Tough Choices: Droid or iPhone?
One of my Facebook friends recently posted, "Getting a phone at the end of the month. Droid? iPhone 5? Are you happy with your decision? Which one should I choose?"
She's an iPad user, and lots of Facebook friends have weighed in on with their experiences and why they love their iPhone or Droid - or consider is a toss-up. For me, the most helpful comments are from those who have actually used both platforms. (Comments in quotes are verbatim - punctuation, spelling, lack of caps, etc.)
Pro Android/Anti iPhone Points
- "i love my droid.......the one thing i do not like about the iphone is that you cant create your own desktop......i actually went in and compared my droid, the one i was looking at and the iphone and decided to keep my droid"
- "Droid. The processor is faster and there are wayyy more free apps!"
- "I love my Droid! I like having the keyboard."
- "I have Samsung galaxy 3 and it beats the iPhone all the way..."
- "You just can't do all the customizations on a iPhone like you can on a android phone. Plus android has replaceable batteries and iPhone doesn't."
- "I had the Droid 2 and have to admit I was having a lot of problems with it. I changed to the Droid 4 and absolutely love it. My big thing for staying with Droid, instead of iphone, is that I prefer the actual keyboard instead of a virtual keyboard."
Pro iPhone/Anti Droid Points
- Owner of 3 iPhones planning on going iPhone 5.
- Mac/iPod user prefers "I phone", switched from Droid when Verizon added Apple.
- Used both, but iPhone means not carrying a smartphone and an iPod.
- "Everyone I know who has a Droid is looking to switch to the iPhone!"
- "Had a Droid for two years and there were lots of things better about it than the iPhone, but I kept my 4S for the quality of the display and camera."
- "Had the droid...Love my iphone4S"
- "Unless the iPhone 5 has something you really really want, the 16MB iPhone 4S for $99 is the way to go."
- "I guess it really depends on what you want to do with it. I have had both and liked them both. Do the I phone if you want to stay organized and the camera it great. Do the droid if you are going to watch videos on your phone or use it to read with. Droid phones have much bigger screens for viewing. Both are great for social media and games, though the droids larger screen helps with that."
- "In the end you'll be happy either way."
My final advice to her: "If you just want to use it, the iPhone 4S or 5 will make you completely happy. If you want a phone to hack and tweak and modify and customize, go Android. Windows Phone may catch on someday but falls well behind Apple and Android in terms of apps. Leverage your iPad experience - you can use most of you iPad apps on the iPhone at no extra cost, although some apps do come in separate iPhone & iPad versions."
I won't comment any further about the lack of capitalization in some postings, but it does make me wonder if people are getting too lazy to use the Shift key or if Droid doesn't have as sophisticated a spell checker as the iPhone (not that Apple's is perfect).
And now Samsung has weighed in on the issue.
It Doesn't Take a Genius
There's a lot of debate on the Internet since Samsung's "It doesn't take a genius" ad first appeared over the weekend.
The ad purports to compare the Galaxy S III, which is "already here", and the iPhone 5, which begins shipping this week. It uses a list of bullet points to make the comparison, and the Samsung has a lot more points in its favor than the iPhone.
Well, it is Samsung's ad, and if Apple were to stoop to this kind of advertising, you can be assured that the iPhone would have the longer list. But that's neither here nor there. At issue is whether the Galaxy S III has real advantages over the iPhone 5 or not.
The Samsung has a bigger screen with more pixels - 4.8" 1280 x 720 vs. 4.0" 1136 x 640. Advantage Samsung? Well, not quite, there are consequences of a bigger screen: physical sizes of 136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6 and 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 millimeters respectively. And weights of 133 and 112 grams respectively. And 306 and 326 dots per inch respectively. Samsung has a bigger screen with more pixels, but iPhone has a smaller, lighter device with higher dot-per-inch resolution. The winner here is a subjective choice. Do you want bigger or smaller? Call it a tie.
Rated battery life is one place where Samsung has a big advantage, with 790 hours standby and 11.4 hours of talk time vs. 225 standby and 8 talk for the iPhone, although most people would consider either plenty good.
The iPhone's battery is designed to last three years before being replaced, and most smartphone buyers replace their devices every couple years - and earlier if their contracts allow. Still, if you're in a pretty remote region where you may not be able to charge your smartphone . . . wait, you probably don't have coverage either. A theoretical plus for Samsung, not really a practical one.
The Galaxy S III has 2 GB of RAM, twice as much as the iPhone 5. Another win for Samsung.
The iPhone 5 comes in a 64 GB configuration, but the Galaxy S III tops out at 32 GB - and you can add a 64 GB microSD card for additional storage at a cost of about $55 these days. Figure about $300 for the Galaxy on a two-year contract plus a 64 GB microSD card. Still cheaper than $400 for the 64 GB iPhone 5.
USB vs. Lightning
Samsung extols the virtues of using a standard micro USB plug as opposed to Apple's new proprietary Lighting plug. They definitely have a point there, as the entire world has standardized on micro USB to charge mobile phones - except for Apple. That means you can buy a standard charger anywhere or use a standard cable with any PC's USB port.
But wait a minute. Apple's 8-pin Lightning dock connector is more than just a USB port. Unlike Apple's old 30-pin dock connector, USB, or micro USB, you can't plug it in backwards, which Murphy's Law says you'll try to do more often than not. It also supports analog audio output, which means you'll be able to dock your future iPhone, iPod touch, or iPod nano once new accessories with the Lightning connector become available. And Apple is providing a Lightning-to-micro USB adapter in Europe.
Six of one, half a dozen of the other. Some pros either way, so let's call this one a draw as well.
Near field communication (NFC) is a standard way for smartphones and similar devices to wirelessly communicate with each other by tapping the devices together or bringing them into close proximity (less than 2"). Apple does not yet support it, and it's becoming popular. Maybe the iPhone 5S, but not this year's model.
Now we move into things Samsung doesn't list (yes, I've skipped most
things in Samsung's ad). The Galaxy S III has a 1.4 GHz quad-core
Cortex A9 CPU, which has a
Geekbench benchmark score of 1560 as it ships from the factory with
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. The iPhone 5 only has a 1.0 GHz
dual-core Apple A6 CPU - and it achieves a 1601 Geekbench score,
the best ever for a smartphone. (Update: Upgrading the
Galaxy S III to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean improves its score to 1781,
making it the fastest current smartphone.) More cores and a higher
clock speed don't always mean better performance, the same kind of
point Apple used to make in comparing its G3 and G4 CPUs to Intel's
offerings. Advantage Apple.
With iTunes, you can have an integrated music/video library and sync your iPhone with your Mac or Windows PC. Exporting from iTunes so you can use your music on Android is not nearly as easy as sticking with Apple's solution - which makes iTunes a bad choice for those who want to go Droid. With the biggest music store on the planet and iTunes being free, Apple has the edge here.
If you use Linux, you can't use iTunes, and it won't be nearly as easy to use an iPhone with your PC as Droid. For that 2% of so using Linux desktops, laptops, and netbooks, Android is probably the better choice. It's definitely going to be the easier one to work with, perhaps part of the reason Apple now lets you update the iPhone without any need for a PC.
We've only looked at a few features, but here's a summary:
- Screen/phone size & weight: tie
- Battery: Samsung
- Memory: Samsung
- Standard USB charging: Samsung
- NFC: Samsung
- CPU: Apple
- iTunes: Apple
- Linux: Samsung
In these eight areas, Apple wins two, Samsung five, and one is a tie. Using a longer, more comprehensive list, you can make the balance sheet come out either way.
The question isn't whether the iPhone 5 or Galaxy S III is the better phone. Each one is superior to the other in some ways, inferior in others. The question is Which is the better smartphone for you?
As a longtime Mac user with an iTunes library, Android holds no attraction for me. For Linux users, the opposite pertains. And for the majority if PC users, those running Windows, it's less clear cut - although if you have an iTunes library or use an iPad, that gives you a strong push in Apple's direction.
A Good Choice and a Better Choice
This is Low End Mac, and the question we always as is Where is the best value? And that may not be either the iPhone 5 or the Galaxy S III, both of which are new, high-end devices. For someone not already using a smartphone, any smartphone is going to be a big step forward. For those with an older smartphone, a newer model may be all you need. (For instance, I'd love to replace my iPhone 3GS with an iPhone 4 or 4S, and I see no reason to go all the way to the iPhone 5 at $100 more than the 4S. But if you already have a 4, you may find the 5 more attractive.)
Many of my coworkers have iPhones, and many of them have Android smartphones. Very few use "dumb" phones any longer, and those with smartphones seem pretty content with their choices. I certainly don't want to imply that Droid is a bad choice, any more than I would imply that nobody should use Windows. Droid works. Windows works. Linux works. They get the job done.
I choose Apple because I don't just want to get the job done. I want a superior user experience. I want better hardware. I want that integration between device, operating system, and software that only Apple provides. But I also realize - especially after helping Waverly make the switch to Mac six years ago - that moving from what you know can be a frustrating, time consuming experience. After all, I'm use 15-year-old software on a 10-year-old Mac running a 7-year-old operating system to write this because it just works - and won't work with newer versions of Mac OS X.
I guess I am a true believer. I truly believe that Macs are generally better built than PCs, that Mac OS really is better than Windows or Linux, and that the integration of hardware and operating system found in the iPhone and iPad is superior to Android or whatever Windows 8 finally turns out to be.
But I don't believe that everyone has to agree with me. If it works for you, if it's become as comfortable as a favorite pair of shoes, if it doesn't get in the way of your being productive or playing games or social networking, stick with it. But when that stops being the case, remember that there is another way that could work better for you if you're willing to relearn years of ingrained habits.
It doesn't take a genius. Anyone who can learn to use a Droid alongside a Windows PC can just as easily learn an iPhone - and from there, Apple is making it increasingly easy to jump to Macs with recent versions of OS X.
Dan Knight has been using Macs since 1986, sold Macs for several years, supported them for many more years, and has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. If you find Dan's articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.
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