I have an Android phone – a Samsung Nexus S 4G which I love. It’s a "pure Google” phone in that it’s sponsored by Google and doesn’t have any of the vendor specific stuff on it that some of the carriers like to include. And as you know, I just bought an Amazon Kindle which has a version of Android on it. I’m still saving up for a full-fledged, 10 inch Android tablet. I really like Android.
And I have no interest at all in the iPhone, the iPad, and their accompanying operating system, iOS.
So I thought I’d explain why. There are a number of reasons why I like Android and generally avoid Apple. Here they are:
First, I really like that Android has the notion of a desktop similar to Windows. On it you can place all kinds of things called “widgets’ – clocks, weather updates, twitter feeds, Facebook timelines, and shortcuts. They are all available instantly on the pages of your desktop. You can put almost anything you want on your multiple pages of the desktop. I have one touch access to turning on and off things like WiFi and sound. I can turn on the “Flashlight” (the camera flash) with a single touch of my desktop. I can read news headlines just by swiping to my “news page”. That’s a lot of power without having to hunt for and find a specific app. The desktop on iOS (if you can call it that) is nothing but a listing of the applications on the device. That’s fine as far as it goes, but the Android desktop provides a lot of very valuable and cool functionality. I find that very useful.
Not only does Android provide the notion of a desktop with Widgets, it allows you to configure almost any aspect of the system. You can choose from any number of configurable, intelligent keyboards that make typing easier. You can pick from an array of desktop launchers that work in ways you might prefer. You can choose launchers for efficiency, for visual appeal, or for configurability. Or for all three. You can even customize the lock screen if you want. Again, this is really cool and I prefer it over the limited system that iOS provides. In the end, you have complete control over the appearance and functionality of your device – something I really value.
And the reason that Android provides so much flexibility and power to the user is that the OS is open source. Developers can see how the OS works and build apps, launchers, and widgets accordingly. And of course, they can even modify the operating system itself. In addition to the Android Open Source Project, there are a number of alternative operating systems. The most popular are CyanogenMod and MiUi. Some handset vendors lock down their bootloaders, but most are wising up and allowing users to easy root their phones and modify them in ways of their choosing. The stock systems customers buy are plenty powerful, but if one is so inclined, one can completely control what runs on the phone. Sure you can jailbreak your iOS devices, but you are still stuck with the single, closed operating system. Android users have no such restrictions.
Since the system is open, there are multiple ways to get applications. Android users can get apps from the Google Android Market, from the Amazon AppStore, and other places like AppBrain, and they are perfectly free to “sideload” applications from any source if they so choose. There is no single, controlled point of entry for applications. That’s cool. And hey, maybe you don’t like Flash, but at least you can run it on an Android device if you want to. And oh yeah, you don’t have to pay for the privilege of distributing your apps, nor do you have to get “approval” from the AppStore gods.
And of course, Android customers have a wide choice of hardware as well as software. The iPhone and the iPad hardware is cool, and yeah, you can have any choice of hardware you like -- as long as it is the hardware Apple provides. Android phones and tablets come in many sizes, colors, and flavors. Most come with removable and configurable storage. They come from different vendors and carriers. (iPhone initially launched with one (1!) choice of carriers, slowly moved to two, and now begrudgingly added a third.) They progress and advance more quickly. Each vendor competes to out do the other in providing features and power. You can already buy quad-core Android tablets.
Now let me be clear: If you like Apple, love Apple, or even are an “Apple Fanboi”, that’s fine with me. Knock yourself out. You won’t get any argument from me. We all have our preferences, and if you prefer Apple over PC’s and Android, that’s great. I’m not going to get into a flame war over “My OS is better than your OS”. I’ve been there, done that, and frankly, I’ve grown out of it. I happily admit that I was an immature fool to engage in those kinds of discussions. You like Apple? Awesome. I don’t myself, but live and let live, eh? I know it is too much to hope that the comments won’t prove to be contentious, but I myself am not going to get into a debate. I’m just expressing my opinions here, and am 100% fine if you disagree 100% with me.
And easily one of the coolest things about Android is the whole Google eco-sphere and cloud. Android is completely integrated with all the Google apps that we know and love: Gmail, Maps, Docs, Reader, Tasks, Google+, Google Music, everything. A single sign-on brings it all together on your phone, on your tablet, and on your desktop computer. There basically isn’t a Google App that isn’t completely integrated with Android. And because the Google cloud is completely open, third-parties can easily integrate into it and use its functionality to enhance what Google provides. For instance, gReader is a third-party app that leverages Google Reader to provide a better RSS experience on Android. Integrating with what Google provides is easily one of the most powerful and valuable features of Android. Okay, call me a Google FanBoi, but there is a lot of cool power there that I really like and use.
But at a more basic level, one of the more fundamental reasons I prefer Android is that, well, it’s not made by Apple. I do not – and never really have – liked the way Apple does things. I don’t like how they strictly and ruthlessly control their eco-systems. I don’t like the way that they treat developers. I don’t like how they use lawsuits to try to stifle competition (I thought the “look and feel” wars were over, but I guess not). I’m perfectly happy to admit that Apple makes wonderful hardware and has blazed some important trails in many ways. That’s all well and good – I just prefer not to do business with them. Moreover – and I agree that this is harder to qualify -- I’ve never really like the “hipster, holier than thou” attitude that seems to emanate from the Apple community. I know it’s totally my problem, but as far as I’m concerned, the smuggest place on the planet is the center of an Apple store. And I don’t do smug. I literally shake my head and snigger constantly when I take my daughter there (She has a Mac – despite my best efforts to persuade her otherwise...). I know that’s not really rational, but that’s just how I feel.
So in summary, I like Android because it really doesn’t lock you in to anything. It doesn’t lock you into hardware, application sources, carriers, or operating systems. Just as DOS/Windows was more open flexible, and easy to develop for back in the early days of personal computing, so is Android currently the open, flexible, easy to develop for platform on portable devices. I totally get that openness has it’s price – but I preferred the openness then, and I still prefer it today.