Not everyone is a smartphone owner or user and many may have no thoughts of acquiring one. Nevertheless, the smartphone has been on the market for the past 10 years, yes really, so maybe it is time to look at what makes a smartphone and what makes it tick.
If you already have such a device, and I know that many of you do, you will forgive me for backgrounding a bit, and if you are thinking of perhaps joining the ranks then what can you expect to find.
You have of course heard of iPhones and of Android phones, two different operating systems [OS], the first a proprietary system by Apple and the second has software originally developed by Google, but whereas iPhones are made by Apple and their software is exclusive [closed], the Android phones can be made by any manufacturer and the [open] Android software changed and developed by any of the various makers of the phones.
The two methods offer varying advantages or disadvantages to the user. In the case of the Apple software Apple is alone in making Apple devices [Mac computers, iPads, iPods, iPhones] and software OS X and iOS/OS to run them. Android [the name of the software] on the other hand require only certain core apps [by Google] to be used and the rest is up to the individual phone maker, which means that the large phone makers like Samsung may write a large part of their phone OS themselves. Google has only now for the first time marketed a phone made by themselves [the Pixel] using their own Android software.
The advantage of the closed system is security and avoiding anyone else messing with the system thus providing a robust and stable user experience.
The advantage of the open system is that it can be customised both by the manufacturer and the user, however, two Android phones may be significantly different from one another.
Once you have decided on your preferred phone and OS you look forward to years of use. What happens is that you need to update your phone’s software and in the case of the iPhone you get a big notification. You then download it and from there your apps are updated as and when until your phone become too old to support the installed software.
Android updates come a bit slower, some brands get updates earlier than others, and users may not always know when, if ever, their phone will receive Android software updates. You can also opt out altogether. Each version is usually named and the latest ‘Android 7.0 Nougat’ is the most recent release.
Each system provides for adding other apps usually obtained from either the Apple store or the Google Play store for the respective brands. In the case of iPhone it is nowadays almost impossible to enter any non-Apple content. Android on the other hand can accept lots of other stuff, even apps from outside of the Google Play store, so you can play around with non-vetted content.
In terms of quality and quantity the Apple store has been superior to the Google apps, but it is gradually catching up and the gap is narrowing.
The one thing often mentioned is how much storage the phone has, and many an owner of an iPhone has looked at the message on the screen saying: ‘Not enough storage’, or you can’t back up because there is insufficient iCloud storage. It may require an upgrade of your iCloud storage facility [at a cost] or dealing with your files like a Kapiti SeniorNet member.
Android backs up piecemeal, your contacts are saved in Gmail, your apps and music on the Google Play cloud, and your photos in Google Photos. So whereas the iPhone backs up over WiFi to the cloud and can therefore give you a full system restore in minutes the Android has no system wide tool to bring back apps and content as they were, but all your data exist somewhere.
In general it is easy to find Android phones with more storage, internal and external [like SD cards] and at a lower cost than iPhones so were you to switch from Android to iPhone there could be some change in your filing habits needed.
Displays on the two types of phones also vary. Apple has been using the IPS display whereas Android has both IPS or AMOLED, the latter becoming the preferred one amongst manufacturers. A better darker black, brighter white and sharper colours are claimed.
The latest technology by way of VR [virtual reality] has also been embraced by a number of Android makers whilst Apple still has to bring out their version of a VR set, it may of course happen next week when Apple presents the new range of their computers.
As always it depends on your lifestyle, needs and wants as to which smartphone suits you best and there are options like water resistance, wireless charging and add-on batteries for longer use time, case colour and more. The more there is crammed into the phone function can, as we saw with the Samsung Note 7, lead to unexpected outcomes.
If you are uncertain what to look for have a chat with the tutors at Kapiti SeniorNet, they cannot tell you which brand or model to buy, but may be able to help you to make the choice a bit easier.