I need a new phone. Should I get iPhone or Android?

I’m genuinely undecided as to which I should get. What do you think?

Google Forms doesn’t stop you voting more than once. Please don’t. I’ll publish the results in a few days. See below.

Disclaimer: Have your say via a vote or a comment, but I won’t necessarily go with the majority view.

Update 6pm: Here’s what I’m thinking so far…

On the pro-Android side (for instance, the Samsung Galaxy S):

Can write my own apps without having to buy a Mac. (But would I ever get time?)
Good integration into Google/Gmail, which I use a lot.
Hardware is a bit cheaper.
Slightly lighter.
All other things being equal, I’d prefer an open platform to a closed one.

On the pro-iPhone side (thinking about the iPhone 4, prob 16Gb):

More apps?
Tram Tracker and Metlink apps.
Fits into iTunes, which I already have, so I can listen to music on the train easily without carrying another device.
Will kill my desire to want to buy a new iPod.
A bit smaller.

Results (as of 4:40pm, Tuesday 26/4/2011):

Survey result

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

30 replies on “I need a new phone. Should I get iPhone or Android?”

Depends on what you want it for and how you use it. Most of my life is in the Google cloud (Gmail, Calendar, Reader) so Android works perfectly for me.
My phone is 18 months old so is getting dated. I notice the speed on my GF’s iPhone 4 and must say I’m jealous. And the iPhone camera is great, super fast in comparison.
But on the flip side the GF loves the notifications and customisation that I have on the Android.

I’ve been a Apple Phile for around two decades. All my computers, mp3 players, phones, online calendars etc are Apple.

But I must say Android on HTC phones looks bloody good, and I am considering switching.

I’m genuinely torn too. All I know is I won’t be sticking with Nokia now they’ve gone to the dark side.

If you’ve invested in a lot of Google services (as I have) then the answer really is a no brainer, Android all the way. The better Android devices match the iPhone feature for feature. There’s also the question of open systems versus closed if you want to take the philosophical approach.

That said, the four other people I’ve put on to a Galaxy S have all loved it, and one of their partners traded in their iPhone for one.

Greg is right, you’re a brave man starting this discussion.

I will be interested to hear your choice. I have had a Nokia N97 mini for about a year and it is close to being thrown out the window, both due to dismal performance and speed plus the lack of useful apps. I lean toward being anti-apple but I have to say the choice of apps is a positive. It seems that by deafult, any organisation will develop an iPhone app before an Android one and many are still iPhone only, although that seems to be improving – no-one develops for Ovi :(

Good luck making a decision… (I hope you get an Android and rave about it)

If you do get an Android phone, make sure you get a relatively large one. I’ve just bought a cheap $200 Huawei Android phone from Dick Smith, just for development purposes, and it’s really too small to type effectively on the screen. I actually prefer typing text via a standard 0-9 keypad on my Nokia N85, with predictive text, than using this.

I’d say the same about the iPhone, but they only come in one size ;)

Actually, after playing with this phone, I’d seriously consider buying one with a real keyboard, when it finally comes time to replace my N85.

get an iphone, i was against following the trend as it came out and never owned one, last year i owned android and it was so frustrating, it was nice when you first open it and use it because its new and not like an iphone. but as you use it, you run out of memory, your phone freezes, force closes apps. generally slow system. for the first time i have an iphone 4 now and its probably most reliable and seamless. more apps, and apps that actually are tested and work. and battery is better.

If you have an iTunes library, get an iPhone. It really is as simple as that. Or wait until iPhone 5 is released in the next few months.

I use Google Apps for all my domains, and Google Docs and I besides the small screen, I don’t find any integration issues at all. Mail, Calendar and Contacts all synchronize.

Android is prettier in some ways and the front screen and notifications are brilliant, but the app marketplace is fractured, and many apps work poorly on some lesser devices.

I personally don’t like the odd ball complexity of Android – I find the zillion taps to get to common control panels can be frustrating. Some folks find what I find frustrating to be Android’s best feature – customizable to the nth degree. I disagree.

YMMV, but honestly, the app that should make or break this decision is if you have an iTunes library. It’s a complete no brainer if you have one (get an iPhone), or completely up to you if you don’t have one or don’t care if you can’t listen to your music, read your books or watch your movies on your phone.

The open platform argument is a red herring. It’s like SCO saying they do “open systems” – completely irrelevant. Getting a firmware update from your telco on Android simply hasn’t happened and will not happen as it doesn’t drive sales and does cost support time and money. So if you get an Android 2.2 phone, you’re stuck on 2.2. Apple supports their phones for about 2 years. That works most of the time, but sometimes doesn’t – 3G iPhones didn’t take to iOS 4 at all well, but at least iOS 4 was released for that platform. But for 3GS users like myself, iOS 4 was the best thing since sliced cheese.

Good luck, and decide on your phone by what you want from the phone, not who or how many folks want to make sweet love to their platform.

I have owned an Android and now own an iPhone.

I like the iphone hardware – screen, responsiveness, good camera – but there are software features of the Android that I miss… Widgets are just awesome… If you get a high end Android that could compete with the iPhone hardware, that would be ideal.

I agree with Andrew, if you want (or need) to be bound to itunes, get the apple…

I have a HTC Desire (the only issue I have with it is the limited internal memory – newer devices do not have this issue) my sisters have a 3gs and Iphone 4… there is nothing I have seen on the apple that made me say “gee, i wish my phone did that…”

Android definitely has superior notifications…

The integration of google talk is brilliant – if you use gtalk (and want to use it on a mobile) DO NOT GET AN IPHONE…

I must say I do find the draconian policies of apple offensive… as an example, I was showing my sister a song that a colleage had posted on JJJ unearthed, and physically could not download it via safari to listen to (I guess it isn’t in apple’s best interests to allow you to bypass itunes), however on the HTC, the song downloaded and was playable straight away…

I was amazed to discover that bigger apps from appstore can only be downloaded via itunes on a real computer… again no such limitation with android – indeed with the new android web market, you can select to download an app on your desktop, and the phone auto starts the download…

Android supports flash… the apple mob will tell you no one uses or needs or wants flash, but I for one am thankful my phone can render it…

for what you get, I think the apple devices are ridiculously overpriced… again, the diehard apple fan will tell you that you are paying for innovation etc, but what innovations have there been?
adding MMS capability in ios3 after telling users that MMS was dead and email was all you need?
that facetime thing? hell, I could do video calling on my old N95, without the wifi only limitation…
the ability to add wallpapers to the “desktop”? Hell my Nokia 6230 could do that!
the “innovative” external antenna? (I was skeptical of this death grip until I experienced it first hand using my sister’s Iphone4…)

the ability to install apps from sources other than the market is another + to Android…

and OMG the lack of menu, back, and search buttons frustrates the hell out of me on the apple… (and presumably allows devs to “unclutter” apps as well?)

it does come down to personal preference though… FWIW, a lot of colleagues became apple defectors when the Desire launched, and tell me they would never go back…

that and train trapper… beats the hell out of the metlink app for train info ;-)

I would have to disagree with Andrew however regarding never getting updates… My phone came with Android 2.1, official update was provided to 2.2 (it was a little tardy I admit, but still got there in the end…) and current information indicates that 2.3 will be made available in June… not too shabby…

Hi, I have andriod; and HTC Desire, which I love. But don’t let the tram tracker and metlink apps be a deciding factor as I have them on the andriod platform, so that really can’t be used in your decision process. The tram tracker is written by a third party, but it has never failed me to be accurate.
Good Luck, and GO Team Andriod!! (But I am not bias MUCH!)

Apps, or the lack of them is what I worry about. I assume you know about Tram Hunter for Android.

A workmate is taking orders for non iPhone iPhone 4 phones from China. Identical less identification. Has slots for two sim cards. Is it still identical? Bargain at $75. Only Asian people have ordered, 7 of them. For $75 maybe it is worth the laugh. Or maybe it won’t be a laugh.

Have to say too that Andrew’s view rr.e updates is not my experience. My phone came with 2.1 and I am now on 2.2 by official means. Also r.e iTunes compatibility – I use DoubleTwist as my media player on my Galaxy S and it syncs with my iTunes playlists either by cable or over the air with no issues. I use the Kindle reader app on my phone to keep my Kindle books in sync and TrainTrapper is great for Metro trains. Am yet to try the tram app.

Oh, and for apps – I think the number of apps available on either platform is very much a red herring. It really does depend upon which platform can deliver the apps you think you’ll need.

Another consideration could be storage space. With Android phones if you want more space you can slot in a larger SD card.

Regarding PT apps on Android, there are three which I regularly use and would highly recommend. For trains, there’s Train Trapper, which has offline storage of current Metro timetables, is customisable in terms of what lines and directions you see, and opens immediately to the closest station to you (without tapping the GPS). Although it doesn’t have live train tracking, it does display whether a service is on time or delayed.

For trams, Tram Hunter uses Tramtracker data to basically function as a Tramtracker app. It has favourites, closest stops by location, searching by routes and stop names, plus the option to open to the closest stop on your favourites list.

There’s a third one, which is actually an international app, called Öffi. In Australia, it supports at least Melbourne and Sydney’s PT networks. It covers buses, trams and trains, but has no live tracking or offline storage. It also has a pretty good journey planner built-in.

Öffi’s journey planner has support for sharing directions, which is useful, but even more useful is that it keeps a history of previously planned routes, as well as directions for the time/date specified previously.

Regarding what Paul said, it is important to get a good screen size. 3.8″ would be a minimum for comfortable use in my experience.

And about Android updates: get a phone from a company with a good history of updates. HTC is basically the best performer so far, and I’ve heard sad tales of woe and misery about Samsung’s updates. Sony Ericsson has recently pulled its thumb out and started pushing out updates to devices it previously said had no chance of getting said updates.

All that said, your best bit update-wise is to get one of the Nexus phones, which are essentially collabs between Google and one manufacturer to showcase Android as the best it can be. The Nexus One was the ‘2010 model’, manufactured by Google. The Nexus S is this year’s, manufactured by Samsung.

As much as I have reservations about Samsung’s phones, the Nexus S is pretty impressive. Its screen is slightly curved to better suit being held against a face, for instance. It even has near-field communication built-in (mind you, that’s not really useful in Australia yet).

In the nicest possible way, you’re geeky enough to get the one with the best technology. I wanted the one that would be the absolute easiest to use and have the best/greater selection of apps. So I chose an iphone. I love my phone so much I would marry it. Sad but true.

Will also be interested to see your final choice Daniel, whatever it is. You know my thoughts, but in reality your choice should be what suits you best.

As for the folks who got upgrades from their telco, I’m glad for you, but you’re the lucky exceptions, and not the rule. This is in Delimiter *today*, and it matches my recollections of what happens in Android land:

“When Android 2.2 (Froyo), was launched by Google in May 2010, it took Austalian carriers the better part of a year to offer an over the air update for most devices. At the time of the launch, Vodafone had promised it would have given its customers access to 2.2 by July 2010. Still, a few weeks ago the telco blogged an apology to its HTC Legend customers for not being able to allow a direct upgrade to version 2.2.

At this stage, it is not clear when Gingerbread will actually become available for download and whether Vodafone would extend the upgrade to more devices. Presently, Australian consumers can buy just one device using Android 2.3 the Google Nexus S, also sold by Vodafone, but there are a plethora of upcoming models supporting Gingerbread — from a range of manufacturers, including HTC, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and more.

Optus and Telstra have been contacted and asked if they plan to test 2.3 on their devices, but an answer is yet to come. More details will be made available when information is received.”


I get access to iOS updates immediately. I tend to wait to see if other test bunnies suffer before applying, but I will generally run the latest and greatest within a few days of release.

Just sayin’.

Thanks everyone, keep the comments coming.

I’d have to say I’m leaning towards iphone at present. It’s not just the technology, it’s also that with my current level of work, I don’t have the time or the inclination to fiddle with technology that I used to, so it’d just be easier… and it does appear app writers are thinking iPhone first, Android second.

That said, my mind’s not made up, and if Google’s new Nexus were available on any network other than Vodafone, it would be a very strong contender.

I’m also aware that with a new Samsung Galaxy S and iPhone both due in the next few months, this is probably not a good time to be buying. But my N95 is starting to get irritating, with seemingly increasing reliability problems in the past few months.

Daniel, people always put forward the “apple is simpler to use” argument but in reality android handsets are no more complicated if you don’t want them to be…

ios: all installed apps are on the various homescreens, since v4 you can create folders on a homescreen by dragging one icon onto another (not entirely logical imo)
android: all apps are in the app drawer, accessible from any homescreen. your frequently used/favourite apps can be added directly to a homescreen. you can also create folders on the homescreen

ios: most settings are located under the umbrella settings app
android: most settings are located in the umbrella settings app. settings for some apps are within the app, accessible by pressing menu/then settings – similar to for example, the way excel has it’s own settings within excel instead of in the control panel… this seems to be less the case on apple (especially as the only button takes you back to the homescreen )android also has a home button btw))… take that how you want, but to me, it makes more sense to, say, configure gmail’s notification settings within gmail, rather than having to go back to the “control panel” and drilling down the appropriate number of levels to find what you’re after… having some settings within the app to which they apply is actually somewhat intuitive, especially if you are familiar with the windows way of doing things…

ios: safari – scroll by running your finger up and down the screen, zoom by pinching, address bar at the top of the screen, navigation at the bottom
android: stock browser – scroll by running your finger up and down the screen, zoom by pinching, address bar at the top of the screen, navigation buttons accessible by pressing menu button (including find on page… no idea how you do this on apples), device also has a physical back button

ios:dialler app brings up number pad, contact cards and dial history are also accessible
android: dialler app (phone button docked to the bottom of the screen typically, also accessible from app drawer) brings up number pad, access to contacts and dialing history

ios: threaded sms client, unread count shown on app icon, notification sound configurable from a fixed list in global settings (iirc custom tones can be purchased from itunes, otherwise you have to jailbreak to add your own…), visual notification popup takes focus when message received.
android: threaded sms client, unread count shown on app icon, default (global) notification sound configurable from global settings, or you can have a custom one to distinguish sms’s from say emails by going to the settings within the sms app and changing the notification from default to something else… there is a list of “preinstalled” sounds and most sound file formats can be also be used… you can also use apps like zedge directly to access their free library of ringtones, message tones, wallpapers etc… a lot of soundboard apps also support saving or setting tones… visual notification appears in the notification bar and does not take focus… if you are in the middle of something, you can leave the notification icon up there until you are ready

ios:google talk app (it looks suspicially like it might be running in safari) must have focus, otherwise it drops you back ofline… (i don’t have access to an ios4 device right now, so i don’t know whether the “multitasking” offered by apple fixes this…)
android: google talk app run as a service (you can go invisible or log out if you don’t want that kind of ubiquity!), and is integrated into the notification system behaving almost identically to sms (except you don’t get an unread counter on the app icon)

i think that should compare most basic functions of a smartphone… as you can see there isn’t much in it… the difference is that if you do find the time or inclination to fiddle, there actually isn’t much you can do with ios, whereas android is almost ridiculously configurable – hell, you can even replace the launcher (window manager/server basically). and apps like tasker allow all sorts of event driven actions to be set (for example, you can configure tasker to put the phone on silent when you are within range of you home wireless network, and turn the ringer back on when you are out of range…)

some claim you need to micromanage apps etc on android with task managers and the like, but in my 12 months experience this is nonsense… I have never micromanaged apps and from my experience the garbage collector works as designed

as far as apps go, there are more on appstore to be sure, and thanks to apples strict approvals policy and limited in market (or still supported) devices (and therefor lack of fragmentation), they are probably less likely to be buggy… android market is closing the app count gap however (especially with regard to useful apps), and android has been outselling apple for a while now, something no doubt developers are taking notice of…
the peer review system in android market (I guess similar to ebay’s seller ratings) is a good indication of app quality however, and if you get a more popular phone you are less likely to have an issue anyway (in 12 months with a htc desire, i have not run into any buggy/unusable apps)
also, you need to pay $99 a year to be allowed to publish on appstore, android has no such fee… on both platforms devs get 70% of the list price, the other 30% goes to apple on appstore, and is distributed among carriers (if authorized to receive a fee for applications purchased through their network) and payment processors on android market. – you can read into that last 30% how you want, but the more iphones on a telco’s network, the more strain on the cellular data pipes, and no additional money coming in which could be used to increase capacity… sure, you could argue that the telco’s wouldn’t use it for that anyway, but what the hell do apple do with it? (apart from add it to the pile of their $14bn annual profit)

regarding melbourne PT apps, as has been said above, tram hunter is pretty much a clone of yarra’s tram tracker, and hasn’t failed me yet… train trapper is one of the best apps I have come across, and according to a report on itwire or similar last month (which I can’t find for the life of me now) metlink are currently cooking up metlink apps for android and WP7 which they anticipate will be available by the end of the year…

*drops 2c*

also, if app “diversity” is important to you, I would highly recommend having a browse through the respective stores to see how the kind of apps you might be interested in fare…

android market:
you can see user rating and reviews, screenshots etc… eg
and as i mentioned in a previous post, you can also push apps directly to your phone (over the air) from the android web market…

apple appstore: as best I can tell, this is only viewable from within the “walled garden” (so within itunes software only)… you may be able to fiddle with firefox to “spoof” it, but who can be bothered ;-)
I went to have a look in there just now to confirm what details are shown, but apple aren’t letting me in because I don’t as yet have itunes v10 installed… GRR!

regarding the metlink app:
“We will continue to think creatively about how we get public transport information to
customers where and when they need it most. We have more applications in development and will be releasing for Windows 7 and android later this year.”

it would be interesting to see further breakdown of the handset share… like what % of LG, Sony, Moto, Samsung, HTC devices are android, WP7, other/older OS’s etc, but I can’t find any further detail on the “Metlink research carried out in September 2010″… oh well…

@tango, some good points, yep.

Did some more reading last night, and on many (but not all) of the features I’d consider important, the Samsung Galaxy S appears to outperform the iPhone 4. More thought required, and I might go visit a shop and play with each of them.

(By the way, if you don’t enter an email address, your comments here will always be held for moderation. If you enter one, it only happens for the first comment; subsequently they are automatically approved. The email address you enter does not have to be genuine; nor is it publicly displayed; it just needs to be consistent each time.)

thanks for the tip Daniel! force of habit usually has me leaving any non-mandatory fields blank ;-)

another point worth mentioning for consideration is regards to warranty…
“Telstra has brought its mobile phone warranty policy (with the exception of Apple’s iPhone 3GS and iPhone 3) in to line with its 24 month service contract lengths after discussions with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Apple’s iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 remain outside the extended 24 month warranty period due to contractual arrangements between Apple and Telstra unfortunately.

Although nearly all major handset manufacturers have agreed to honour full warranties, the ACCC continues to have concerns in relation to warranty issues with the Apple iPhone.”

also from 11/10/11,apple-warranty-stand-off-to-drive-up-iphone-prices.aspx
“The price of mobile plans bundled with the Apple iPhone appear destined to rise, as Apple steadfastly refuses to bow to industry pressure to allow its telco partners to offer repair services for the device.

The Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) announced late last week that it had struck an agreement with Telstra to ensure that devices sold on 24-month plans included warranties for 24-months – 12 months more than the standard warranty offered by most device manufacturers.

But, like the undertaking struck with VHA in May, the ACCC’s deal with Telstra applied to all handsets except the Apple iPhone.”

as far as I’m aware, this is still the case (that was certainly the impression a rep at the Bourke St T-Life store gave me when I was in there the other day)

It may not particularly factor into your decision making – I personally would be more likely to break the screen anyway which wouldn’t be covered ;-) – but these things can tend to be an important factor in some people’s decisions…

finally, speaking of apple… did you happen to see this today?
Apple iPhone secretly records owners’ every move
iPhones, iPads have been tracking their users’ movements and storing them for a year

not sure whether this is a big deal or not, there are certainly a lot of places/things that can track our location, like city CCTV’s and registered myki for example…
I guess it’s the ease with which they are suggesting the information can be accessed… If I find your registered myki, it is all but useless to me! (especially after you ring them to have the balance blocked)
If I find your iphone/ipad, they are suggesting it should be fairly easy to for me to deduce where you live and work at a minimum…

Worth noting… I use iTunes and have an Android phone.

If you popped for the DRM free option on your music, iTunes will convert it to MP3. You can then use a program called DoubleTwist to sync your iTunes playlists and your Android phone.

Downside is that you can’t play your iTunes video on your Android phone.

Now for the other side… I bought a Samsung Android phone, the Moment, in November 2009. By May 2010, it was obsolete… literally. An upgrade to Android 2.1 was on the way, but there would be no upgrade to 2.2. Six months into a 24-month contract, the phone hit a dead end on OS upgrades.

Most versions of Angry Birds run like an absolute dog on my phone, it’s got **terrible** battery life, and there’s a defect where it goes into Airplane Mode (all radios shut off, so no calling or data) without realizing it and requires a full reboot to get your calling or data radios working again.

And because I rooted it just to remove the Sprint (carrier) bloatware that constantly launches itself and shortens the already ridiculously short battery life, Sprint refuses to honor the warranty.

I love my iPhone – it’s the most used and most valuable tool I own, in terms of how much time it saves me and how useful it is, both personally and at work. I have no doubt that most, if not all, of the things I do on my iPhone are able to be done on Android phones, but I have no intention of changing over. This is the only Apple product I’ve ever owned – what swayed me initially was the need to replace my dying MP3 player. Having an iPod integrated into my phone was a no-brainer. Admittedly, there also weren’t as many Android phones on the market when I got my phone as there are now. I have yet to find anything I can’t do on my phone that I would want it to do.

This is a random observation but an important one in my eyes – I work with a lot of doctors who are very rich, very tech savvy and a few of them are seriously into IT geekery. All of them use iPhones for work and play (some of them carry two).

Like everyone else, I’m eagerly awaiting your decision. I’m nowhere near as IT-literate as most of your readers, but I appreciate any piece of equipment that is as fun as it is efficient and functional.

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