BUYER'S GUIDE: Choosing Between Android And iPhone

iphone vs android

Photo: Steve Kovach, Business Insider

Smartphone newbies, take note!There’s only two smartphone operating systems that really matter right now: Android and iOS.

iOS powers Apple’s iPhone, and Android powers a number of popular handsets like the Droid Incredible and the Galaxy S.

So let’s talk about these market leaders. Both are similar in so many respects — GPS, media-playing capabilities, internet on the go — but how do you decide which one is right for you?

We broke it down by category: app selection, hardware, openness, upgrade cycle, and OS. We picked the best in each area to make your decision easy.

Which platform has the best apps?

customising your phone with apps is a huge consideration when purchasing a new phone. Apple's App Store has 300,000 apps spread across a number of categories -- games, utilities, music, organizational, to name a few. The Android Marketplace is has 100,000 apps, and it's growing fast. A recent survey indicates that there is more interest in developing for iPhone than for Android, so expect the App Store's numbers to remain dominant.

Winner: Apple

The hardware battle

Apple gracefully combines hardware and software into one package for the iPhone. Android is an operating system adapted for a variety of handsets. The good news here is that different handset makes give you different choices. Want a keyboard? You can't get one on the iPhone. Want a 4' screen? Can't get it with Apple. However, we think Apple's hardware is a notch above even the best Android handset. It's just a solid, well crafted phone.

Winner: Apple

OS and hardware openness

Apple is famous for ruling over its products with an iron fist, taking total control of all you can and can't do with them. Need a new battery? Take it to the Apple Store before you void the warranty. Want an app? It better be approved by Apple's fickle standards.

With the Android OS there's no third party to be your babysitter. And most Android phones will let you replace your own battery, just like a big kid.

Winner: Android

Hardware lifecycle

There has been a new iPhone every year since it came out in 2007. It seems a safe assumption that there will continue to be a new iPhone every year forthcoming.

Android-based phones are made by different manufacturers on an as-I-feel-like-it basis. That makes it very hard to decide when to buy a new Android phone for fear that it will be outdated soon.

Winner: Apple

OS lifecycle

Apple has released a new unified version of their iOS operating system every year, lining up with each new iPhone release. There are also regular updates between versions for bug fixes and minor feature updates like the recent Air Play and Air Print.

Android is inherently splintered. Even though new versions are released every few months, manufacturers tend tweak it and add their own apps and widgets. This makes it difficult for Android users to get the latest version of the OS because they have to wait for the manufacturer to catch up (if they decide to do so at all).

Winner: Apple

Carrier choice

Android phones are available on every major carrier in the U.S. The iPhone is only on Verizon and AT&T. Android phones are also the first to implement each carrier's 4G network, offering greater data speeds. And there's a huge wave of 4G phones coming this year.

You won't see 4G on the iPhone for a long while.

Winner: Android

The bottom line

In the end, you have to ask yourself what you want.

If you want a universal experience in which problems are solved very quickly and by only dealing with one entity, Apple's iPhone is for you.

If you're counter-Apple and favour the freedom to choose any carrier or device, we recommend you go with a phone that runs the truest and least-modified version of the operating system like the Nexus S or the T-Mobile G2.

Now load up your new phone with some apps

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