The question of whether to buy an Android smartphone or iPhone is a common one.
While both operating systems offer comparable features, and--at least in the flagship tier--similar pricing, they also offer very different experiences.
At the moment there are nearly twice as many Android users around the world than iOS, but just because more people use it doesn't mean you should jump on the bandwagon.
With the price of off-contract smartphones and lengthy contract agreements, it’s important to understand what you’re getting into before committing.
We’re going to break down some pro’s and con’s of choosing Android over iOS to help you determine what’s best for you.
Pro: Lots of Options
There are hundreds of different Android smartphones available from dozens of different manufacturers. It seems that every tech company around these days (except Apple and Microsoft of course) has an Android smartphone on the market.
This is because Google’s Android operating system (OS) is open source--allowing anyone to use it as the base for their own phones. For example, Amazon uses Android as the base for their own Fire OS.
With so many companies using Android, you have plenty of variety in terms of computing power, screen size, price and special features. For example, Samsung offers a telephoto camera lens on the S4 Zoom, something no iPhone user will ever have.
If you’re looking for a phone that can take the drops and bumps of the workplace or for exploring the great outdoors, Android also has many rugged phone offerings that are not only waterproof but shock-resistant as well.
So many different options lead to a problem that many Android developers and users face: fragmentation.
With so many different screen sizes, resolution and hardware not all apps on the marketplace will work properly, or at all, on some Android smartphones.
This also means that accessories (especially cases) that work with one Android phone won’t always work with one another.
Not only that but many entry level Android phones run older versions of the Android OS. This means you might not be able to access the latest apps unless you pay a more premium price.
Thanks to Android's open OS smartphone manufacturers can add their own skin on top of the base Android. There are also a number of themes, keyboards and other options you can personally choose from the app store to make your phone unique.
These options change much more than just the wallpaper, in fact some themes change the entire user experience. If you value customization then Android is definitely the way to go.
Unless you’re buying a phone that isn’t attached to a carrier, you’re going to find a lot of fluff pre-installed on most Android phones.
Worse still, you can’t uninstall it without rooting (which carries a whole different set of concerns.) In the end, you end up with three different email apps, two different navigation apps, a random note app and other things that you’ll never use.
For example, the Samsung Galaxy S5 comes with 32GB of internal storage but in truth actually has a little over 23GB of usable storage. Add in a few of your favorite music albums, last night’s TV shows for the commute and a few months worth of pictures and space starts dwindling rather quickly.
You also run into the issue that you cannot disable many of these pre-installed apps. Add that to the strain on your phone of of customizing your Android experience, and performance might start slowing to a crawl.
While Android provides tools to help you analyze battery and space usage and eliminate some of the biggest offenders, often you’re stuck just having to deal with it because your carrier said so.
Pros: Lots of Apps
The Google Play Store’s comprehensive collection of apps for Android users rivals iTunes’ collection for Apple users. As of 2014, Google Play has more apps than iTunes--approximately 1.5 million--and more developers working on the platform. This is due in part to the lower cost of entry to Google Play and zero approval barriers. This suggests that this gap will only continue to grow in the future.
Cons: No Quality Control
While the Google Play Store might be leading the pack in terms of selection, there is one issue: a lack of quality control. Google is much more lenient on requirements to get an app into their store, this means that the overall quality of apps ranges greatly from high quality to not even playable.
This also means that it is much easier to download apps that have malware on them--though as long as you stick to official stores and check reviews, you don’t have much cause for concern.
Google is typically quick to respond to customer complaints, offers a generous refund period on all app purchases and features reviews to help you determine if apps are a good choice.
Pros: Useful features
Many Android smartphones not only come with internal storage but also offer an SD card slot and removable battery. While these might seem like small features, for many people, it's the biggest reason to go Android instead of iOS.
SD cards allow you to clear up space on your internal storage by moving over large files like pictures and videos, leaving you more space for apps. As SD cards continue to increase in capacity, this option continues to gain usefulness.
A removable battery not only allows you to have a backup charged battery for emergencies, but since they degrade over time you can replace it with a new one instead of buying an entirely new phone.
Android phones also use a standard USB and microUSB charging slot, making it much easier and cheaper to purchase replacement charging cables and reduce the number of cables and adapters you lug around on your daily adventures.
Is an Android Phone Right for You?
At the end of the day, whether you should choose an iOS or Android smartphone depends on what you want from your device. If you're looking for more flexibility in terms of price, hardware and overall customization then an Android is the right choice for you.
However, if you're worried about viruses, hackers and device/OS fragmentation, an iPhone might be the right decision. The best thing to do before making a purchase is to familiarize yourself with both options by testing it out and doing your research.