Android vs. iPhone: Is Choice Enough?

If I like Android and hate my new carrier, Sprint, I can switch to Verizon and get the Incredible. If I have an aneurysm and love AT&T, I can get the Aria. If I want a small screen, I can do that. If I want a physical keyboard, I can find a device that does that. But for iPhone, I simply would have to take whatever Apple offers and believe that their choices are right for me. I’ve chosen Apple many times and will again in the future, but I don’t think I should buy into a system that restricts my choices when another one is out there that enables my choices.

The article is a long and honest assessment of one man’s reason for switching to Android from iPhone. By “honest”, I mean it doesn’t appear to be a page-hit or iPhone-bashing piece, but rather a sincere opinion. Still, that doesn’t mean the opinion isn’t misguided, and even a little bit misleading.

A lot of the article hinges on Android’s “momentum” and how it may soon be as good as the iPhone, but that makes no sense. If being “best” and having momentum matter the iPhone leads right now. By that criteria he should be using an iPhone and, in a couple years when his contract expires, he can survey the landscape for what’s “best” again. 

The “best” argument isn’t what rankles me, however, it’s the so-called choice. Proponents of this line of reasoning—and the article adheres to it strongly—tout it as the iPhone against a mythical phone with features from who-knows-how-many handsets. No matter what feature you want, the argument goes, you have that “choice” (though it seems to ignore that the iPhone is a choice as well).

But what if you want several features? Maybe the Nexus One appeals to you, but you want a hardware keyboard. Oops. Or maybe you want the Evo, but also want AT&T. Oops again. Or maybe you want the Droid but with Apple’s App Store. Blasphemy! The point is, “choice” does not mean you get the phone of your dreams. There will be compromise. Period. At the end of the day, after the “choice” you still end up with just one phone for two years. Will that one phone—not a device imagined from features of others—be better than the iPhone (also a choice)? Will it be more or less of a compromise? In the end that’s all that matters. 

Somewhat misleading is the flippant way the author suggests that if he doesn’t like a phone he can just switch. But that’s hardly true. As a subsidized phone, once you buy it you’re in for (on average) two years. So, no, if you hate your new carrier, you can’t just switch to Verizon. Not without a hefty Early Termination Fee. Or is money supposed to be no object? Sure, you can switch after two years, maybe 18 months, but does that matter if you’ve made the wrong compromise to begin with?


12 thoughts on “Android vs. iPhone: Is Choice Enough?

  1. Khürt, I agree with you. I don’t know why people get all worked up about Apple being a “closed” system. Hey, don’t choose it if you don’t like what Apple has to offer. It’s not like you’re being forced to use it. For another, what people often mean by “closed” system is that Apple is the only one to offer say the Mac or iPad or iPhone and no one else does. But think about how fairly closed the system for PCs are if the user sticks with Windows. I mean yeah, you can use Windows with a Dell or HP or Toshiba but essentially you’re “locked in” to Windows if you go the Windows route. So who no brouhaha over being “locked in” by Windows? In any case, it doesn’t make sense that people get so worked up about Apple’s system. You don’t have to use it! Go and use a Blackberry (oh..isn’t that being locked in?) or an Android phone (oh wait, aren’t you being locked in to what the carrier offers?).

  2. Tom makes a much better fist than I did of questioning @louisgray android switch post

  3. I think the problem is that the non-Apple choice is good brigade wants to pretend that the iPhone is successful because Apple is duping people into making a locked in choice.Someone at work was making the choice (open platform choice, open app store choice, open handset choice etc) argument about why he bought an Android phone and then I challenged him: “Was your choice of phone available from multiple cellular carriers or did you choose from what the carrier had to offer?”There was no reply. Just another retort about “Apple’s closed and proprietary system”.

  4. Jamie O, Great point on the 30-day return. However, this applies to the iPhone as well, so it’s a wash. At some point you do make a 2-year commitment.

  5. I thought Louis’ arguments were reasonable, if not slightly misguided, for a number of the reasons mentioned in this post. But call me crazy, if I was his wife and children I’d be pissed. Yeah, I understand family plans, but really, if I just lost a great phone because my husband or father thought that Android will eventually also be a great phone. Grrhhh, arghh!

  6. I would just like to point out that most carriers do have at least a 30 day return period if you don’t like the phone. So, when you buy it you aren’t automatically stuck with 2 years.Momentum does have to do with picking your phone now because the software and apps will continue to improve over the minimal 2 year span that you own the phone. Point being I may like the hardware of the Palm Pre and the look etc., but because it has no momentum from developers or manufacturers buying one and expecting your experience to become much better over time isn’t too realistic.Choice is weighing pros vs. cons and lets just say for the first time Androids pros greatly outweigh the cons and may even be a better choice for some people. Major cons for me on the iPhone are 1) not a huge fan of AT&T coverage and pricing. 2) really don’t like using iTunes 3) non replaceable battery. I can get a higher capacity battery and as the rechargeable battery starts to fade even 10-20% I can easily buy a replacement and keep the old one as a spare if I have an Android.Cons for the Android for me 1) Less Apps 2) Phone can be buggy 3) iPhone has better looking hardware and is the hip thing to buy. (I don’t mean this in a bad way, people in public just want to see the iPhone more than they want to see an Android)

  7. I think you are confusing “picking a platform” with “picking a phone”. Louis’ argument was about picking a platform and you are picking a phone.

  8. If you assume louisgray is a gizmo fanatic who HAS to have the latest and greatest, then his blog makes perfect sense. Assume he is willing to pay early termination fees, assume he prefers a phone with the hottest new features over the best-all-around phone, assume he doesn’t keep a phone long enough that build quality matters, etc. and his blog makes sense. Assume his primary use for his phone is showing it off, and his blog makes sense. Assume he believes that Android will still be around and still innovating in two to five years, because he believes the Android business model is working for all those Android phone builders.

  9. Kevin,The non-DRM argument makes no sense. DRM content remains with whoever’s DRM you got. For example, I can’t read my Kindle book in iBooks, Stanza, or a any other e-reader. I’m stuck with whatever Amazon tells me I can use. Apple is not unique in this regard; singling them out is misleading. As for non-DRM, you are correct that moving Apple’s data is just as easy as moving anyone else’s (e.g., Google’s, Yahoo!’s, Microsoft’s).

  10. True, once you’ve chosen your subsidized phone, choice is no longer important for the next two years. Except for the case where you have data or content that will continue to persist, be accessed and used beyond the life of your phone. Then you want to be able to carry that data and content over to your next phone/carrier. People are beginnng to think that Android will live on and be viable for the long-term, and that transferring data/content from one Android phone to another will not be an issue. People do not think it is easy to move data/content from iPhone to another non-Apple phone, and if Apple doesn’t expand to other US carriers, then they will not be able to switch carriers and retain their data/content. Though non-DRMed music, contacts, email, and bookmarks are easy to move, videos, ebooks, and apps are not.

  11. Here’s another take on this question of “choice”.First, why do they see the iPhone as locking you in? For one thing, if you buy any Android phone, that’s locking you in to that particular phone and particular cell service and particular app store. In other words, how you consider “locking you in” is determined by how you draw the boundaries of what phone ecosystem is.Right now, people draw the Android boundary line as encompassing all Android phones when if you take a look at it carefully, each Android phone itself within each cell provider should be draw within its own boundary. Each cellphone has their own skin, various access to its own app store, etc. Thus, the more accurate way to think about this is not to draw the Android boundary as encompassing all Android phones, and rather to see that each Android phone is pretty much an island within itself too because it’s dependent on the cellphone company.One problem is actually thinking that choice is necessarily (that it is inherently) good. The American mentality very quickly associates choice with good. Not necessarily so!The flip side of the problem is that when there are few choices, then they immediately associate that with bad. They’ve lost sight of the prize. Eyes on the prize! After all, is the choice a means to an end or the end itself? It seems that often Americans take choice as an ends itself, that having more choices is inherently good and is what they want. Well, you can really only use one device at a time and once you’ve decided on what device to use, you can let go of all the other “choices” that you have not chosen because they are no longer for consideration. You have your device, now go do something productive with it. In other words, the act of choosing is only performed for a limited amount of time. After the choice is made, choosing no longer is an action.

  12. Maybe the writer also needs to stop blaming Apple. Verizon turned down the iPhone and took away the writer’s “choice”. iPhone envy is a curious thing; people want an iPhone, but really don’t want AT&T, so they blame Apple for not allowing Verizon to carry the phone and get a phone with spyware as it’s main OS and praise Google for their “choice” locking themselves into Googles’ data mine and to a phone that will actually be obsolete a year and a half before their contract is up.

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