When I realized that a switch from Windows on my phone was unavoidable, I was expecting to find a subpar phone experience with more apps. I was wrong.
iOS and Android offer experiences that are different from Windows Mobile. I still prefer the homescreen and integrated functionality of my Lumia phone. The closest equivalent to that is the iPhone, which offers a clean, simple homescreen and the best app market. The quality of the hardware is the best available.
The problem with the iPhone is Apple.
Of course, the problem with Android is Google.
Both of the flagship devices for these operating systems have run afoul of their makers, companies who, in their rush to gain users (or their users’ information), have engaged a “lock in” (Jobs’ words) strategy that, while offering a simpler user experience, limit the technical capabilities of the devices they sell. That might be fine for some, but I’m not okay with that.
Apple is not on the leading edge of devices out there (support only limited NFC, and only support OLED, Qi, in the new $1K iPhone X devce). They got rid of the headphone jack (which Google sadly now has done on their brand phones), implement proprietary power cables, don’t allow iOS to change basic defaults such as the browser, etc. iOS also stumbles if one has no interest in offering Apple your desktop experience, your living room experience, and your tablet experience, particularly since the iTunes store (movies, etc.) doesn’t work on any other platforms (yet), unlike Vudu, which runs anywhere (including my Xbox).
And the culture: yuck. Apple’s smarminess and hubris really turned me off, after watching a couple of their product release events. Everything isn’t revolutionary, guys, and I’ll tell you if I love something, not the other way around. And, no, you didn’t invent that. (While Apple was deriding Microsoft for missing mobile, Apple ended up missing the cloud–despite it being on their radar!)
Apple is or is becoming a tech-based luxury goods company. As such while I can agree that their products are in many ways beautiful, that doesn’t make me more likely to buy them.
I should probably mention that I read the authorized Steve Jobs biography towards the end of my evaluation, and while I gained admiration for his boldness and aspects of his leadership style, it certainly didn’t increase my respect for him as a man or a leader in general.
So that’s the end of the road for iOS for me, since the only way to get iOS is to buy an iPhone. If someone else made an iOS phone that had better support for hardware standards, I probably would have gone with it. I expect I will buy iPhones for my younger two daughters, since it provides better parental controls, such as the ability block the browser, for young teens. (But I will be researching parental control options for Android.) Then I’ll offer them Android phones when they’re older, keeping their mail and cloud experience OUT of Apple’s hands, to make switching easier if they want to move to Android.
Google, for its part, is more committed to open standards, but their unnecessary abandonment of the Miracast protocol, very limited hardware lifecycle, and overarching privacy concerns tells me that, at the end of the day, I’m not really the customer; I’m the product this advertising company uses to sell to their customers.
This sounds like a lose:lose situation.
The saving grace for Android is that it’s not quite 100% Google. Like Microsoft, Google pursued an open platform strategy allowing other vendors such as LG, Samsung, Sony, et al., to make the hardware and control the final configuration of the operating system. That’s the right strategy. To be sure, this strategy, as we’ve seen with PCs, has produced some real junk. The market is flooded with crappy Android phones. But it also allows some to innovate.
Google is everywhere, and even if I went with an iPhone, Google’s embedded presence in websites (check out the network traffic for NSA.gov–at the very end) and in apps makes it difficult to avoid them. I’ll be using other browsers–Brave is excellent–which I will get from the Google Play Store. (Update: Microsoft just announced that the EDGE browser will be available on iOS and Android–very promising and long overdue!)
If I’m going to be watched coming and going, I’m going to take some steps and use every reasonable option to minimize that–or at least be watched by different sets of eyes.
I would be negligent if I didn’t address the issue of security. Out of the box, Windows Mobile has the best security of the top three platforms. There have been no significant security flaws in it of any kind in the OS. None of the NSA exploits released to date had anything on Windows Mobile. There has never been any malware for the platform, not even when its market share was in the double digits. In its current form, like Apple, Microsoft directly controls patching. But the free market says I can’t have Windows on my phone. (The market has not produced the best solution.)
Looking at iOS, in terms of security architecture, Apple has done just about everything right, and the few things they got wrong–such as elevating Touch ID/Face ID as a security feature rather than merely a convenience feature–can be avoided by someone aware of these flaws. (Don’t let anyone else register fingerprints on your devices; don’t jailbreak your device.) Their implementation of iOS, particularly with regards to Siri, has been repeatedly faced with basic security problems, and their support for the cloud is still years behind other platforms.
The tech press is filled with stories about Android security problems. They make good headlines and, on a superficial inspection, give Android a black eye. I’m sure Apple doesn’t object to Android being portrayed incorrectly, like the PC guy in their “I’m a Mac” commercials, as constantly suffering from viruses. But that’s not reality. (It’s also not reality on Windows. I’m a PC guy and I’ve never had a virus or malware of any kind. The only virus that visited our household came on my wife’s [now retired] MacBook Pro a few years back. My secret? (1) Don’t run as an ‘admin’ account and (2) keep everything up to date. Oh, and (3) use the default Microsoft antivirus.)
Most of the malware that exists for Android targets regional markets (not in the US) and targets people who allow for third-party app stores. Don’t do that. Also don’t root your phone (or if you do, switch it right back and leave it there, uninstalling the rooter). And, as with iOS and Windows, don’t install dodgy apps regardless of the source.
As for patching, iOS requires its users to be on a recent version of iOS. (This is the same strategy Microsoft is pursuing with consumers for Windows 10.) Unlike Android, Apple alone makes the hardware, and they’ve wisely worked with carriers so there’s no middleman and no carrier bloatware that would increase the attack surface for the bad guys.
If you’re on a recent release on a major device family, Android will nag you to update. But that’s assuming a patch is available. The flaw with Android is that it’s TOO open. A patch comes out, and the hardware manufacturer has to test it, document it, package it, and roll it out. Then the carrier does the same thing, for each Android phone they support (and in whatever mysterious order they choose), resulting in significant delays in time-to-patch for vulnerabilities. I’m addressing this issue two ways: Buying from a top-tier device manufacturer (basically LG or Samsung) and buying a (truly) unlocked phone, never touched by a carrier, to cut out one of the middlemen.
The surprise winner is Android on Samsung
I’m now sporting a Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus, having living with its predecessor, the S6, for a few months. I love that the S8+, like the iPhone and Google devices, isn’t branded on the front, leaving the user experience with fewer distractions. They finally got the design right. The camera isn’t anywhere near Lumia in terms of resolution–no other phone is–but it makes up for that in its functionality and speed.
Samsung’s hardware is top-notch and the have an impressive track record of innovating and introducing features and functions ahead of the pack. It might lack some of the polish of an iPhone, but makes up for it.
There’s a little bloatware (BIXBY); Samsung Pay is brilliant; they fully support Miracast.
UP SOON: A followup on the Samsung Galaxy S8 Active, the LG V30, and more!