I put out a ranking each month of the best smartphones you can buy.
When making the list, I think to myself: “If a normal person were to come up to me and ask what the best phones on the market were, how would I answer?”
The current iPhone is always at the top, but recently I’ve ranked Samsung’s new flagship, the Galaxy S6, as a close second.
The Galaxy S6 is a great phone. It has the best screen, one of the best cameras, and the design is gorgeous.
But there are still two things holding me back from recommending the Galaxy S6 over the iPhone, and it’s not entirely Samsung’s fault. The Android app ecosystem, and sluggish software updates on most devices.
To be clear, Android is a great operating system, and I enjoy using it. It can do everything iOS can do and then some. But the problem with Android is the app ecosystem that surrounds it. Android may have all the top apps you want, but those apps tend to be uglier and buggier than their iPhone counterparts.
Why? The biggest reason is because developers still prefer to offer their best apps and new features on the iPhone before bringing them over to Android. When a new app launches, it almost always starts on the iPhone.
Android may run on 80% or more of the world’s smartphones, but developers still make more money on iOS, so they tend to put their best work on the iPhone. That trend is shifting slightly, but it will take more time.
This chart from BI Intelligence sums it up nicely. Even though Google Play is rising, Apple’s App Store is much bigger:
In short, developers go where the money is. As a result, you get the best apps and features on iPhone, not Android.
Whenever I test a new Android phone, it’s always a jarring experience to see how much worse the apps are than their iOS counterparts. Even major companies with tons of cash like Facebook and Twitter treat Android like a second-rate operating system.
It’s great that Android is capable of running on a variety of hardware, but it’s a burden for developers to test their apps on every unique device. The iPhone comes in only a few variations that developers need to test.
The app ecosystem is the most important part of a phone. Apps are the gateway to most of your mobile activity, and I don’t think you should settle for anything but the best. Android is great on its own, but until developers start favouring it the same way they favour iOS, it will always rank second.
Another problem with Android is the update cycle. Manufacturers like Samsung modify Android with their own features and designs. It’s not the same “clean” version of Android Google makes and puts on its own line of Nexus phones and tablets.
As a result, most Android phones aren’t running the current version of the operating system, and therefore miss out on the latest and greatest features. And manufacturers like Samsung aren’t quick enough to provide the updates to current customers. Often, Android phone makers abandon major updates for its phones after about a year.
Apple, on the other hand, supports the iPhone with software updates for about three years or more. If you buy an iPhone, you don’t have to worry about waiting for the latest features. With Android, you can’t even assume you’ll get software updates at all.