Having just gotten into a interesting discussion while procrastinating (yay!), I may as well expand my thoughts, since tweets are much to small for this. This is, thus, a sort of pseudo-complete set of ideas about what my thoughts on this topic are, replete with some analysis.

In answer to the question “Which smartphone should I get?” (posed on Twitter by Dan Cass), my nearly unequivocal answer is Android. Here’s why, in no particular order other than the order I thought of the points in.

  • While phones are cheaper and more destructible, the overheads are smaller.

    When I got my Samsung Galaxy Nexus early this year, the whole migration process took little over ten minutes, and much of that was trying to type in my WiFi password on a QWERTY keyboard (*shudder*). Everything else just worked, including automatic app, contact and authentication migration.

    With the shortening of usable phone lifespans and the ease with which they can be shredded to kibble, it’s nice to be able to go to a store, buy a phone, and suddenly your phone is back. No fuss. No hassle. And given our modern reliance on smartphones, this is critical.

    While, yes, I own a MacBook Pro, I do worry about expense (mostly because buying that MacBook Pro cleaned me out and I’ve not had the time to earn any useful money), and so being able to pick any of a range of phones, which could vary immensely in their functionality, speed, specifications and usability offers the flexibility to get a highly customisable phone which doesn’t skimp on usability.

  • Just because it doesn’t come in a flashy aluminium case, doesn’t mean it’s cheap junk.

    Even Apple are effectively conceding this point, with rumours rife that they’ll be releasing a lower-cost phone with a plastic case. It’s worthwhile noting that I’ve seen many, many Android devices which range widely in their specifications, and very few include explicitly custom CPU/GPU SoCs or aluminium bodies.

  • There’s a difference in the peripheral, niche or show apps, but core functionality will be functionally equivalent wherever you go.

    The long and the short of it is much the same as how the browser wars have been won, and it’s now SaaS and PaaS wars: as browsers have converged, the killer features being pushed were the things they couldn’t do, yet the things that people wanted were the things that were nearly uniform, and that is accessing online platforms, which may or may not be in The Cloud.

    The same is now applying to smartphone apps: Android, iOS, BlackBerry and (heaven help us) Windows Phone all let you stare at Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and whatever other social media service you use for hours on end, which is, let’s face it, what the modern consumer does.

    While it’s possible to argue that Apple have closer control over the interrelationship between OS and hardware, that’s not everything to a device. Mobile devices, especially in this day and age, rely on well-written applications as much as they rely on the hardware and the OS.

    At this point, I’d like to also recommend Drew Crawford’s analysis piece, “Why mobile web apps are slow”, as additional reading on this particular point, but if you don’t have an hour to spare to read it, well, the tl;dr, as it applies here, sounds like this:

    Mobile platforms are slow.

    Hence, a range of phones which vary in performance, let you select just how slow you want your interaction to be. Personally, I like “not very slow”. As a case in point, I booted up my old Huawei U8150 yesterday, and my first thought on doing so was, “I used this phone?”

  • The Google platform is nicer.

    No, really: side-by-side, I’ve compared Google Now and Apple’s Siri before, and, on average, Google Now was both more accurate and faster, coming back with results in the vicinity of 30x faster than Siri.

    Google Takeout, for which I’ve found no equivalent for iCloud other than connecting a Mac and writing a suite of scripts that strip out the synced iCloud data, is an excellent example of the fact that providers shouldn’t lock you in by force. I could, at a whim, extract nearly a decade of usage data from Google and easily kill my Google account and Google+ profile.

    And being able to bring any client you like to extract data from Google’s services is the killer for me: I can point any mail client at Gmail, any calendaring app at Google Calendar, any web browser (that supports fairly modern JavaScript) at the whole infrastructure, and it all Just Works.

    Meanwhile, to my knowledge, I have somewhere between two and five Apple accounts, with no way no merge or delete them. The infrastructure is shoddy and painful, too; the iCloud website is like being kicked in the teeth, repeatedly. I can almost hear someone asking, hm, how stupid is the user? And someone responds, I don’t know, let’s make them triple-guess themselves about using the interface, and while we’re at it, make that interface as fat, buggy and slow as we possibly can.

  • Music.

    This is possibly the biggest killer for iOS here: Apple have spent a very long time developing a music player and infrastructure for it. It’s not even a first-class citizen in iOS: I’d go so far as to call it a zeroth-class citizen, with core system applications (like Settings or Safari) as first-class citizens. iOS started out as a touchable UI for the iPod which just happened to support a music player, and hey, they bolted a phone on, and expanded it to a tablet form factor, and shrunk it to a wristwatch form factor, and then stuck it over their desktop OS…

    But there’s a catch: they know exactly how they want to store music. Which is in databases that aren’t trivially readable.

    Android doesn’t have that.

    Then again, Android doesn’t really have a good music player at all. doubleTwist offers a vaguely decent one, but it simply doesn’t have the ecosystem that Apple have evolved around iTunes. Nothing comparable exists.

  • NFC and intercommunications.

    Apple appear to have laughed off NFC support despite countless possibilities it presents, and appear to be carefully crafting a fingerprint reader into their home button. I would be wholly unsurprised if an Android device already supported the latter; certainly, it supports the former, as my phone is NFC-enabled and I use it for intercommunications with other Android devices.

    Which I can’t do with any of my iOS-toting friends. Even the ones with Pebbles.

    I can see a world with NFC integrated into many things. Already, it’s a key part of transport systems, identification systems, and is a valid form of payment. The possibilities are endless, yet Apple have carefully killed it for… what? The (in my opinion) significantly inferior world of 2D barcodes, QR codes and optic recognition?

    Just because you have patents in tri-element optic systems, Apple, doesn’t mean everyone else has the same optic acuity. Or wants it with a sensor under a millimetre (*shudder*).

That’s all the big reasons I can think of, anyway; I’m sure I could think of more.

Note: I have no direct affiliation with Dan, Samsung, Apple or Google (or, indeed, anyone else I’ve mentioned in this article) other than, in the latter cases, using their products. While I do endorsing a product, it’s based on personal experience with that product, not any financial incentive.