Why Android Sometimes Gets a Bad Rap

There’s a reason most people think the iPhone is better than Android phones, but it’s not what you think.

Most People Prefer iPhone

Surveys show most consumers prefer the iPhone to Android phones. Although consumers who have switched will tell you it was because the iPhone is a better phone, there is strong evidence against this. The best Android phones are faster, thinner and lighter than the iPhone 4S. They also have bigger screens, higher-resolution displays, more powerful batteries and data speeds that are up to 30 times faster than the iPhone 4S. As far as hardware goes, it’s hard to find much the iPhone does better than the best Android phones. [Scroll to the bottom of this article for more details]

Software Superiority?

Software superiority is another thing you’ll hear iPhone users tout over Android, but the quality of Android apps has dramatically improved over the past few years. In some cases, popular Android apps are actually better than their iPhone equivalents (e.g. Facebook, Google Maps, etc.). What about stability? Recent studies show that iOS apps crash more than Android apps. What about the operating system? Although you’d think iOS 5.0 would have more advantages over Android 4.0, it’s the other way around. Here’s proof. So, why does everyone think iPhone is better than Android phones? You’ll hear fragmentation mentioned a lot, but I don’t think that’s the biggest reason. There is a strong argument that the biggest problems facing Android today are caused by those who sell it. I’m talking about the retailers, carriers, salespeople and handset manufacturers.

Too Many Choices

As far as the retailers go, I believe the carriers and big box retailers are one of the biggest reasons consumers think Android phones are inferior. When a consumer goes into a retailer like Best Buy they are often overwhelmed by the number of different Android phones the store carries. Most are the phones are old and should have been removed from the shelves. Some of the phones were bad phones the day they were released. Gizmodo just printed a list of the worst phones you can buy and you’ll find many of these in carrier stores and big box retailers today. I looked at last week’s Best Buy newspaper ad and saw that two of Gizmodo’s “worst phones” were being advertised in it. The odds of a typical consumer picking one of the best Android phones in a big box retailer is slim.

Apple displays no more than four phones on each side of a table

The Apple Experience

When you go to an Apple Store there is almost always only one type of iPhone on display. It’s always the newest iPhone and it sells for $199 to $399 (with a two-year contract). The only decision you need to make is what color case you want, and how much storage you need. It’s impossible to purchase a bad iPhone in a retail store. The contrast between the Apple and Android shopping experiences is dramatic.

You Get What You Pay For

When most consumers shop for a new Android phone the number one thing they look for is price. They want a deal and most of the time the deals are on older phones, which are slower and are not running the newest version of Android. Cheap Android phones have low-quality displays and slow processors. Most of the time, they look and feel cheap. There is a reason these phones are not being sold for list price. You get what you pay for. You’ll never see an iPhone 4S for free. They cost $199 to $399 (with a service plan) and they are worth it. Just like the best Android phones are worth $199 to $299. The bitter irony is the fact that you can often find great Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy Nexus on sites like Amazon for as little as $49. Deals on old iPhones exist as well, if you know where to look.

Few People Run Android 4.0

Fragmentation may not be the biggest problem, but it is an important issue. Studies show 80% of all iOS users are running the newest iOS software (iOS 5.0 or later) while only 5% of all Android users are running Android 4.0. Update: As of July, this number is 11%, but it’s still too low. Most smartphone owners have never even seen Android 4.0 in action. The majority of Android users (64%) are running Android 2.3, which was released way back in December of 2010. Google has made hundreds of improvements to Android since then.

Here’s a list of Android phones which are running Android 4.0.

Good Advertising is Essential

The Quad-core based Asus Transformer Prime was a revolutionary tablet when it was released back in December of 2011, but it was never advertised on TV. I don’t remember seeing it in any print-based ads either. How did it sell? I should not come as a surprise that the iPad 2 eclipsed it in sales, even though the Transformer Prime is much faster, thinner, lighter and has many other advantages.

While Android tablet ads are rare, it’s impossible to watch TV without being bombarded by Apple’s ads. Apple advertises far more than any other mobile device manufacturer. They teach consumers how to use their products feature by feature, and they make you feel like you must purchase their products or you’ll be left out. And it works like a charm. Millions of people line up to buy every new Apple product – even the ones which aren’t that great.

Google’s Nexus phones provide a more iPhone-like experience

Every iPhone is a Nexus Phone

Once a year Google releases a new Nexus phone with the newest Android OS, state of the art hardware and no carrier bloatware. Since Google and other developers use this phone to test their own software, these phones tend to be very reliable. You could say that every iPhone is a Nexus phone. Apple comes out with one new phone a year and they have all of the advantages of a Nexus phone.

Don’t compare apples to oranges

Comparing Apples to Apples

The bottom line is you can’t compare apples to oranges when you’re shopping for a new phone. If you’re prepared to spend $200-300 on an iPhone, you should look at Android phones in the same price range. It’s not fair to compare a $300 iPhone that’s only been out for a few months with a two year old Android phone that’s free. Never buy an Android phone that isn’t running the newest OS, and take the time to learn which are the best smartphone before you go into a store. You owe it to yourself to get the best phone your money can buy — even if that means buying an Android or Windows phone.

Fixing Android’s Perception Problems

There are some things Google (along with those who manufacture and sell Android devices) could do to be on a more level playing field with Apple.

  • Google should open up their Nexus phone program to any phone that meets strict guidelines (no carrier bloatware, newest OS, quality components, etc).
  • Google should raise the bar on their Nexus program so it includes things like minimum battery life requirements.
  • Google should insist that carriers make all OS updates available immediately. Verizon has caused big problems in this area.
  • Google should start an Intel Inside-like marketing program like where they provide marketing dollars to those who meet strict guidelines. This would make it easier for manufacturers to advertise their products on television.
  • Retailers should reduce the number of Android phones they carry, and stop advertising bad phones.
  • Retailers should color-code phone signage so it’s more clear what the best phones are from each carrier.
  • Handset manufacturers should focus more on quality — and not quantity, and advertise their products more.
  • Everyone should produce commercials that appear to typical consumers. It’s amazing how many bad Android commercials there are. This is one thing Apple does very well.

Will Google change? There are signs they may be changing already. Expect to hear more at their Developers conference in June.

Android Phones that are Superior to the iPhone 4S

Here are some examples where Android phones beat the iPhone 4S in side-by-side hardware comparisons:

  • Android phones that have faster CPUs than the iPhone 4S include the HTC One X, HTC One S, HTC Rezound, Droid RAZR Maxx, Samsung Galaxy Note, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket, Droid 4, HTC Vivid and many others.
  • Android phones that are thinner than the iPhone 4S include the Droid RAZR, Droid RAZR Maxx, HTC One X, HTC One S and others.
  • Android phones that are lighter than the iPhone 4S include the Droid RAZR, HTC One X, HTC One S, Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket and others.
  • Android phones with higher-resolution displays than the iPhone 4S include: HTC Rezound, LG Nitro HD and others.
  • Android phones that have bigger screens with more pixels than the iPhone 4S include: HTC One X, HTC One S, HTC Rezound, Droid RAZR Maxx, Samsung Galaxy Note, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket, Droid 4, HTC Vivid and too many others to list here.
  • Android phones with more powerful batteries than the iPhone 4S include the Droid RAZR Maxx, Droid 4, LG Nitro HD, HTC One S, HTC One X, HTC Rezound, HTC Vivid, Samsung Galaxy Note, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket and too many others to list here.
  • Android phones with much faster data speeds than the iPhone 4S include the Droid RAZR Maxx, Droid 4, LG Nitro HD, HTC One X, HTC Rezound, HTC Vivid, Samsung Galaxy Note, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket and too many others to list here.

In the end, the decision which smartphone to purchase is yours. Since there is a good chance you’ll have to use it for at least two years, make sure to choose wisely.

– Rick

Copyright 2012 Rick Schwartz. All rights reserved. Linking to this article is encouraged.

Follow me on Twitter @mostlytech1

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About Rick E. Schwartz
Rick Schwartz is successful mobile blogger from San Diego. He is currently working on next-generation mobile hardware and software. You can learn more about Rick by clicking on the "About" tab at the top of this page.

One Response to Why Android Sometimes Gets a Bad Rap

  1. Daniel says:

    In addition, I think that people are ‘expecting’ an iphone when they bought an android. Because their friends/family might have used and showed them an iphone and it’s ingrained to them that iphone = smartphone how it’s supposed to be. The screen should move this way when my finger slide this way at this speed and the apps should open this way. That many iphones sold to be shown around (plua tv adverts), and the openess of the Apple store to try an iphone, for many people, it’s that first impression that sticks. You are absolutely spot on in the shopping experience bits.

    It’s like expecting the taste of an apple (pun pun) from an orange (Edit – opss..didn’t realise you wrote that too, no other way to sum it up anyway). If it’s not like an iphone, it’s not good and if it’s like an iphone, it’s copied from iphone.

    Both os(s) are different from each other, comparison on technical specs have some merits and logical but comparison on usability is totally subjective and yet apple users constantly bring that up (android users as well – citing their widgets and ease of data management etc). To each his own.

    But I am glad that most people enjoy their phones and are not into this fanboy war.

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