I can't believe I recommended an iPhone

I can't believe I recommended an iPhone

Summary: When my mom said she was ready to get a smartphone and wanted a recommendation, I thought for about 20 seconds and then said "Just get an iPhone."

TOPICS: iPhone, Android, Google

I'm an Android guy. Not just because I generally prefer the look and feel of the mobile OS but because I like choice and variety and Swiftkey (among other things). I'm not thrilled about the performance of Ice Cream Sandwich on my Droid Razr (in fact, it stinks), but Jelly Bean on the Nexus 7 and Motorola Xoom rocks. And yes, iOS 6 on my third-gen iPad also rocks. But if I was stuck on a desert island with just one mobile device, it would be running Android.

So when my mom recently mentioned that she was ready to finally make the leap into the land of smartphones, she didn't just ask what kind of smartphone she should get. She reads my blogs. She asked me what kind of Android to get. And then it hit me. The best, easiest choice for her wasn't an Android phone at all. It was an iPhone.

I wouldn't make this recommendation to everyone and I don't think that the iPhone is the smartphone to end all smartphones. It's not. And for many people, I'd recommend some sort of Android. Of course, that's because I hang around with people who like to fiddle with technology and make their devices behave in precisely the ways they want them to. That level of customization isn't something that's available on the iPhone. The Apple faithful would argue that it doesn't need to be - iOS just works. And that's completely true. It just doesn't work exactly the way I'd like it to or the way many of my Android-loving brethren would like it to. So we stick with Android.

For my mom, though, customization, tweaking, and hacking aren't the name of the game. She can find her way around a computer, but the "just works" proposition is most definitely the better choice for her. Besides, if I were to recommend an Android phone, what features would matter to her? A giant screen? Stylus input? Near-term upgrades to Jelly Bean? The woman sells Jelly Beans in her store and she likes to eat Ice Cream Sandwiches, but this sort of geeky goodness means nothing to her.

She needs to get her email, surf the web, and track her calendar. She only has one email account. Facebook will be her big foray into the world of apps. And, as we all know, the Android Facebook app is despicably awful. The phone needs to fit in her hand easily and stand up to hyperactive dogs and sticky-handed grandkids. It needs to take great pictures. And it needs to work simply and without any fuss. Some of us relish the fuss. She wouldn't.

So I recommended an iPhone 4S. The iPhone 5 is more than she needs and larger than she wants. She doesn't spend enough time online for LTE to matter. And she has a GPS.

I'm almost due for an upgrade myself and I can't wait. I've genuinely grown to hate my Razr and its miserable battery life and barely stable Motorola customizations. It's so giant and thin that I needed to add a case to be able to get a grip on it. And the screen, though big, has sad resolution. The question is, what will I replace it with? It won't be an iPhone. I'm too wedded to the Google ecosystem and Siri, despite being my new favorite mistress who lives in my iPad (nobody tell my wife), isn't enough to make me switch. But the speediest Android phones are generally 4.5+" beasts. I have a Nexus 7 if I want a big portable screen.

Maybe I'll just get a Blackberry.

Just kidding. I guess we'll just have to see what the holiday season brings to the land of Android when my contract is up. But I have to hand it to Apple. They've nailed several markets, a couple of which include my mom.

Topics: iPhone, Android, Google

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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  • I would never touch an iOS device

    I am extremely happy with android, and I think its complexity is vastly overexadurated. but when the 45 year old grants manager in my institute asked me what kind of smartphone to get, I told him to get an iphone too. my mom got an android phone, and she can't figure out how to do anything but check the weather, and that's because it's a preinstalled widget. granted my mom is hopeless with technology, and she probably couldn't do anything on an iPhone either, but the iPhone is more idiot proof for sure. it has icons. you touch them. that's it. nothing to get confused about for people who barely understand computers in general.
    • You're right, they all have their purposes...

      Whilst I don't personally agree with the "never touch" aproach on the grounds all tech is worth trying out (not buy, but play with) once. You never know, this time next year Apple may do something very different Than just tweaks.

      But back to the point, no device out there is all things to all people; it's what makes choice so good. Personally I gave my mother in her 60's my 3gs when I upgraded to the 4s as all she wanted was email, tv catchup and facebook. She liked it so much that she herself got a 4s as soon as the price dropped this weekend. (I offered her mine but she wanted a white one).

      Now my history is different; I had blackberries for years as my business phone, and typically sony cybershots as my personal. I did go iphone when they came out; 2g,3gs,4s- but my business devices have now switched to android - sgsII being the first last year and now nexus 7. To be honest, when I upgrade around christmas, it'll be droid or windows having played with the 5 quite a bit after work, also unless iPad 4 can run mac os, my large screen tablet will also be changing in the spring.

      But then you have the fact that not all droids were made equal; having now just got pure jelly bean on my Nexus, I'm finding myself more and more annoyed by touchwiz, and whilst I really like the SGSIII's hardware, after playing with one in the Samsumg store, I'm probably not going down the Galaxy route either.

      I know that most love touchwizz's differences, and that's great, but the point is that there's choice everywhere right now; even in android devices, just get what's right for you, not make some idealistic stand. For myself iCloud is the only thing left appealing about iPhone, Everyrhing else is better for my use on Android, but for my mother, well when I proudly handed her my Nexus so that she could watch the soap she was streaming on a bigger screen... Well put it this way we now seem to have to get her an Ipad for Christmas... In white.
      • Exactly

        I think the biggest issue I encounter with people who "never touch" competing tech "on principle" is they tend to be firmly arrogant about outdated or incorrect assumptions.
        I have a Mac Air, and have been a network administrator, database administrator and was the general fix-it guy over years before either back in my customer phone support days. I run OSX/UNIX with full root control, Win8 preview (nuked XP for room), may go back to Windows 7, and have Ubuntu to fiddle with, all on my Mac Air and I still encounter armchair pundits who've never spent any real time on it telling me how limited my options are on Mac and OSX or how it's for the simple minded... If I don't need to change my video card and made my decision wisely on purchase...?
        I've heard those on these blogs calling themselves techies actually making the ludicrous assertion they couldn't figure anything out on an iPhone because it's not intuitive. I'd approach it how I first did Windows, click on the thing that looks like settings/control panel (gear icon that says settings in this case) and look at the options. It's surprising what you do control, and it's only things that won't break it. When carrieriq came out, it was in settings to just turn it off, and the iPhone prompted you each time it tried to send debugging info and let you review the exact data sent under debug logs.
        Still, as powerful and refined as IOS is, and it will still be my mission critical (phone), I'm yearning to fiddle a little more and want the expanded options of multiple mobile types again...
        I'm considering a google nexus 7 and throwing cyogemmod on it...
        I gave my Xoom away because I kept going root/stock/root because of the stupid lack of official sd support for over a year, and the screen was getting old compared to the iPad.
        • And android...

          OSX runs Android on parallels fine too, though it's experimental at this point.
        • Too Proprietary at This Point

          The reason why I would never consider an iPhone at this point is because it's too proprietary and closed off. I'm not enthralled with Android, but at least some Android devices have SD card slots, USB host capability (not that common), and mass storage device USB client capability. iOS devices don't have any of those things for the moment. The day iOS devices connect to other devices through open standards is the day I will start considering them. Considering Apple's track record, I don't think it would be advisable for me to hold my breath.
          • For a fiddle gadget...

            For a fiddle gadget Android wins beat hands down, rooted and cyogemmodded is probably what i'd prefer. For a secure, stable, and powerful smartphone, carrier and vendor supported updates, etc., etc., I have my reasons.
            You make your trade offs. What I got was more important than an SD card for a smartphone anyway, and I buy the space I want, and it seems more secure and reliable, at least for me.
            I consider it a specialty device that works great for many uses, and am not worried about a lot of standard ports. All my old dock radios, etc. are in storage or donated since I use bluetooth or Airplay for modern stuff. With a PC it's different. If my Mac didn't have SD or USB ports I would feel confined. They've used the same plug for 9 years. I guess I'm just not up in arms getting a couple extra charging cables that plug into standard USB ports on the other end when I choose to upgrade.
        • Do what you want, I understand...

          As support in my spare time for many Apple as well as Android devices I could probably speak to you about why some techies say you are limiting yourself, but in all reality it is what you want to do and what reasons you want to do it that really matter. I like to make old devices do things current devices do. Like get my TI994a from the 70's to use Twitter as I really love the original metal hardware and add-on peripheals. If you love the style of the apple hardware, I can see that (not my style, but I understand). I can understand why you use OSX with root, you get the bug to do more. You can't blame people for saying that you are limiting yourself with your choice of GUI, when you see standards in hardware, internet, and software thrown out the window because of corporate grudges. Flexibility is key when doing some things that we do but people love a challenge of breaking open closed systems to get it do things too just for fun. Why must you root everything (and I love rooting) just to get things you normally can get elsewhere, unless of course it's back to the hardware or the easy switch to a refined OS. I rooted just to get all my kids a Nook Tablet inexpensively that would attach to Google Play for Christmas and rooted them all with Cyanogen. But after using Cyanogen with all the options for setup and customizing with everything not refined perfectly, I can understand why you like to climb back into the IOS crib once in a while to curl up and do something simple without thinking about it and marvel at the smoothness...I do that once in a while with Windows 7 and my unrooted Android device. Then I climb right back into Linux Servers and Desktops to see what proprietary service, device, app I can replace today and then ...I marvel more at it's smoothness and use of resources.
          • You don't have to "root" OSX

            Ubuntu and OSX are similar in this way. By default root login is disabled and you just add a root password to enable it. Otherwise for "non-GUI" power changes and control, a quick sudo is all you need.
            I was saying by default you have as much root access as Linux. You can run Linux, Windows versions XP, 7, 8, etc. without rooting at all. Most people seem not to know this. Just use Parallels or boot camp and you actually have a better Linux than straight PC installs, as the driver integration just work smoother through parallels. I've never had to worry about a driver, even multi-touch on Ubuntu works great. OSX license you can run as many side OS copies as you can handle to really test changes.
            I guess I'm just saying, for the first time, I have it all. Having all the OS options and functions I want, a nice slick light true all in one portable design like the Air, just because I can't change the video card (and haven't had a reason to), I really know I'm not limited at all, except it is still just a small notebook. If I needed CAD power or intensive encoding, I probably won't be using a phone, tablet, surface, Air or even an ultra book.
          • I would root android because...

            I don't trust google that much. When carrieriq came out I kniow google had some knowledge and never warned the community.
            Apple knew and put it in a setting the user controlled and allowed users to log and view every byte collected.
            Windows and RIM had nothing to do with it.
            With google it was hidden as various processes, engrained through the system as root kit patches, while people were going babbling about their "open source" phone. Google's business model is based on spyware and selling their analysis of your info to advertisers.
            When it was exposed that not only did they sniff Mac addresses but also collected and saved user ids, passwords, medical records, anything they could that wasn't locked down and encrypted, data to be used to not only map, but for the potential to analyze who was doing what, to people who weren't even their customers, what do you think their attitude is to their customers (product) they give free stuff to.
            The attitude was if you didn't take time to protect yourself it's your own fault. You didn't lock the door so that means they feel the right to walk right in.
            That's why I would root android and only use open source derivates, if I used any android device again.
            Google needs a leash. I'll use their services and I hope we both nenefit, but I have a limit on how much info I want to "pay" them with, and I feel safer using open source versions, which I doubt the carrieriq infested, mislabeled root kit versions were.
          • And because

            with most android devices you have to root to get halfway current OS updated and security patches. It's just google's business model. Though they get $$$ from the spyware/targeted ad profiling relationship, profit sharing deals with carriers to include services, etc., it's still cheaper to supply a "free" product if the users are on their own as far as supported updates. Many android security patches are updates in the newer OSes, so if you don't root you could be leaving yourself vulnerable to known exploits. It's better to root it anyway. Cyogemmod didn't have any of the nastily entwined carrieriq. At least with iPhone it was front and center, asked if you wanted to send it, and showed you a log of what was sent. Unrooted android you had no knowledge or control.
          • They are coming for us.....

            Google had nothing to do with CarrierIQ. no nexus device(which runs pure android)was found with it. The CarrierIQ software was added by the service providers.
            I am by no means stating Google is squeaky clean. However for you to essentially imply Google as an emerging SKYNET is pretty amusing. It's Time to put away the tinfoil hat buddy
          • It's common sense

            They make money by spying on you and profiling, and selling their analysis to advertisers. That's their business model. You should be aware of what you're reallt paying with.
            To say "google had nothing to do with it" isn't completely true. You really think they knew nothing? That's not what they said. They said they don't use it. They dont need to.
            They probably helped the carriers with technical info on how to patch it in so well though and disguise processes and get past all the techies and they have various profit sharing deals with the carriers post-sale and could easily require manufacturers or carriers disclose any add-on spyware.
            You can believe they were completely ignorant and I can believe they knew something and didn't tell the community. Their carefully worded response could mean either.
            As far as tin hats, it's not speculation they were driving around collecting any info they could, any data that wasn't locked down, on those that aren't even their customers too. It's just fact you can accept or ignore, that they preferred never became public.

            Their disregard for people's privacy isn't speculation. It's clear in their CEO's hoof in mouth disease when Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO, said that his company’s policy was “to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it”
            “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know,” Schmidt said, “maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”
            He can try to claim spying and stealing any data that's not locked down to correlate who's doing what isn't creepy, and I can feel otherwise.
            Either way they argued anything not protected was fair game.
            So you tell me they respect your privacy if you bother not to root it and assert a little real control. Stock is not open source for most if it includes undisclosed spyware layers. If I'm going to use android I might as well use the real open source branches like cyogemmod. Just using their services gives them enough spyware options to feed their advertising biz. I don't need to hand them the keys to everything I do... As they argue, it'd be my own fault.
      • Non-tech wife doing fine with Samsung Galaxy S III

        Before she got it I was thinking about advising her to get an iphone. I am glad I didn't. I think the flexibility of android makes it easier for a non-technical user - there aren't a lot of limitations imposed as in ios.

        Her biggest problem is envy - anyone who tries her phone wants it. It's fast, sleek, has a beautiful display, etc.

        What she really wanted, though was NO smart phone, but US carriers are making that impossible.
        Schoolboy Bob
        • My non-tech wife is doing fine with her Android phone too

          Not as cutting edge as the Samsung Galaxy S3, her HTC 4G Shift is more than adequate for her basic needs for Facebook, emailing and comparison shopping at physical retail stores versus Amazon.com.

          That being said, the phone isn't too impressive and she likes my Samsung Galaxy S1 a lot better because the screen is better, bigger and the hardware is generally better.

          When the iPad3 came out, I told my parents they should try it as the iPad2 was generally unimpressive to me. The improved screen resolution plus the much better camera made the overall experience perfect for them.
      • well I would never touch an iOS device

        because I've played with them a good amount and know they're not for me. but I agree people should try as many options as they can to see what suits them.
    • It's not a matter of age

      It's a matter of value/cost. An unlocked Apple iPhone 4S would sell for US$600, while a very superior unlocked Samsung Galaxy SIII sells for US$580. So, if I was going to recommend a smartphone to mom (who can't use computers), I'd get her a Galaxy Ace, or an HTC Inspire for less than half the price instead of wasting money on an iPhone.
    • What nonsense!

      "I would never touch an iOS device"

      Then you're just silly. I would have every new gadget that comes to market if I could afford to.
      • Totally!

        As the saying goes, I wouldn't kick her out of bed for eating cookies.
        I wouldn't turn any new gadget down, either.
  • I think iPhone is probably the best PHONE...

    But an android device is probably the best handheld computer. I handled an iPhone 5 in the store for the first time yesterday, and I was struck by how much it is still a phone. It does not lack for functionality at all obviously, but Apple have focussed on making the most perfect phone they can, and it is incredible. The new Galaxy Note, as an extreme example, is not the best phone, or the best tablet, but I think its a very exciting handheld computer. Not having apples focus allows the other companies to mess around with the formula in exciting often extreme ways. And no ones ever going to sue Samsung for copying an iPhone with THAT device... it is constructed almost entirely from Steve Jobs' list of DONT'S. Its like inverse copyright theft. They should have patented his list of what not to do!
    • Not close to the best phone.

      As long as there are still phones with hardware phone keyboard around.

      As a phone any old Nokia anytime...