My answer to this question has not changed down the years, it remains the same 'It depends on what you are looking for'. The huge differences between the Android and iOS platforms have narrowed down over time making it a choice that is based on your preferences and priorities rather than any inherent superiority of either platform.
I have been pondering an observation made by A B Bernstein analyst Carlos Kirjner who wrote;
This really sums up an importance differentiation in what you buy into when you use Google-backed products (Android phones) vs. Apple-designed products (iPhones or iPads). Increasingly, intelligence resides in the cloud and not on devices. Whether it's a Google Glass or a Google Driverless Car, its made possible by access to artificial intelligence and learning technology that Google is increasingly invested in. I wrote about this difference a couple of years ago when I compared Google and Apple's business models.
So how does this translate into your next smartphone purchase?
I believe that the iPhone scores on certain hardware and software aspects:
- The hardware is beautifully designed and it tends to be trouble free through a lifetime.
- High resource eating games still run smoother on iPhones notwithstanding the higher specs on many flagship Androids. An iPhone is still less likely to crash, dither or stall.
- Because Apple only has 2-3 devices in the market at any given point, apps and external accessories can be easily optimised to work with iPhones. This does translate into a better user experience with many apps.
- If you live in an Apple device ecosystem using a Mac, iPad etc. then you can benefit from Apple's cloud connectivity between the devices
- iTunes is a fantastic place to buy music at unbeatable prices.
Having used Android phones since the past 3 years, I am aware of the downside and upside, and I have seen the huge improvements in the last two iterations of the OS, namely JellyBean and KitKat.
- Google's native apps - Gmail, Maps, YouTube, Drive etc. - deliver a superlative experience on Android. I want to single out Gmail. We use Google Apps for business and the Gmail app is simply the best one I have ever used on a phone. I do not miss my desktop. I have been able to search and locate the oldest and most obscure mails on the fly. I cannot claim the same experience with Apple.
- Small functionalities on Android - like the Copy and Paste method, the 'swipe to type' keyboard and the implementation of notifications are really brilliant. They make daily usage easy. I struggle and miss these things when I work on an Apple device. I did note that iOS 8 will bring third-party keyboards to Apple and I welcome that.
- Contact implementation on Android is the best that I have seen across any platform. You will never lose your contacts again and it's effortless to access, share or transfer them between devices.
- It's easy to transfer your photos, videos and music between devices. It's easy to access files you have downloaded. In an iPhone, unless you have downloaded an 'app for that', downloaded files disappear in a black hole. In Android, I can always find them with a file manager.
- I increasingly find that Android has a cleaner, more elegant and intuitive interface. I love the level of control that you get on which apps appear on your home screens and how you organise them.
There are some areas where it's a level playing field - like battery life, camera and video quality, music player quality.
When I look at the lists I have generated, I realise an important distinction. Apple is all about the high ground of a better device while Android is about better connectivity and access to your stuff. This broadly corresponds to the difference between a device-centric company and a cloud-centric company.
You will be happy with a flagship Android or an iPhone. More choices, more reasons for everyone to be happy!