10 reasons NOT to buy an Android and why I'm waiting for the iPhone 5

Summary:Unfortunately, the few boons of Androidum don't make up for the disadvantages. Here's why I'm not going to buy an Android and I'm waiting for the iPhone 5.

Breaking news: Thank you, Steve. For all you've done, for all of us.

As most of you know, I dislike the iPhone and its Playskool interface. I find it, and Apple's policies, to be a constant source of annoyance. And yet, even as I know there's almost a 100% probability that the iPhone 5 is going to annoy me, I'm going to buy another crappy iPhone and NOT buy an Android phone.

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So here's the thing. I have an iPhone 3G. Not even a 3GS, not an iPhone 4. It's a plain old iPhone 3G that I've had for three years.

It sucks. It's slow. It won't update properly. Half the apps I'd like to run on it won't run on such an ancient device (only in the tech world is a three-year old device ancient). I desperately need a new phone.

Well, technically, that's not true. I don't actually use the iPhone as a phone. I almost never make actual voice calls (does anyone, these days)? Instead, I use it for email, for network testing, for an occasional text to my wife, and for reading Kindle books.

I use the email app a lot and I'd use some other apps (particularly some IT-related tools), but most don't run on the old iOS version that my phone will actually work with. Yes, I know, I could upgrade to a later iOS version, but we all know that the iPhone 3G runs like even more of a dog than it is with iOS 4.

So, I need a new phone. And I've decided to wait for the iPhone 5. You might think I could easily get rid of the iPhone 3G pain now by buying one of the many Android devices, but I'm not going to. You might also think that since I really dislike the iPhone, I might be a perfect candidate for the Android.

You might think that, but you'd be wrong. Unfortunately, besides the iPhone and the Android army, there really aren't any other viable smartphone choices.

As much as I dislike the iPhone, I don't wish to put up with the hassle of Android even more. I'm insanely busy these days, and the last thing I need is a phone that needs as much attention as a puppy.

Here then, are ten reasons I'm waiting for the iPhone 5 and NOT buying an Android phone.

Next: Android insecurity »

« Previous: I don't like the iPhone

Reason 1: Malware present in applications

Although I've long complained about Apple's capricious approval process in the iPhone App Store, at least they haven't had a rampant malware problem. One security firm has estimated (PDF) that somewhere between 500,000 and a million Android users have been hit by malware -- and that's just this year.

When you have that many users affected, it's not a minor problem. It's also something I don't want to be my problem, so I'll just stay away. I have enough trouble with Windows, thank you very much.

See also: McAfee: Malware surging on mobile platforms, especially Android

See also: Google Android Market malware problem escalates

See also: Malware sneaks by Google's Android Market gatekeepers again

Reason 2: New and exciting security holes

Now, admittedly, the whole authorization-token-in-the-clear security issue was nothing major and Google patched it quickly. But, on top of the whole malware problem, this sort of security issue is troubling.

Old Ben Franklin famously said, "Any people that would give up liberty for a little temporary safety deserves neither liberty nor safety." I do agree with him, except that when it comes to the phone in my pocket, I guess I'm willing to give up a little hackety freedom in return for a safer, less infested phone.

See also: The truth about the latest Google Android security scare

Reason 3: Complete lack of version number logic

Between the folks at Mozilla, who are trying to hide Firefox versions in an effort to make us all insane, and the folks at Google, who name and number Android versions all willy-nilly, I'm getting slightly annoyed.

Is the current version Froyo or Gingerbread or Honeycomb? Do I want an Ice Cream Sandwich or a Cupcake or a Donut? Is it possible to run a low-cal version of Android? What if I'm cutting carbs and mostly doing protein? Then what?

Seriously, Gingerbread is version 2.3 of Android, but Honeycomb is version 3.0, 3.1, and 3.2. Seriously? And if I'm buying an Android phone, I'm going to need to buy one running version 2.3, even though Android 3.1 is current, but only for tablets. Seriously?

Okay, and some phones only run Froyo and others only run Gingerbread, and you can't upgrade from one to the other without a hack. Seriously?

I know Android is gaining market share because of the wide diversity of offerings, but there's got to be some compromise between the der fuhrer approach of Steve Jobs' Apple and the herding cats approach of Android. Oh, yeah, that was webOS. Sigh.

See also: Which exactly IS the current version of Android?

Next: Market chaos »

« Previous: Android insecurity

Reason 4: Very different user experience on different handsets

Love it or hate it, when you pick up an iPhone, it feels like an iPhone. It feels and works like a phone designed for use by a five year old, but at least it's a consistent feeling. This is not the case with Android phones.

Phones from different manufacturers are wildly different, with different home screens, UIs, and feature sets. It's so that you could buy two Android phones, put them side-by-side, and unless you knew they were both Androids, you'd think they were completely different devices.

I don't want a phone that's got a funky user experience. I want one that I'm used to and can describe to someone else, and they have the same experience. I want to be able to tell someone what I'm doing with my phone and have them know exactly how that'd work for them.

With Android, you can't have that happen, even with phones from the same maker.

See also: Android's Biggest Worry: Fragmentation

Reason 5: Probably can't upgrade without jailbreaking, rooting, modding, whatevah

The history of Android phone upgrades is not a good one. Most manufacturers essentially design a model for a given OS, and if there's an upgrade, your phone might not be able to run it.

The next version of the Android OS is the quixotically named Ice Cream Sandwich. If I were to buy an Android phone now, it's highly unlikely I'd be able to upgrade it to ICS without a jailbreak.

And, like I said before, I don't really have time to hack my phone.

Reason 6: App incompatibility

Okay, this is a huge, huge deal-breaker. Apps built for one handset often don't work on another. It's almost impossible to be sure that you can run a given application without trying. And when you look at the apps, the poor developers are often saddled with building a compatibility matrix for every phone model.

This lack of consistency is not good. Even Windows has better application compatibility across machines and you never know what'll be inside your friendly neighborhood Windows PC.

Next: Hackety, hack, hack »

« Previous: Market chaos

Reason 7: Too much tweaking required

While it annoys me to no end that I can't make minor tweaks and add utilities to my iPhone, the necessity of tweaking most Android phones to make them usable is unacceptable. First, I just don't want to spend the time adjusting everything, adding programs, removing programs, and otherwise tuning, just so I can overcome the software design decisions of hardware engineers at the handset makers. Or, worse, so I can overcome the marketing deals put together by product managers at the handset makers.

Then, there's the temptation. I'm a geek, so the temptation might be to spend hours or days futzing with the phone interface. This is not something I should be spending much time on.

Even though self-control is an issue, an even bigger one is the simple crapware nature of the delivered software on most Android phone handsets.

Reason 8: Poor tablet compatibility

Once again, compatibility is an issue. Many iPhone applications (actually nearly all of them) will run on the iPad. They may not be iPad-optimized, but they'll run.

Not so much with Android. Even the SDKs between the two classes of device are different. Developers are coding 2.x software for phones and 3.x software for tablets.

They might as well have completely different names for all the native compatibility they have.

Reason 9: Little ongoing manufacturer support

As my ZDNet colleague Adrian Kingsley-Hughes says, The problem with Android tablets - Manufacturers see them as disposable.

Reason 10: Google

Let me be clear in how much I like and respect most of the people at Google. The individuals there are very cool. But the company sometimes seems like part Borg and part Borgia. If you need personal help, the company is virtually impenetrable.

See also: Nexus One's biggest challenge isn't iPhone; it's Google's online-only sales model

To be fair, the company has softened up a bit, but as ZDNet's own Violet Blue has so disturbingly described, when you rely completely on Google, you never know if baaaad things are going to happen.

See also: Google Plus: Too much unnecessary drama

This is also an issue with other Google services. I described my frustration a few weeks ago, when I tried setting up a YouTube account and discovered once again that there's no account maintenance functionality throughout the Google ecosphere.

See also: Google's complete lack of account flexibility is really starting to irritate me

On the other hand, there are some advantages

I know that when I go with the iPhone 5, I'll be giving up some freedom and some self-respect. I'll be selling my soul for the promise of the safety and warmth of the Apple mothership. This disturbs me to a level you probably can't understand.

There are some good aspects to the Android experience I'll be giving up. I'll be giving up the ability to tune my launcher, which I could easily do back in the Palm/Treo days, but Apple doesn't think we're adult enough to manage now in era of iOS finger painting.

Beyond having tweaking control (without jailbreaking), I do miss the choice of models (you can have any color as long as it's black), access to a built-in physical keyboard, and oh, what I would give for a replaceable battery!

Unfortunately, these few boons of Androidum don't make up for the disadvantages. And, holding my nose, this is why I'm not going to buy an Android and why I'm waiting for the iPhone 5.

Go ahead. Have your say. I've got enough food in the bunker to last me two weeks.

Original image courtesy Flickr user laihiu

Topics: Mobile OS, Android, Google, Hardware, iPhone, Malware, Mobility, Security, Smartphones, Telcos

About

In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

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