Six months ago while on vacation in Monterey California I brought two cell phones with me. Both cost $199, and both were within their return periods. One was an iPhone 4 running iOS on AT&T, the other was an EVO 4G running Android on Sprint. The entire week and a half I was in California the iPhone only left my hotel room once, and only because my EVO was out of battery. It is safe to say that when I returned to Boston, at the end of my trip I also returned the iPhone. I have been an Android ever since because of the choices it offers me that the iPhone doesn’t.
When you are purchasing a cell phone in the United States you are signing a contract with a carrier. Twenty percent of my decision to go with Android is based purely because Android is on my carrier of choice. Ignoring my choice in carrier means I would be ignoring a substantial part of my phone experience, not to mention my financial obligation for the next two years. Sure a fantastic phone could sway my decision, 80% is greater than 20% after all, and I understand why some people choose to stick with their iPhones even though they receive poor service from AT&T. But I like Sprint, and with Android I have a choice.
As a Sprint business customer I am treated very well. I can buy subsidized phones without contract, and their Everything plan gives me unlimited voice, text, and web for $69 a month. Tack on an additional $30.00 a month for wifi tethering and Sprint gives me value for the same price many people pay AT&T for an iPhone. With everything else being equal (which it is not), reception, customer service, bandwidth, Sprint is still the winner for me. And the freedom to pick my carrier is about twenty percent of the reason I choose Android.
The freedom to choose my carrier is just one of the liberties Android provides. Having the freedom to choose my hardware is another. With Android I can choose a phone made by HTC, Motorola, LG, Samsung, Sony and many others. With the iPhone I am restricted to phones designed by Apple. With the BlackBerry I have to settle with phones developed by RIM. And with WebOS I have a very limited selection of Phones produced by Palm. If I want my phone to have a 4.3 inch screen Android gives me that choice. If I want my phone to have HDMI out Android has an option for that. It is bad enough we are restricted to the platforms offered by our carriers. Why should my choice in operating system restrict the already limited hardware options available? My EVO may not be as well built as the iPhone 4, or have as good a camera, but at least I was able to make that choice when I bought it.
60% Operating System
Android is my mobile phone operating system of choice not only because it is available on my carrier, or because of its extensive hardware options. I choose Android because it delivers the required features all modern mobile operating systems should have, and offers capabilities no other mobile operating system can match.
- Browser Options
The iPhone changed the world of mobile operating systems by offering users a full featured browser with multi-touch interaction. In this day and age it is hard to call any phone that doesn’t have these capabilities a smartphone (sorry BlackBerry), and harder still to purchase a platform that doesn’t deliver the full internet. Android does the iPhone one better by offering those same capabilities with more flexibility. Androids WebKit browser gives users the choice of plugins such as Flash and the ability to display web pages in both the mobile and desktop views. Now I have never been a proponent of Flash, but it is nice to have the choice of plugins, and the ability to see the desktop version of a website on my mobile screen.
- Pocket Updates
As a smartphone user why can’t I have real time updates in my pocket? Nothing is more annoying than getting on the subway, losing cell signal, and having nothing to read because my favorite applications were restricted from gathering data before I went underground. I shouldn’t be forced to open each of my apps refreshing one by one in order to find something to read. Want to know why iPhone users are on their phones so often? Apple has restricted their users from receiving third party content updates in the background and users have to visit each one of their apps in turn to download the latest news. When you have the choice of multitasking on Android it all happens in your pocket and the latest information is just a notification away.
Notifications are another limitation of iOS that I can’t understand. This one is less about choice and more about poor implementation. Apple’s iPhone only shows you one notification at a time, and if you receive multiple notifications at once you can only see the most recent. Such a bad implementation forces iPhone users to once again visit each of their favorite applications in turn discovering what’s new every time they pull their iPhones from their pockets. On Android and competing smartphone operating systems notifications are delivered in a slide out drawer that lets you know every thing that has happened since the last time you looked at your phone. If the future of computing is connectivity, and smart phones are capable of doing more than one thing at a time why is your smartphone still only telling you about the last thing that happened?
- Google Voice
Google Voice is Android’s killer application. With Google voice I can choose my own phone number, receive unlimited texts for free, and make long distance calls for pennies. With Google Voice my voicemail messages get transcribed and sent to email, and the best part is I can send and read text messages and voicemail from any computer including my iPad. No other smartphone platform offers Google Voice in the same way Android does. No other smartphone platform lets Google Voice replace the phones native dialer, text messaging, and voicemail capabilities. With Google Voice and Android I have taken my phone number back from my carrier and can port it to as many devices I see fit. If Android is about choice and freedom I can’t imagine a better example than Google Voice.
One other native Google application Android has that no other smartphone can match is Google Navigation. Finally an easy to use, multi-touch GPS client that speaks every street name and direction for me, free with every Android phones. My Garmin never leaves my glove box, and why would it when I can do everything it can do plus get real-time traffic and point of interest updates on my phone. Why would I ever go back to the iPhone’s self guided Maps application when I have the choice of Android speaking my directions for me?
Apple’s iPhone might have a better copy and paste implementation but it is missing a truly innovative way of sharing information between applications. Instead of tediously copy and pasting information between apps Android’s sharing menu makes it possible to send any data from one application to another with only a few taps. Now every application has the ability to send content to Instapaper, email, or a text message without doing a dance with copy and paste. Of course if I want to be specific and feel like dancing I can always choose to copy and paste as well.
- Filesystem Freedom
Finally there’s the filesystem a mainstay of desktop computing Apple’s iOS wouldn’t dare to touch, but Android gives you the option of using. Personally I would like to see a replacement for the filesystem but until a central information repository can be developed the file system looks more and more like a good idea. With Android’s filesystem I have the choice of downloading information from the web, and not just a list of file types approved by Apple. With Android I can download anything, edit anything, play anything, or share anything via SMS, email, FTP, or Dropbox. The filesystem may be more complicated than a colorful collection of isolated apps, but having it as a choice allows me to get real work done.
I choose Android because of the choices it offers me. Some people might be content with having less options, but when it comes to my smartphone I appreciate the freedom to decide for myself.