former editor, Hindustan Times, a science buff and a geek at heart.
Write to Shekhar at firstname.lastname@example.org