I'm on the road today, but I have time to answer a question that's been hitting my Hardware 2.0 inbox with increasing regularity lately.
Should I got an for Android or iOS smartphone/tablet?
OK, this is the old "Windows or Mac?" or "Windows or Linux?" argument, only with different players. However, while I've had some pretty strong views on the differences between Windows, Mac, and Linux, I'm a lot more chilled out when it comes to the differences between the two mobile operating systems duking it out for supremacy.
So which is best?
Short answer: It doesn't matter.
Slightly longer answer: OK, there are times when it matters.
OK, I bet you now want the long answer, right? OK, here it is. Which you choose basically comes down to one thing—whether you are tied to an ecosystem already.
If you currently don't own either an Android or iOS smartphone or tablet, then you're a blank slate, you're not tied to either ecosystem, and whichever path you take is ultimately dictated by your personal preferences. I suggest you ask people for their thoughts, go handle some devices, and make your choice from there.
As far as the platforms go, each has individual strengths and weaknesses, but overall there's little to separate the two. I come from an iOS background, but the other day I took delivery of a new Nexus 7, and within a few hours I had it set up ready to do some real work, and I was amazed how similar to my iPad it looked and felt.
What about usability? Again, there's not much to separate the platforms. If you are willing to spend some time exploring your platform of choice, then you should be fine whichever you pick. Neither are particularly hard to grasp, although I personally think that iOS is a little easier to get going with at the start.
If you're already an iTunes user—especially if you have a lot of music or other media—or you're heavily invested in Google services, then this may sway you in one direction or another, but only you know how important this is to you. It may be a huge factor for you, or you may decide to leave your iTunes stuff behind, or decide that complete Google integration is not all that important to you.
However, if you are more heavily invested in either ecosystem—maybe you already own an iPhone or an Android tablet—then ideally I recommend sticking with what you already have. You should already be familiar with the platform, and chances are that you're already bought apps, which you'll be able to transfer to your new device as long as you stick with the same platform.
You can, however, do what I did and buy into both iOS and Android. There's nothing wrong with a bit of tech diversity; in fact, I think that it is good for the mind. But be aware of the following:
- You will probably end up paying for apps you've already bought on the other platform, and those $0.99 payments add up!
- You will get confused—probably frustrated—when switching between the platforms, at least initially.
- The discrepancies in features between the platforms will annoy you. For example, I really wish that I could get SwiftKey on iOS because it is a massive productivity booster.
- Another thing that will annoy—and possibly confuse you—is the differences—sometimes subtle, sometimes not—between the same app on the different platforms. For example, I use SplashID for passwords on iOS and Android, but the latter version has fewer features.
But in the end, it's your money. Whatever you end up choosing, I'm sure that you'll enjoy the platform, and that after the initial learning curve you'll have no trouble getting your smartphone or tablet to do what you want it to do.