Thursday, 18 December 2014

Why Android is better than iOS - consumer perspective

Source
There are two kinds of people in the world - those who argue over whether Android or iOS is better, and those who don't. I'm in the former group, though I tend to stay away from mindless name-calling fanboy fights and reserve my energy for more, mature conversations. When geeks get together and discuss/argue about iOS and Android, most of the conversation revolves around, well, geeky stuff. Open source vs closed, custom ROMs and kernels, sideloading app APKs, etc. Mostly stuff that the average consumer either knows nothing about, or just doesn't care about. But even if we leave out all the technical arguments, there are still quite a few reasons why I believe Android is better than iOS. Things that even the average consumer can understand and appreciate. You see, while we geeks argue over all the technical stuff, at the end of the day it's the user experience which determines how good a platform really is. And you don't need to be a tech enthusiasts to understand user experience. So here are a few reasons why I believe Android is better than iOS from an average consumer's perspective, not a geek's.

Choice
This one is easy. If you invest in the Android ecosystem, you have choice when it comes to what devices you can buy. There are entry level phones for light users who just want to keep in touch with family and friends via instant messaging. There are mid-range devices which are more capable, suitable for people who use their phones for a little more, like to browse the web and social media. And lastly there are the flagships, for advanced and power users who use their phone for pretty much everything they do. Different phones from different manufacturers come with different sets of features. Some are waterproof, some have wireless charging, some have stereo speakers on the front, some allow you to use windowed apps and so on. Most importantly, there's a phone for every price range, catering to everyone including those on a budget to those with money to spare. There is pretty much something for everyone, which is what Google has been promoting with their latest marketing push.


One ecosystem across all hardware
With so many different hardware options to choose from, this point is made even more significant. Because all Android devices run, well, Android, all of your contacts, apps, cloud storage, everything is accessible from any Android device, no matter who made it. You can use a HTC phone and a Samsung tablet one day, then change to a Motorola phone and a Sony tablet the next, and all your apps and data will still be there (assuming you use the same Google account). If you invest in iOS, you are forced to used Apple devices. So only iPhones, and only iPads. You are pretty much painting yourself into a corner. The longer you use iOS, the smaller that corner becomes. It's not a problem if you are a big Apple fan. But if you someday decide to try something new, it'll be quite a transition.

Frequent app and Play Services updates
From the title it may seem like this is a geeky argument which doesn't fit this post. But just because someone doesn't understand what's being updated in their phone, doesn't mean they don't benefit from it. Take Google's malware scanner which is built directly into Android for example. It was released on Android 4.2, but was later moved to Play Services. Because of this change, all Android devices were then protected by Google's malware scanner, even devices running earlier versions of Android. The average consumer probably doesn't even know what Play Services is. But it still benefits them nonetheless. In addition to Google's core apps which are frequently updated via the Play Store like Maps, Gmail, Drive etc, Android users receive countless updates throughout the entire year, without needing to update their system. iOS users only receive updates when iOS is updated.

Communal charging
This may seem like a petty thing to consider as an advantage, but it does make a difference in an environment with a lot of people. Back when I was doing my Master's, I stayed in a house with three other guys. Three of us including myself used Android devices, and we had our chargers in different places around the house. Since our devices all use the standard micro USB port, we could just use any of these chargers. But the other guy who was using an iPhone always had to take his charger with him in and out of his room. Another example is when I was on campus, and a friend asked me if I had a charger. I said I did, but because he was using an iPhone, he obviously couldn't use mine. So he ended up with a dead phone because he couldn't find anyone else who had an iPhone charger. Like I said, quite petty, but a clear advantage of having a device that follows industry standards instead of proprietary ones.

Micro USB ports allow Android users to share cables with each other
regardless of who made their phones.

Easy connection to PC
We may live in  a world that is getting increasingly wireless, but sometimes nothing beats a good old fashioned USB connection for transferring files. You don't need any software like iTunes to handle your files. The computer recognises your phone as a USB storage device and treats it as such, so if you want to transfer files between your Android device and your PC you can just plug it in, and drag and drop files just like you would any other USB storage device.

Android devices are recognised as USB storage devices on Windows,
which makes transferring files easy.

Is Android better than iOS in every comparable aspect? Of course not. There are some areas where iOS has an advantage over Android. Family Sharing is one feature of Apple's ecosystem which Android has no counterpart. Mobile photography is another area where Apple has the edge over most Android manufacturers, except maybe Samsung. But in the grand scheme of things, I really do feel that Android as a whole is a much better platform for most people than iOS is. iOS and Apple products may be better for some people, which is perfectly understandable. Different people have different needs. But there's a very good reason why Android owns more than 80% of the smartphone market. It's just better suited for more people than iOS is.