The new Androids vs. iphone 5

iphoneandroidThe position of the ubiquitous iphone, as number one, is being challenged by a squad of outsiders: the Samsung Galaxy III, IV, the Nexus 4 and others. This sacrilegious eruption of non-orthodox thinking started on a low key, with wanna-be iphone users buying a phone that would at least navigate their way home at night, be an email answering machine and store contacts. Up until 6 months ago, the iphone was still superior in these basic activities, plus it pouts full synchronicity with itunes. But then the unthinkable started to occur.

Business people started engaging in heretic acts by buying Android machines instead of paying at least a third more for the latest iphone. The following is a non-technical appraisal of the situation by a frustrated iphone5 user.

A German businessman at a recent InterNations meeting told me, spitting between his teeth: “I hate Apple’s control policies, I am anti-closed system.” The fact is that if you are an Apple laptop user, you are probably not even going to look at an android smartphone, why bother? But if you are not, and a large number of us are not, and you happen to buy an iphone, it is very frustrating not to be able to fully synchronise itunes on the Galaxy III or IV from a Mac computer. You cannot seamlessly download music which you have paid for very easily onto some non-Apple smartphones. It can be done, but in Samsung’s case for example, Apple is not a bed partner with a company that it is in court with over patent issues.

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Apple’s old enemy was Microsoft. Some say Microsoft won that battle. This time, the enemy is Google. Apple computers have always, and still do, remain superior and more expensive products because a closed system brings club-membership; thus excluding unnecessary programmes which can clutter up the ‘Mac experience.’ This policy has served Apple well; they have been able to select the best. And charge the most. But the ground is shifting under Apple’s feet. Google has come up with a range of products that are as good as, if not better than Apple’s own.

Apple’s monopoly of the iphone’s built in apps effectively ended with the imaps fiasco. On a recent trip to London, I was directed to an address on the Falkland Islands when trying to find a college in King’s Cross, using imaps. Full synchronicity on a country-by-country basis has not yet been achieved, let alone engagement of where you actually want to get to within one city. All iphone users I know use Google maps. Even with email, gmail is on the way to replacing Apple’s own email programme as the preferred email gateway.

So how has Apple reacted to the fact that the enemy has entered the citadel in an electronic Trojan horse named Google? At first, it seems with great maturity. Google maps was made available on the iphone soon after the maps fiasco, and there is a synchronising system called CalDav and CardDav which synchronises gmail contacts and calendar systems with Apple’s iphone own. All seems well, Apple seems to have realised that it cannot produce the best engineered smartphone in the world—and also control all of its basic functions.

phonesBut on closer look, it soon becomes apparent that synchronicity only goes so far. As a frustrated iphone user, I have mentioned only a few problems, there are many more. For example: to allow users access to Google maps from inside of its native calendar app using IOS6, was a compromise too many for Apple. The user now has to copy the address, always a fiddly operation on a smartphone, and paste it into Google maps. Even gmail calendar apps such as CalenMob are not as good as gmail’s own. Mac followers will argue that all of these functions and more can be provided by acquiring apps, from the ‘App Store’, but why should they when Android phones provide such functions default, if you are prepared to use Google’s services?

The iphone’s own native apps are beginning to look archaic. Calendars and contacts only fully synchronise with a mac computer, or any computer for that matter via itunes, when you are within wifi reach of your laptop or by special Apple USB connection. Of course you can use iclouds, but that is not completely free, and comes with all sorts of Apple proprietary catches. With an Android smartphone, calendars and contacts are synchronised every time you go on the internet. Compare the complexity of loading files and document up onto your iphone with the ease of loading up similar files onto an Android device. With Apple, you use a ‘lightening port cable’ which is not used on any non-Apple products to connect your iphone to your Mac computer, then you can load files through itunes, but it is not easy. With an Android phone, you simply hook up via readily available (and cheap) mini USB cables. Your phone opens up just like an external hard disk and you can load any file to wherever you want. You are in control. Even Apple’s wifi is not fully compatible with some non-Mac computers. Once again, there are apps and ways around this, but Apple still makes it inherently more difficult for non-Apple users to make full use of Apple technology because that is its style. When you buy an iphone make sure that it is compatible with your non-Mac computer if that is what you are using. But not all Mac dealers are even aware of the problems, or want to be.

Apple used to have a point maintaining a closed-door policy. In an unstable IT world, Apple users are protected and secure in the knowledge that big A is looking after them. For the absolute beginner, Apple still offers a safer and more rugged way of communication, and iphones are perhaps the best choice for children and first-time smartphone users. But the world has changed. Android software has stabilised, Google software is superior to Apple’s in ways difficult for the iarmy to comprehend. Having said that, there is no one platform which can, as yet, comes close to offering itune’s vast library of music and video, and this is Apple’s saving grace. The downside is that Apple is pushing all Mac users in the direction of iclouds, which is not free or even necessary when there are free apps out there such as Google Drive and Dropbox, which are still, mercifully, compatible with an iphone.

If Google expands and is able to offer a serious competition to itunes there will be no reason to buy an iphone apart from design and ‘coolness’ reasons. But the latest Android phones are no longer the badly designed, cheap looking flimsy bits of plastic they used to be. Business executives are now seen at airports and even at power meetings with Samsungs and the like. The Russian elite market is still firmly Apple, but this is for prestige reasons rather than anything else.

The battle is not yet over. The vast resources of Apple will undoubtedly convince us that a closed system is superior to an open system for a few more years. Apple’s superb PR machine informs us that great things are afoot, such as an ‘iwatch’. But Google is already ahead with ‘Google Glass’, and is producing, by the way, it’s own version of a smartphone watch. Where is Apple in this new field of wearable technology? There is now a real danger that Apple’s iphones will be sectioned off as being an exclusive but isolated communications service. In today’s world, horizontal communications with all other electronic systems and devices is needed, as no single company can hope to produce the best in every field. The argument is similar to that if free trade vs. protectionism. Are we going to have ‘Apple fridges’ and ‘Apple Cars?’, because that is what we are going to need if Apple is going to maintain it’s closed-door policy.

Apple produces superbly engineered, beautiful devices that we all agree are a pleasure to use, but that is no longer enough. The Nexus 4, for example, has a faster processor, built in NFC, a more capable battery, a higher display resolution, bigger RAM and other advantages. And of course it has some standard interfaces like USB, HDMI etc, that makes it more compatible to other devices without any adaptors. Nexus and Apple prices vary, but the Apple machines are universally at least one third more expensive than the new Androids.

Google, having gained the upper hand may turn round to Apple and say; ‘we don’t want you to use our maps on your phones any more.’

GAME OVER

The author has expressed his own opinion in this article (lest the iarmy find him).