Looking at Android Users from an iPhone Perspective

Not long ago, I made a post on Facebook asking for people’s reasoning for using Android-based phones. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Personally, I’m an Apple guy for a few different reasons (we’ll talk about that later), but for most users, either smartphone is more than sufficient to handle everyday tasks. Based on the responses that I received, I came to a few conclusions about Android users, and how many of their considerations differ from my own.

What Android Users Want

They want free stuff

One of the top responses that I saw was the ability to either access to free things. This came in my varieties but seemed to be either directly related to piracy, or simply a free app that they’re already locked into. Unfortunately, the only clarification on this that I got was related to piracy or homebrew.

This, of course, opens up other issues in that many of the users who cited piracy may not be aware of: they don’t actually know what they’re running. In the case of open source homebrew, it’s not much of an issue as the source is looked over regularly, but those who are sideloading paid versions of apps have no idea what they’re actually installing unless they’ve fully decompiled and analyzed the APK. If they’ve taken that much time to dig through the source, chances are they’ve already wasted far more time than it’s worth.

The ability to easily install homebrew/open source software is an entirely valid reasoning, although I do question its usefulness. In the Apple ecosystem, it’s possible to install homebrew by using a developer account and XCode. While not terribly intuitive for a basic user and requires a Mac, it can be done and doesn’t require any workarounds. In addition, open source does indeed exist within the Apple ecosystem via Apple’s App Store but is still subject to their terms of use. Typically, this isn’t a big deal if you’re not trying to run development versions of things, but I can see their perspective.

Overall, I’ve come to the conclusion over the years that paying $0.99 for an app is far more worth it than loading a potential security risk or buggy software on my device, but it seems that for some people the idea of paying for an app (and supporting the developer that makes it possible) is unacceptable.

They want customization

Most cited flexibility and some clarified on the point of customization within their Android phones. On Android devices, you are able to do things such as change your home screen, install custom ROMs on rooted devices, and make various hardware tweaks. Unfortunately, many were not able to clarify on what specifically they wanted to change, but those who did clarify cited simply wanting the option.

In the past, I have owned several Android phones as well as operated a repair shop that fixed and customized them. Over the years, I began to come to the conclusion that all of that customization simply wasn’t worth the effort. I would be constantly tweaking my layouts, launchers, and ROMs only to introduce further bugs due to varying hardware manufacturers and other environmental variables. Because Android phones are mad by many different manufacturers, you’re still relying a bit on what the manufacturer (or even ROM developer if you’re not rolling your own ROMs) decided what was best for you. For developers, it’s great to be able to make changes to your device if you want to modify something, but for the average user (let’s face it, power users and developers as well), you’ll often be fighting with one bug or another.

I previously felt that modifying the clock speeds on my device was great until I realized that if I just let the manufacturer who developed the hardware in the first place, I was in for a much smoother experience. I rely heavily on all of my technology, and any time fiddling with something that I rely on daily is just wasted time. Lots of people enjoy customizing their devices, and that’s great, but personally I’d rather things just work well out of the box.

Hardware cost is a factor

I live in a world where I usually just get the phone I want instead of considering the price. Unfortunately, I sometimes forget that this isn’t the case for everyone.

Because of more competition in the market in terms of hardware manufacturers (and hardware inconsistencies), Android phones are typically much cheaper. Instead of having a single current generation of a device being available for sale, there are multiple manufacturers ranging from lower-powered budget devices to higher-end hardware. In addition, previous generations typically stay on shelves a bit longer as an alternative to those who aren’t concerned about having bleeding edge hardware.

In this aspect, it seems that it really all comes down to what you want. If you want a budget device but are willing to sacrifice hardware quality or long-term support, you certainly have better options in terms of choices within the Android ecosystem. If you want a more premium device, you can still stay within that familiar ecosystem.

Personally, I like the “spend more at once and upgrade less” mentality. I’d rather spend more to have a phone that guarantees its longevity than one that can’t be updated more than once or twice, but I realize that’s not everyone’s view on their choice in technology.

Ecosystem familiarity

In my post, quite a few people stated that it’s what they’re used to. If all you’ve ever owned was a Windows computer, switching to Mac is a learning process, and the same can be equated to switching from Android to iOS. People are comfortable with what they have, and I can’t blame them as I am more or less the same way. Is the UI largely the same? For the most part, but there are subtle differences that can make switching a bit more difficult.

One individual mentioned not understanding how to navigate with only a single home button. For us iPhone users, this seems incredibly silly as we’re accustomed to a relatively similar UI within each of our apps and don’t see a need for things such as a “back” button, but on Android, it’s nearly a requirement due to a lack of consistency between apps.

People are stubborn, and they like what they like. Even the things that I may see as an annoyance are things that they see as convenient. I don’t blame them a bit as they’re trained to operate their phones a certain way. The scenario applies both ways in that what I see as convenient may be a nuisance to them.

Why Android Isn’t For Me

After chatting with several people who commented on the post, I realized that my major concerns don’t even register on the radar for many of them. Several of these weren’t mentioned in the post and seemed entirely unimportant to their smartphone choices.

Manufacturer Support and Updates

When I get a phone, I want regular updates and bugfixes, and I want them for a long time. Unfortunately, most manufacturers of Android phones don’t update along with Google’s releases. If you want the latest version of the OS, even if you bought the phone within the last year, you’ll need to upgrade to their next model before you can begin to receive software updates again.

The issue with this is that operating system features that could be easily made available by the manufacturer are entirely dropped, and in many cases, security issues left unpatched. Of course, you could always root your phone and use a custom ROM, but I feel that this should be something that should be automatic, not something that requires a workaround and voiding any possible warranty that may still exist on the device.

Even Google’s Nexus devices seem to neglect updates rather quickly compared to Apple devices. An article by Android Police shows that Apple devices have more than double the support lifetime of Android devices, with the average support lifetime being less than 2 years.

This gets even worse when it comes to non-Nexus Android devices from manufacturers such as Samsung, LG, or Motorola, where phone lifecycles can run shorter than a year with very few updates (if any at all). For example, the iPhone 4S, launched in late 2011 and just recently reached its end of life with the release of iOS10. In comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S3, released 8 months later in May of 2012, received its final operating system update with Android 4.4.2, which was released in December of 2013.

App Quality and Stability

Due to the review process of Apple’s App Store, overall app quality is higher. Unfortunately, Android’s biggest strength is also its weakness in that it allows nearly anything into the Google Play store. Because of this, any developer can make their app available to Android users via the official marketplace, and quality can suffer. This isn’t to say that every app on Apple’s App Store is a gem, but there are overall less risks in obtaining an app from a lesser-known developer.

Yes, there are roughly 10% more apps on Google Play, but that number is also skewed due to multiple versions existing instead of Apple’s in-app purchases for premium app upgrades. I don’t need 10 email apps; I need 1 that works really well.

Because developers on Apple platforms know what to expect from both the hardware and software, overall performance and stability are significantly higher. Within the Android ecosystem, developers need to account for an excessive amount of hardware and software variations. When developing for iOS, hardware and software differences are far more manageable due to being limited to only select hardware and a longer support lifecycle of iOS.

Typically, apps also hit iOS first, as developers see a much higher return on investment on Apple devices than with Android. Piracy is far more infrequent, development is easier, and Apple users are more willing to spend a dollar on an app that they want.

I don’t want my apps to crash, and I don’t mind dropping a couple bucks for an app (although probably 90% of my apps on my phone are free). A buck here and there is entirely worth my peace of mind.

Security

I won’t bore you with the details, but the security of Apple devices is significantly higher than most Android phones. Due to longer device lifecycles, more frequent security updates, and security-conscious hardware, Apple certainly hits the mark. This is especially true for many Android devices that are rooted or unofficial app installations where the user may be unaware of the software running on their phones.

Due to an unregulated app marketplace, malware is far more common on Android devices. When downloading an app from an official marketplace, especially from an unknown developer, I don’t want to have to worry about what might be lurking deep in the code.

Overall Impressions

Since investigating the reasons people use Android phones, I’ve come to the conclusion that Android simply isn’t for me, and I’m glad to be within the Apple ecosystem. While I wasn’t necessarily looking to switch, I wanted to know why someone would choose to use an Android phone over an iPhone, and it seems to be directly related to different concerns.

My qualifications seem to be quite different from Android users, and I’m okay with that. It seems that the overall concerns that an Android user has are primarily related to cost with secondary concerns in customization, whereas my concerns are primarily rooted in security and stability. I want something that “just works”, something stable, and something that is secure. It seems to really come down to what you really care about in a device you rely on and use daily.

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