When I chose my first Android device over an iPhone in 2009, each platform had exactly one device available and the decision of which platform was for me was clear.
Even back then, to those who had been paying attention to the smartphone world, the iPhone arrived as something that wasn’t quite a smartphone. It had an advanced web browser and slick Google Maps app that were both better than anything else available, but lacked a lot of features that existed in previous smartphones — the biggest omission being third-party app development. But the world very quickly forgot how anti-app Steve Jobs’ Apple was at launch, and how the ‘no, you can’t develop for iPhone’ attitude led to web app monstrosities skinned with brushed metal and pinstripes, which people quickly cooked up to look “iPhone native” in the early days.
Of course, the early days didn’t last long. An SDK and the App Store showed up a year later, but for a long time iPhone remained on my “still wouldn’t even consider” list because it was still missing things I considered basic functionality, things that Android got right, right from the start.
But it’s not 2009 anymore! So where are we now? Let’s take a look back and see how many of these Android advantages are still applicable today, 12 years later.
- Devices available from multiple manufacturers
- Outside-of-app-store apps available (not a walled-garden)
Almost entirely open-source OS Third-party development possible Multitasking Custom input methods/software keyboards Selection of devices with hardware keyboards Cut and paste Extensible, systemwide ‘share’ functionality Not AT&T‑exclusive SIM-unlocking actually allowed No desktop client needed for setup Filesystem Casually swappable battery
Things aren’t looking good! Apple (and Google themselves!) has chipped away at Android advantages over the years, though the two that remain on my list remain huge.
But I sometimes gaze jealously at the iOS world and its devices with competent support and five years of updates and wonder if the principles that led me to choose Android are still worth anything.