is Better - an Apple or Android Phone
Part 3 : Hardware Considerations
Increasingly there is more
commonality than difference between Apple's iPhones and
other phones running on Google's Android OS.
This article is part of a
series comparing Android based phones with Apple's iPhone
and helping you choose which would be the best option for
Please read through other
parts in the series - see links on the right.
There's actually not a huge
degree of difference in terms of underlying hardware as between
iPhones and Android phones.
The steady stream of new
Android phones, and the annual updates of iPhones, mean that one
type of phone or another may briefly become the 'best' phone out
there, but with the wonderful advances in technologies, both
alternatives generally offer excellent capabilities suitable for
all but the most specialized and demanding of needs.
So, what should your next phone be?
Read on to understand more about the issues and choices open to you.
Android vs iOS - Hardware
Both Android and iOS are
'behind the scenes' operating systems, and - at least in theory
- are somewhat hardware independent. Sure, there are
occasionally strengths or weaknesses in one or the other OS in
terms of support for things such as high resolution screens, but
these are transient limitations and quickly resolved in future
So what impact does hardware
have on your choice of OS?
It necessarily has some
impact, because the Apple iPhone comes only with iOS as its
operating system. If you must have an iPhone, then you
have no choice but to accept iOS.
On the other hand, if you
find some of the artificial constraints Apple imposes on its
iPhone (for example, the inability to change batteries or the
lack of support for USB and micro-SD devices) to be
unacceptable, then you're 'forced' into Android (or some other)
OS, because for sure, somewhere among the 100+ different
makes/models of Android phone, you'll find one much more closely
aligned to the features you must have.
It has been consistently
true that in some areas, each new iPhone has been a market
leader, with the latest example being the super-high resolution
of the new iPhone 4 screen. But other issues, perhaps
stemming from the very clear and apparently unalterable vision
of Steve Jobs about what phones should and should not have and
do, are not nearly as industry-leading. For example, it
seems a terrible waste to have so many pixels on the screen
without then allowing the screen to grow a bit in size.
As Jobs himself boasted, the
pixels are too small to see, which is the flip side of a coin
that says on the opposite side 'the pixels are being wasted and
serve no good purpose'. Surely it would be possible to
stretch the screen even a tiny bit further, making it slightly
wider and giving it a widescreen aspect ratio (maybe 1.7:1
instead of the current 1.5:1), and allowing it to be perhaps 4"
wide rather than the current 3.5"?
In complete contrast,
whereas the iPhone seems to be subjected to the personal
opinions of one man (albeit a brilliant man), the huge diversity
of Android phones allow you and the market as a whole to decide
what features are good/necessary and which are unnecessary and
could be discarded.
User Experience Issues
The biggest difference in
user interface (UI) issues is imposition of
Apple's trademark concept of a single button mouse into a single
button phone contrasts with the four or so button design on
If you prefer a Windows mouse with
anywhere from two to four or five buttons (and a wheel) to a
single button Mac mouse, you'll probably also prefer the extra
shortcuts and consistencies of design/interface that are
possible with more buttons in Android programs.
Power users will greatly
appreciate the ability to customize the Android 'home screen' to
a much greater extent than can be done to the Apple home screen.
Hardware manufacturers have also added their own gentle
'overlays' to slightly adapt and (in their opinion) enhance the
raw Android experience.
Overall, with Android you
get a choice of several different UIs, and if you wish, you can
further tweak and adapt the phone's screen appearance and
functionality to suit your own preferences. With Apple,
all you can do is move the order of icons around.
Maybe Apple is the Ford of
the smartphone industry. Henry Ford stole a huge lead over
the other companies by introducing the mass produced Model T,
but his 'you can have any color you like as long as it is black'
unwillingness to be more sensitive to offering options to his
customers allowed other motor car manufacturers to spring up and
in time to grow larger than Ford.
Is this what will happen to
Apple too? Is Steve Jobs the Henry Ford of our era, and
with similar weaknesses?
Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot Support
This is a wonderful feature
of Android 2.2. It allows your Android phone to connect to
the internet via its 3G wireless connection, and then to
rebroadcast the internet connection as if it were a Wi-Fi
router, allowing up to 8 additional devices to connect through
the phone and share its connection.
This is invaluable,
particularly when you want to access the internet from (eg) your
laptop and/or tablet and there is no ethernet or Wi-Fi
connection available. You can connect to your phone's
Wi-Fi hotspot and then on through the phone's 3G wireless
connection to the internet as a whole.
Apple has chosen not to
offer this capability in iOS.
The good news is that
generally an iPhone has more built in storage than most Android
phones. It is rare to see an Android phone with even 16 GB
of built in memory, whereas iPhones typically have either 8GB,
16GB or even 32GB.
But the bad news is that
Apple steadfastly refuses to allow the iPhone to accept
removable media, whereas Android powered phones will almost
always allow you to add/exchange a micro SD card into the unit.
A micro SD card can hold up to 2GB, and newer micro SDHC cards
can hold up to 64GB of storage. An even newer format is
expected to soon appear, micro SDXC, which will be capable of
holding up to 2TB of data.
This means that an Android
phone combines a reasonable amount of built in storage for the
things you most commonly want to always have accessible
(programs and a limited amount of data) and can then allow
access to effectively unlimited additional memory in the form of
multiple micro SD cards. These tiny slivers of memory are about
the size of a fingernail, and so in less than a matchbox, you
could have an extraordinarily huge amount of capacity allowing
you to store countless hundreds of movies, thousands of CDs, and
millions of pictures.
For sure, juggling a
matchbox full of micro SD cards is not as convenient as being
able to store more information conveniently on a phone itself.
But even with a single 64 GB micro SD card, any android-based
phone immediately offers you more online storage than any iOS
There are other benefits of
having a micro SD card slot on your phone. It also provides a
convenient way to transfer data to and from your phone, and a
great way to backup the information stored on the phone.
For all these reasons, Apple's refusal to add a micro SD card
becomes a major weakness of their iPhone design, and provides a
strong reason to preferentially choose an android-based phone.
Apple's Wired Wireless Phone
One of the most
contradictory aspects of an iPhone is that while it has both 3G
and Wi-Fi data connectivity, if you want to synchronize its data
with your main computer, you have to either connect it to the
computer via an old fashioned cable and the iTunes program that
needs to be running on it, or alternatively pay $99 a year to do
so via Apple's MobileMe software.
Additionally, any time you
wish to update the phone's operating system, you again need to
do so through an old fashioned cable and your main computer (and
yet again the iTunes program that needs to be running on it).
Additionally, although in
theory you can download large programs via Wi-Fi without needing
to go through your computer, the Catch-22 there is that your
phone will time-out and go to sleep long before the download is
completed - it isn't smart enough to stay active while
downloading. So your download gets interrupted and
cancelled, and you again find yourself needing to connect your
phone to your computer and to wade through an arcane and
non-intuitive process to first get the program to your computer
and then from there on to your phone.
This is all curious and
contradictory for a company that claims to pride itself on
providing smooth high quality user experiences.
Most - if not all - of this
can be avoided on an Android based phone.
This article is part of a
series comparing Android based phones with Apple's iPhone and
helping you choose which would be the best option for you.
Please read through other parts in the series - see links at the
top right of this article.
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published 5 Nov 2010, last update
26 Aug 2018
You may freely
reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes
as long as you give credit to me as original writer.