iPhone or Android (or Blackberry) phone – which smartphone should you get?

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iPhone or Android (or Blackberry) phone – which smartphone should you get?

Taking on this this topic is fraught with danger. Ultimately the choice of mobile phone is a very personal decision and people have very firm views on their favourite choice. But I thought I’d share my thoughts on the subject anyway.

The iPhone has held the high ground in the smartphone hierarchy since its launch in 2007. It is still the most desired smartphone out there and, in many cases, it’s only the price that prevents people from getting one. The iPhone changed the smartphone landscape and introduced the world to several new innovations including reading web sites on a phone where the whole face was a screen and it was easy to zoom and pan the web pages using gestures with your fingers. It also introduced the world to the mobile “App Store”, a catalogue of hundreds of applications on the phone, where you could find all manner of applications – both useful and entertaining.

The iPhone is also ‘beautiful’ and simple-to-use. While these attributes may be subjective, they are also critical – it’s what makes the iPhone so desirable. Apple are the world’s best user-interaction designers and it shows on the iPhone (and iPod, iPad, Macbook etc.). Because the iPhone was so unique – and Apple only made it available through limited channels, they could charge a premium for the phone – and they did. Still, many millions still bought it – partly because there was no decent competitor – although of course Nokia and Blackberry would beg to differ.


Apple’s iPhone 4

Then in September 2008, Google launched their first mobile phone – the G1 – which offered a new operating system called Android (the Apple iPhone operating system is known as iOS). Although Nokia and Blackberry were already very dominant in the smartphone market, Android was the first system that could truly give the iPhone a run for its money.

Since then it’s been a land-grab for the smartphone manufacturers – all trying to get their phone to be the most dominant in the market. Apple have brought out several new models of iPhone (version 4 is the current latest model). In their effort to gain market share, Google effective gave away Android to several phone manufacturers including Sony, HTC, Motorola, LG and Samsung. This has allowed Android to become the second largest smartphone operating system in the world – behind Nokia. Some estimates predict that Android will be the largest in the world by end of 2011.

But the reality now is that Nokia sell the most smartphones in the world – over 100 million last year! Their dominance can be attributed to their worldwide coverage and close allegiance to the mobile network operators. Nokia smartphones mostly use the Symbian operating system. This is a very functional system but is very technical to use compared with Apple’s iOS or Android. So Nokia has been losing ground steadily in geographies where the other two systems are freely available. Nokia is almost non-existent in the USA market

Then there’s Blackberry – the undisputed email champion smartphone of the world. It is in heavy use by large corporates and organisations like the US Government – particularly due to its highly secure method of data communication. But the Blackberry, until recently, has had dreadful Internet browsing capability and, like the Nokia, it’s usability was not as friendly as the Apple and Android phones.

So what to get?


Cliff’s Take

Apple iPhone 4 – the best smartphone out there. It’s elegant to use, very fast and everything works well. BUT! It’s overpriced – especially on contract from Vodacom where you pay an extra monthly amount just because it’s iPhone. Also, I find the latest version uncomfortably heavy, and, Apple decides what you can and can’t run on it – for example if you try to view the Sky News web site on an iPhone, you won’t be able to view any of the videos because the website needs something called Flash – and Apple doesn’t like Flash – so, tough luck.

Android phones – Android is a couple of years behind Apple’s iOS and it shows. What this means is that the Android phones still have the odd glitch with the applications that run on these phones. Also, because there are many manufacturers of Android phones, the applications can perform differently on different handsets. However, Android is rapidly maturing and catching up with the iPhone, and a major upside of Android is that is almost entirely ‘open’, meaning you get to decide what can and can’t go onto your phone – the Sky News web site works fine on Android.

Nokia smartphones – Run away!! Symbian is dreadful – I used one of these phones for 3 years and I grew to hate it. I recently dabbled with Nokia’s latest N8 handset and there was no improvement. Even worse, Nokia has announced that it will be dropping Symbian as their operating system in order to change to…wait for it…Windows Mobile!! (There’s another whole story behind this but I won’t bore you with it now). Talk about going from bad-to-worse…

Blackberry phone. I have never been a Blackberry fan, but to their great credit, their recent phones have been a tremendous improvement over their older models. Their web browsing is far better now mainly due to their selection of web browser technology that is almost identical to both the iPhone and Android web browsers. In South Africa (and possibly elsewhere as well), Blackberry have very cleverly given their users unlimited messaging on their BBM messenger service, making it very popular indeed with the younger users and the cost conscious.

I know, you’re still waiting for my recommendation.

I would go and buy an Android smartphone. Personally I use the Samsung Galaxy S (also called the I9000) Android smartphone. It is very close to an iPhone in functionality and even better in some areas. The new Samsung Galaxy S II (I9100), to be launched here in SA in the next month or two, will be much more powerful than the current iPhone and I expect it to equal or better the current iPhone in most respects.

But the Samsung Galaxy is a pricey smartphone – although you can get it free on some contracts. So I would look at a lower cost Android handset like the LG Optimus P500. It runs Android 2.2, which is the latest released in South Africa to-date and has powerful-enough processor. My son has one and is very pleased with it.

As an alternative option, if all your mates have a Blackberry and you do a lot of messaging, it may be worth getting one of the latest Blackberry models so you can BBM then all day and night.

But my call is an Android phone of some kind. By this time next year, Android will rule the world!

August 1st, 2011|