When ordinary non-geek people find out I’m in the biz, I often hear “I’m going to dump the dumbphone and get something slick. Should I get an Apple or an Android?”

This question is getting harder and harder to answer. Here are some things I used to say.

“Movies, Music, Media? Apple” · This remains a little bit true; the world’s still playing catch-up with Apple’s media ecosystem. But it is catching up; Amazon and Google are both investing hugely in providing low-friction soup-to-nuts offerings, and really want to be your books/music/movie store.

And I don’t see how Apple has a moat here, some special secret sauce that the competition won’t be able to match.

“Live in Gmail & Calendar & Docs? Android” · Yeah, but becoming less true. The Googlers who build iOS apps are damn talented; Gmail is pretty great on iDevices and I assume those guys have their eyes on all the other pieces of that puzzle.

“Love Games? Apple” · Not any more, I don’t think. I guess a few games ship on iOS first, but for most people’s purposes, there’s rough platform parity.

“Use Maps a Lot? Android” · Well, that used to be true.

“Industrial-design junkie? Apple” · I suppose, and clearly the last couple of generations of iPhone are among the most beautiful pieces of electronics anyone’s ever built. But, um, I’m sort of bored; I want Mr Ive to surprise the world again.

And some of the recent HTC handsets are to die for.

“Stingy? Android” · True in the tablet space, for sure. But if you’re cash-challenged and still want an iPhone, you can get the previous generation for not very much at all, and there’s a big used-iPhone ecosystem too.

“Image-conscious? Apple” · Fair enough: a high proportion of the world’s hippest people still carry iPhones.

“Want more space? Android” · Yep. When I’ve handled an iPhone 5, I’ve been wowed by the manufacturing quality and the extreme responsiveness. But if you’re used to a recent top-end Android, the screen is just too small.

And Your Point Is? · The ecosystem is leveling out. It’s hard to find a slam-dunk argument, for any particular person, why they should go for A rather than A. Which is to say, handset competition is maybe becoming (dare I say it) sort of boring.

“Want to Play Ingress?” · Android.



Contributions

Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Greg (Feb 21 2013, at 17:40)

Google-provided content is still very regional. I had to settle for a range of alternatives to Play for content in New Zealand. I've heard stories of people maintaining overseas credit cards and using VPNs to get content.

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From: Nick Adams (Feb 21 2013, at 17:44)

I have jumped between iOS and Android devices several times since either came into existence. One thing has me on an iPhone right now: all the really good Android phones are too darn big for my taste. I really wish someone would put out a flagship Android device at 4 or 4.3", but I recognize I am probably not going to see it anytime soon. I really want to play Ingress, though.

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From: Matthew Walker (Feb 21 2013, at 17:46)

Surely the glaring omission here is "Want to get timely updates for your device over the next few years?" Apple or some small subset of Android devices.

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From: Larry Bank (Feb 21 2013, at 18:04)

The big differences between Apple and Android may not be apps or even handset quality, but application interop and the file system. Apple made some choices early on that limit the usefulness of iOS due to its trying to hide the file system and keep apps from talking to each other. Think about it - iPhone users will often have to upload a file from one app to a cloud file system and then download it into another on the same phone - absurd!

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From: John Troyer (Feb 21 2013, at 20:08)

Scoble has received some headlines in recent days for a stated intention to switch from Apple to Android. One of the stated reasons was a newly-available keyboard for Android. I've used this as a personal litmus test for a while now: if the concept of downloading an alternative keyboard for your phone is exciting, go with Android. If it is puzzling or even horrifying, go with Apple.

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From: njr (Feb 21 2013, at 22:53)

s/Ives/Ive/

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From: Paul Morriss (Feb 22 2013, at 01:15)

+1 to the Apple second hand market and OS updates. I got a second hand iPhone 3GS for £125 a few weeks ago and this morning it asked me to upgrade for a bug fix.

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From: David Megginson (Feb 22 2013, at 04:05)

"Fair enough: a high proportion of the world’s hippest people still carry iPhones."

No, that changed surprisingly quickly (which is a bit of a pain for me, because I like being contrarian and unhip). I agree with the rest of your posting, but I think that you're out of date on the style side.

18 months ago, the too-hip-to-be-real 20-something baristas in local coffee shops all had iPhones; now they all, almost without exception, boast about their Androids. Ditto for the kids at my daughter's (affluent-ish) highschool — 18 months ago, she was an oddity for using Android; now all her friends except one has an Android (the exception is a girl stuck using her parents' cast-off iPhone).

As a fashion accessory, iPhones have become "your parents' phone" (like in the Samsung commercial) faster than I ever would have thought possible — I suspect that, for a wanna-be hipster in 2013, pulling out an iPhone is as big a fail as a wanna-be grunge-ster in 1993 showing up at a Nirvana concert wearing a preppy Lacoste shirt.

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From: JulesLt (Feb 22 2013, at 06:37)

Larry's comment is great - I think App interop is very clumsy on the iPhone - but I don't think the early decisions prevent them from solving it.

It's easier to move from locked-down to permissive than the other way round.

I also think the reason they did it is that the idea of 'services' on OS X was absolutely brilliant, but the reality is that I have a context menu that fills the screen thanks to the third party NoteBook app which creates a service for every single notebook opened - it's an example of creating a 'too permissive' system that is hard for the user to manage.

I think this has made them (from my point of view) overly cautious.

That said, my various minor niggles with iOS as an operating system are offset by existence of Carcassonne, Catan, Ticket To Ride.

(2/3 now available on Android, but the version of Carcassonne is hugely inferior - I'm not even sure if it is legit - if so, it's embarrassing that it is so far behind the iOS version in quality).

The gap continues to close though, and it's increasingly difficult to make a recommendation that isn't really based on personal bias (for/against Apple or Google).

I don't think my arguments in either direction are relevant to most people - they won't care about those games, and they don't care about being able to customise their system, they will just use the stock shipped system.

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From: Alex Cruise (Feb 22 2013, at 08:20)

Nick, I'm pretty happy with my HTC One S. It has the same SoC as the SGS3 and HTC One X, but a 4.3" display. The industrial design is pleasing (although, ironically, I now prefer plastic backs for grip). It's also pentaband, so you can use it on all Canadian carriers, it runs CyanogenMod like a champ, and can be had for a song from Craig. I paid $275 for mine (plus $10 for the grey market SIM unlock), but if you care enough you can find one for $250.

Only complaint: battery life could be better, but then I'm a pretty heavy user.

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From: Kevin Granade (Feb 22 2013, at 09:32)

FYI your rss feed to be out of sync with your blog, it tried to send me to:

http://www.tbray.org/ongoing/Apple-or-Android

Instead of:

http://www.tbray.org/ongoing/When/201x/2013/02/21/Apple-or-Android

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From: Nick Adams (Feb 23 2013, at 09:00)

Alex, my only concern with the S is the camera. I'm no photog, but iPhone 5 camera is really nice. Basically, I want an iPhone 5 running Android.

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From: kurt (Feb 23 2013, at 21:06)

sdcards & maybe spare battery (though you already said "Ingress").

Apple friends choked when instead of counting how many apps I had, I estimated number per screen x number of screens.

Their huge apps are always temporary.

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From: Nathan Dimmock (Feb 24 2013, at 06:20)

"Need good battery life from your phone? Apple."

Anecdotally it appears that the average user gets more usage between charges of an iPhone than an Android phone. Of course that's not much of an issue if you spend most of your day near a charging point, but it's a factor for some.

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From: James Holderness (Feb 24 2013, at 07:13)

@Kevin Granade: The broken link is more likely your feed reader not supporting the xml:base attribute.

If you look at the feed source, you'll see the link href is set to 'Apple-or-Android', but the xml:base for that entry is set to 'When/201x/2013/02/21/'.

If the latter is not taken into account, you can see how your reader would get the wrong url.

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From: Karl Brodowsky (Mar 02 2013, at 13:02)

The interoperation with Linux computers seems to be better with Android than with the i-things. Android-devices can just function like USB-sticks and allow easily copying or moving data between device and computer. Many Android devices support extension of storage with µ-SSD-cards.

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From: Jony Ive (Mar 07 2013, at 16:14)

You must mean Burl Ives.

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author · Dad · software · colophon · rights
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