This is the second in a three-week series about cell phones.
You already know what I think of iPhones. Personally, I’m an Android user, and have been since 2011. I’ll probably stay one for the foreseeable future — my tablet (and my daughter’s) is an Android as well, and given how many books I have on the tablet’s hard drive, it would be a nightmare to swap it.
We’re not talking about tablets, though. We’re talking about phones. here are six of the best things about Android phones:
6. Choice, choice, choice. — Android phones come in all shapes and sizes. Want a phablet? A large phone? A smaller phone? A budget phone to tide you over until the next one comes out? A metal body? A plastic body? Buttons on the back? Buttons on the sides? Prefer one company’s skin over another? Pick what you want; there are plenty of options, with more coming out every month or so. There’s bound to be an Android phone that fits your style and budget.
5. Customization. — You can customize an iPhone in two ways: app organization and wallpaper/lock screen images. With Android phones, you have numerous choices of launchers, not the least of which is the stock launcher that comes with each model. Sony, Samsung, LG, and HTC all have proprietary software that controls how the phone actually runs Android, and you get to choose which one you want. Or you can download something like Aviate or EverythingMe, or even the raw Google launcher if your phone is high-spec enough. The latest iteration of iOS allows you to customize your keyboard, but Android’s been doing that for at least three years now. And you’re not even locked into grids on your homescreens — you can use widgets, you can put apps and folders wherever you like (on an iPhone you can’t have empty spaces in the grid), and there’s always a button you can push to see every single app on the phone, alphabetized.
4. Apps are frequently updated. — Whenever a company has an upgrade for their app, it often comes to Android first because it’s easier to get an update approved in the Google Play store. You might see your phone updating the same app three times in a week as bug fixes are applied. Android users are generally more vociferous about problems than iPhone users, so companies are likely to move quickly to solve problems.
3. More content more ways. — Want to buy a book? Try Google Play, Amazon’s store, or even a third-party catalog via a third-party reader. Want to watch a movie? Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Google, and all the others are a touch away. Got a file you want to watch? Move it to your phone and watch it with Mobo. Sideloading content is easier (on most Android phones) and there are so many apps that can customize your experience that you’ll definitely find something good. For example, I use Moon+ Reader Pro to read all of my non-Kindle books because it can override my tablet’s settings and darken the screen even more than “should” be allowed. Even the best third-party reading app on iPhone doesn’t do that (as far as I know).
2. Competition breeds better devices. — Sony, Samsung, Motorola, LG, and HTC are constantly pushing each other to come up with the next best thing that will get people to buy their newest, most expensive phones. And each one has its strengths. Sony’s Xperia line has good value on its more rugged options. Samsung is the kitchen-sink of phones and has one of the best cameras. Motorola specializes in battery life and economy models. LG depends upon cool tricks and weird button placement, but some people like cool and weird. HTC has gone high-end with their sound and form factor. Each time a phone manufacturer puts out a new device, there’s new and cool stuff to check out, stuff that the other guys might not have or aren’t doing as well. Innovation comes faster because you have multiple companies trying to beat each other to the punch, and that benefits the consumer.
1. Google is everywhere. — It really is. Search, browsing, mail, calendar, office products, maps, chat, media… you name it, Google probably does it. And one thing that all Android phones do exceedingly well is integrate with the Google ecosystem. Contacts, calendars, and documents live in the cloud so losing your phone doesn’t mean you lose all your numbers. Google+, no matter how silly it seems, has the awesome feature of automatically backing up all your photos as you take them. Chrome syncs across all your devices and remembers your passwords (if you tell it to). And with Google Now, Google has found a way to integrate all of your information, predict what you need to know, and make it easy to get to.
My first Android phone was an HTC Evo, and as I wrote in 2011, it was already doing things that a Star Trek communicator badge couldn’t do. It got me hooked on Android, and by the time I was up for a new phone (a Samsung Galaxy Note 2, purchased the month it was released) I was so invested in the Android ecosystem that it only made sense to get another one. Plus, there was a new iPhone coming soon and I didn’t want to get something that would be obsolete in a few months. Now I’m on my third Android phone — back to HTC, with the One M8 — and I can’t see any reason to go back to iPhones. I’m too into customization, and anyway I think iOS’s latest iteration looks weird. Flat design is not my thing.
Next week: fighting about the fight.
Got an idea for a future “Six of the Best” column? Tweet it to me @listener42.