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iPhone or Android? The great debate

If you’re buying your first smartphone, you have a big decision to make: iPhone or Android?

They both have loyal followers and passionate haters, and both have definite strengths and weaknesses. Here’s our take on the pros and cons of each.

iPhone: Pros

Apple is legendary for its user experience. In stark contrast to Android, every iOS device works the same way and looks more or less the same. And Apple founder Steve Jobs’ famous quip, “it just works!”, still rings true for the iPhone. I bet you’ve even seen retirees pick up an iOS device for the first time and just intuitively know what to do.

Additionally, because Apple builds the hardware (iPhones and iPads) and the software (iOS) itself, it benefits from a synergy that Android can’t match. Apple custom integrates the software and the hardware, while Android simply builds an operating system that dozens of manufacturers then figure out how to work with.

Last, Apple is famously privacy-conscious, whereas Google is in the information-collecting business. If you’re concerned about privacy, you may want to choose an iPhone over Android.

Android: Pros

First (and maybe foremost): the Android has a lower cost of entry. Because Google designs Android to run on many types of devices, it’s possible to get into the Android market for cheaper. For example, if you google “best cheap Android phones in Australia” you will find a handful of good choices ranging from $250 to $600. The only way to get an iPhone in this price range is to buy one so old you might not enjoy using it.

Beyond cost, the other big pro is choices. You can choose from hundreds of phones, some with unique features unavailable on iOS. (The iOS fans will call them “gimmicks”, but you can decide for yourself.) And Android gives you choices for how you want your operating system to look and feel. There are some pretty cool things you can do to customise an Android that you can’t do on an iPhone. Just be sure you back up your phone before getting too adventurous.

iPhone: Cons

There are downsides to tight control of hardware and software. First, you can’t customise the iOS to anywhere near the degree you can Android. “It just works,” but if you still want to change it, you might not be allowed. Second, Apple’s “walled garden” approach means that while iOS apps tend to be faster and better integrated, third-party apps can’t dig as deep into the operating system and can’t do as much.

And then there’s price. Premium products command premium prices. There is no cheap $100 iPhone. If your budget is really tight, the iPhone might not be the best choice.

Android: Cons

While it’s true you can get into Android for cheaper, you know what they say: you get what you pay for. Budget Android phones, in our experience, are usually a serious disappointment. The flagship Android phones (like Samsung’s Galaxy series) are far better… but they’re just as expensive as the iPhone.

Android also suffers from fragmentation. Though it runs on hundreds of devices, it doesn’t run quite the same on all of them. Not all of them can run the same apps. Some manufacturers create heavily modified versions of Android that can be bewildering to use. And because Android has to support hundreds of devices, it lacks the synergy of iPhone and iOS. Google’s stock camera app, for example, doesn’t always support the latest camera features in the newest phones. Users need to use the manufacturer’s app instead of Android’s default. This can get confusing.

Last, privacy. Google is in the information game. If you read the legalese, you’ll see that Google is collecting much more data about you than Apple does on its users. Consider how important this is, or isn’t, before making your choice.

Wrapping up

So, which should you choose? Only you can answer that question. Ask yourself what you want to get out of the experience, and use this guide to help decide. If possible, find a demo model (or ask a mate) running each operating system, and see which one feels right to you. Whichever you choose, welcome to the wonderful world of smartphones! Pretty soon you’ll wonder how you got along without one.