A Civilized Discourse on iPhone v. Android

Ok actually this is more of a rant than a discourse. I tried to be civilized but got all riled in the writing of it. Read on, though, read on- albeit ranty, it is fair and balanced in that I’ve given them both an equal shot at impressing me.


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The iPhone 6 came out on September 19th, in all its skinny big gold-white-or-black glory. I got one, after having spent two years with the Samsung Galaxy Note (an Android). Before that, I had an iPhone. This is my account of how the two phones stack up. You can find droves and droves of reviews online- I offer only one humble user’s experience.

Android is an endlessly customizable universe. There’s an app for everything, literally. Not just apps for games, or apps for utilities. There are also apps, launchers and skins that change the way you use your phone. If you don’t like the way your screen looks when you make a call, you can change that. You can install new keyboards, new lockscreens. You can even install a launcher that will make your Android look and act like an iPhone (though this goes against all the laws of nature).

The problem with this smorgasbord of customizability is that you actually have to customize the phone in order for it to be what you want. And getting it Just Right involves searching out so many different types of apps, trying various versions of them, uninstalling the ones you don’t like, installing the next one in hopes that it works. Plus when you update the OS, chances are it’ll mess up your careful balancing act of customization. Ain’t nobody got time for that. And if you can’t find the time and stamina, the out-of-the-box Android is pretty crappy. For instance, to make a simple phone call, you go into contacts, tap the person’s name, and then are taken to an administrative screen where you can do things like edit the person’s name or add a picture. You have to click another button to place the actual phone call, and if you’ve installed Skype, yet another box pops up asking you if you’d like to call them on the phone or on Skype. This is simply too much- it takes between 9 and 12 taps to make a freaking phone call! On a phone! (This is the height of the rant that I warned you about). Yes, I know I could have customized all that away with fancy launchers and skins and apps, but ultimately I want my phone to be able to place calls easily without having to essentially build that process myself.

The other problem with endlessly customizable mentality is that even the most common, basic smartphone uses require a lot of searching and selecting. Like an alarm clock- everyone needs to wake up. Why did I have to test drive three or four apps in order to find an alarm clock I could tolerate? Flash light is another example- users shouldn’t have to search extensively for something that everyone needs on their phone. The same goes for anti-theft apps and the calculator. These functions are so intrinsic to the use of smartphones that they should be included in the build.

The iPhone 6, on the other hand, has correctly made assumptions about what kinds of functionalities are most important to users, and has built those right into the phone. It’s amazing!  Take it out of the box, turn it on, and so many things just work. Tap someone’s name to call them. Push the clock icon to set your alarm. Find My iPhone is built into your device. And the flashlight? Swipe up once, don’t even have to unlock the thing, and a solid beam of white light will sweep out of the phone. After two years of Android, it’s such a relief to have things just work.

To be fair, there are a few things I miss about my Android. Personalizing each screen is soo much better on Android. I had a page for my games, a page for stuff I read, and a page for creative apps. Trying to organize my iPhone apps is like doing a rubiks cube- move one thing and everything else shifts. I never was good at rubiks cubes, so my apps are sadly unorganized on my new iPhone, something that is particularly bothersome to a Type A librariany person.

The built-in back button on Android is also better than how iPhone does things- no matter what app you’re using on your Droid, the back button is always in the same spot and you don’t have to think about how to get to the previous page. On Apple, each app’s developers have placed that button in a different place, so you literally have to think about how to go back- is it on the bottom left? Maybe upper left? is it an arrow, or does it say Back? There are two left-pointing arrows- which one is the right one? All this takes too much thought for a process that is the computer equivalent of taking a step. We don’t think about how we move our legs, we shouldn’t have to think about how we go back one page.

The other thing that Android is far better at is a philosophical point: having an open source operating system is egalitarian. It allows lots of people access to the code they need in order to build things- it’s grass roots, equal access development. Along the same lines, Android is by far the most used OS in the world, especially because less expensive smart phones all run on Android. As someone who cares about equal access (public librarian here), I support a system that equalizes access to code and access to hardware. I just don’t support it enough to personally use it. I know I know. I’m going to go make out with my iPhone now.

Written by Simone on October 9, 2014


Melanie on October 9, 2014


I'd like to add two other things I love about my iPhone.

Once I unknowingly dropped my phone in a puddle, which froze overnight. I had to get a new one. As soon as I plugged the new phone into my computer and let it sync, it looked and felt exactly like the phone that died. The same apps were in the same place, the text messages all the way back to when I met my boyfriend were still there, and even my lock screen image returned. No reinstalling anything or recreating contact lists or lamenting lost photos. Whew.

The camera is sweet. I know lots of smartphones claim to have the best cameras, and some of them are actually quite good. But time after time I'm amazed at the quality of the pictures I'm able to take with my phone, even without the help of any third-party apps. (Note: I Photoshop and Instagram like crazy. I'm not saying I don't, just that I don't have to.)

I get that iEverything isn't right for everyone. But man, it's really right for me. Thanks for the great post, Simone!

Anonymous on October 10, 2014


I've had an S3 and S4, and I've been very happy with both. My photos are clearer than my mother's photos, who has the iPhone 4. Consumer Reports' report on the best phones for taking photos rates the Galaxys higher than the iPhones. :)

Anonymous on October 12, 2014


Add for Apple? I think so...You should probably act like a librarian and help someone find something. Do not advertise on our website


She was not advertising for Apple. If you had read the post, she gave Android a better review than iOS. And add, in this case, is spelled ad. And it is not your website. It is everyone's including librarians.

Simone on October 13, 2014


Much like a librarian who works with books would be expected to write book reviews and a librarian who works with databases would be expected to write reviews of databases, a librarian who works with technology can be expected to review technological devices. And reviews, of course, are not always favorable or they would not be useful to the reader.

By all means read this review and determine if a highly customizable phone is best for you, or one that has made assumptions about what you want. To each her own.

Hillary on October 13, 2014


I just wanted to say that gif made me LOL.

Faith on December 15, 2014


I currently have a Note 4 and owned an S2 and S4 previously. I also have some experience with using iOS from when I had an iPod Touch. While there was a bit of a learning curve when I first started to use Android, I didn't encounter the same issues that Simone did. I find making a phone call to be very easy. On the contact page, you press the phone icon and the call is made. With Google Now, it's even easier since I can literally tell the phone to call whatever contact I want. Plus, adding contact widgets makes it very easy to speed dial frequent contacts.

I find the standard alarm clock provided by Samsung to work just fine. I also found it easy to use on Nexus 7, which has stock Android as opposed to Touch Wiz. My Samsung phones also came with calculators built in as did my Nexus 7. IA with you about the flashlight and anti-theft programs though :/ My Note 4 comes loaded with Lookout which has some anti-theft measures. Google also allows you to locate your device, lock and erase your device if it still has a network connection (obviously a big if if it was stolen). I wish Android had a kill switch like iPhones do.

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