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iPhone or Android: Which Smartphone Should You Buy?

13 factors to consider before you buy


11. User Experience: Elegance vs. Customization

Apple logo
image copyright Apple Inc.

People who like complete control over the customization of their phones, and want to be able to fiddle the lowest level functions, will prefer Android thanks to its greater openness (one downside of this, though, is that each company that makes Android phones can tweak them, sometimes replacing default Android apps with inferior tools developed by that company). Android customization can also require some complex technical skills that the average person rarely has.

Taken as a comparison done on a features list, the distance between Android and iPhone doesn't seem that far--and it seems that Android is ahead in some areas. And while that's true, the experience of using a phone, a device that's with you all day long, doesn't boil down to what boxes get checked. The experience is driven by quality and attention to detail, how the device works and how you feel about it. There's a reason people feel passionately enough about the iPhone to wait hours to get one on the day of a new model's release. This happens sometimes with Android phones, but less often and at lesser scale.

Most people want a phone that works well, lets them run the apps they want, and is easy to use. On that front, the iPhone wins hands down. Apple’s intense focus on ease of use, quality experience, and things just working (see hardware, apps, and Flash above for examples of how Android’s openness can make life harder) makes it the clear choice for most users.

Winner: iPhone

12. User Maintenance: Storage and Battery

Android logo
image copyright Google Inc.

Apple prizes elegance and simplicity in the iPhone above all else. That’s a major reason that users can’t upgrade the storage or replace the batteries on their iPhones (it’s possible to get replacement iPhone batteries, but they’re have to be replaced by a skilled repairperson). Android, on the other hand, is open to user customization, meaning that users can change both phones’ memory and battery.

The trade-off is a bit more complexity and a bit less elegance, but that might be worth it compared to running out of memory or needing to pay for a battery replacement equal to a large percentage of the cost of your iPhone.

Winner: Android

13. Cost: Is Free Always Best?

If you’re particularly concerned with what your phone costs, you’ll probably choose Android. That’s because some Android phones, when paired with a new two-year contract from a phone company, are free. While Apple didn't used to offer a free iPhone, the 4 is now free with a two-year contract. Still, free Android phones offer some newer specs.

For those on a very tight budget, that may be the end of the discussion. If you’ve got some money to spend on your phone, though, look a little deeper. Free phones are usually free for a reason: they’re often less capable than their more-costly counterparts. Getting a free phone may be buying you more trouble than a paid phone. There are a number of Android and iPhone models under $100 with a two-year contract, including the iPhone 4S.

Otherwise, expect to spend $199-$299 (with two-year contract) for the newest and best Android phones or iPhones.

Winner: Tie

14. Bottom Line

The decision of whether to buy an iPhone or Android phone isn’t as simple as tallying up the winners above and choosing the phone that triumphed in more categories (5-2 for the iPhone, with 6 ties, for those counting). That’s because all of the categories won’t count for the same amount to all people. Some people will value hardware or carrier choice more, while others will care more about battery life or mobile gaming.

While it should be no surprise that the guy writing an iPhone website might prefer the iPhone, Android phones are good choices for many users. You’ll need to decide what factors are most important to you and then choose the phone that best meets your needs.

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