Just over five years ago, Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone, a device that would change the world forever. The Macworld Conference & Expo keynote in 2007 is one that will go down in history. With its announcement, Apple reinvented the smartphone and put converged handsets on mainstream consumers’ radar. The iPhone seamlessly integrated music, email, a phone, a camera and Internet access all into one great device. I personally never had an interest in smartphones until the Macworld announcement, and countless others can likely make the same claim. There was just one problem, however… Apple partnered exclusively with Cingular in the U.S. for the release of the iPhone. At the time, Cingular was the biggest carrier in the U.S. with 58 million customers — to show how rapidly the market has grown in recent years, the nation’s largest carrier Verizon reported having 108.7 million subscribers at the end of 2011 — but I was in no way interested in moving to a new carrier and therefore I was forced to pass on the iPhone.
I carried on with a slew of basic flip phones in the two years following the iPhone’s unveiling. I also heard about this so called “Google Phone” (the G1) on T-Mobile and after further research, I was thoroughly unimpressed. Little did I know Motorola, Google and Verizon were in the midst of creating something big — the DROID. In October, the three companies teased upcoming the device with a brilliant iDon’t commercial. To this day, the commercial is as iconic to me as the 1984 Mac commercial is to Apple fans… it was the beginning of a new era. Not only was the DROID an immediate hit for Verizon, I believe it is the sole reason Android is what it is today. After the lackluster Android devices that came before it, Google bet it all on Motorola’s flagship phone and that bet paid off.
The clunkiness of the DROID wasn’t for me but with a Verizon iPhone nowhere in sight, I knew an Android device was in my future. Once the DROID X was released I snapped it up and quickly became an “Android fanboy.” With Google’s platform, the user is in control. He or she has the option to have a keyboard, a full touchscreen, a massive display, or whatever else his or her heart may desire. As a self-described nerd, I soon plunged into the world of rooting and custom ROMs, which is an endless adventure thanks to the incredible Android developer community.
But Android’s openness ultimately may be its downfall, unfortunately, as carriers and manufactures have slowly turned the operating system into something less glamorous. The Android platform can theoretically be loaded onto any device, so any no-name company can market a smartphone or tablet as “Android.” When a user inevitably receives one of these $99 “Android” tablets for Christmas, his or her experience will be less than stellar to say the least. Most of these cheap devices don’t even include the Android Market due to Google’s restrictions, leaving consumers with virtually no quality applications and further tarnishing the experience.
Even mainstream manufacturers make buying an Android device a hassle. Motorola released the DROID BIONIC in September, the DROID RAZR in November, and the DROID RAZR Maxx in January. To make matters worse, the company announced a new version of the RAZR with an unlockable bootloader not long ago. A new Android device is released almost every month from major manufacturers, often leaving consumers with severe cases of buyer’s remorse. Some manufacturers have at least promised to slow down when it comes to releasing smartphones in the future, but mobile technology advances too quickly to sit idle for very long.
Lastly, each carrier and manufacturer is looking to out-do the competition. Rather than marketing devices and services with competitive pricing, these companies fill handsets with unnecessary bloatware and custom user interface skins. The skins are supposed to “enhance” a user’s experience but more often then not, they lead to incompatibilities, error messages, forced closures, poor battery performance and lag. Switching between a Motorola device and an HTC device will give the consumer a completely different experience. Android itself has no consistent flow, although Google hopes to change that with the release of Ice Cream Sandwich.
When Apple announces a device, the company also announces a release date. The carriers don’t tell Apple when to release a product, Apple tells the carriers when it will release a product. Google might be well-served to find a way to gain some of this assertiveness; the company’s latest flagship device, the Galaxy Nexus, was announced in October. During the event, Google announced European release date but no firm details regarding a North American launch were provided. The company said it was “coming soon” — the two most dreaded words in all of technology. Verizon then delayed the handset’s launch for unknown reasons until it was released nearly two months after its unveiling. This would never happen with an Apple product.
When you power on an iPhone it works, plain and simple. The iPhone has no carrier branding whatsoever, nor does it have any bloatware. In addition, it has access to the most incredible App Store in the mobile world, hands down. The device is slick, clean and stylish, which is exactly in line with Apple’s image. I have seen kids as young as six to adults as old as 80 using the device… it is that simple.
This is why I recommend the iPhone to my family, my friends and even the majority of people I speak to — even though I am a huge Android fan and I write about the platform for a living. I can admit when a product I enjoy has its flaws, and in no way am I saying the iPhone is perfect. You can call me an iSheep, iFan, iDan or whatever else you want, but when push comes to shove, 99% of consumers don’t care about rooting, ROMs or the concept of being “open.” They just want a sleek smartphone with a wide selection of great apps that can browse the Web, check email, text and make phone calls. In this regard, the iPhone is the clear choice.