“The iPhone 7 seems kind of boring… Should I switch to Android?”
As the token neighborhood geek to most of my friends and family, that’s a question I’ve heard a lot over the past few weeks. The iPhone 7 looks pretty much identical to the last two iPhones, making it harder for previous owners to get that “new phone rush” this year. Is Android innovating more than Apple now? Some of the phones coming out from companies like Samsung actually look cooler… is it time to switch?
While the iPhone 7 may not look a lot different (the rumor is a major external design is coming next year), it includes some major upgrades to the camera system, screen, and underlying technology that still put it way out ahead of the rest of the smart phone pack. You might have read some sensationalist pieces recently about how Android is pulling ahead (it’s fun to pick on the market leader, after all), but in my mind, the iPhone is still the king of smart phones. Here’s why…
The Best Hardware
If you’re an Android user, you’re probably immediately mad. I get it… many Android devices over the last year have pushed the boundaries with iris scanners, unique camera systems (dual-cameras before Apple, for example), quad-HD screens, and a lot more. The problem is, those specs look good on paper, but they’re rarely supported to a degree that makes them actually useful in day-to-day life.
Apple tends to add specs only when they’re felt as useful by the end user. Fingerprint scanners were around for ages, but Touch ID in the home button has become a ubiquitous and painless additional security measure in all iPhones. The iPhone 7’s screen doesn’t have the pixel density of Samsung’s latest flagships, but you can’t perceive those extra pixels anyway, so they’ve focused on wide-gamut color reproduction, which is a noticeable improvement. The force-sensing 3D Touch screens in the 6S and 7 still haven’t been widely replicated in Android devices, and Apple just added another layer of texture to its user interface by doubling down on its Taptic Engine haptic feedback in the iPhone 7.
That’s not to mention the insane power of Apple’s proprietary A-series chips that power their phones. The A10 fusion that powers the iPhone 7 uses only two cores at once, but blows past the 8-core chip in Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S7, and absolutely obliterates it in single-core performance at nearly double the speed.
Does Apple still have the coolest hardware design? Maybe not (I admittedly really dig the Galaxy S7 Edge), but you’re just going to slap a case on whatever phone you get anyway. You can debate random specs and demonstrate bleeding edge tech from a few Android competitors, but holistically, the iPhone’s hardware is still miles ahead of their competitors.
The Best Ecosystem
Android’s core software and app experience has improved quite a bit (over the last two years, especially), but Apple’s App Store still draws the top developers and gets the best apps first. It’s easier for developers to make money on iOS, and since Apple has only a few devices to develop for (versus thousands of variations on Android), apps generally look better and perform better on iOS. There’s a reason you see “Android version coming soon” on so many software announcements.
Once you’ve used iMessage, it’s really hard to go back to standard text messaging. iMessage is lightning fast, extremely reliable, and with iOS 10, really, really fun. Honestly, it’s so good that I’m kind of shocked that Google hasn’t created a compelling alternative for Android; they seem to create new chat apps every year, but none of them have stuck yet. (Android friends – prove me wrong here… let me know what you use in the comments below)
iMessage is shockingly good, and with the addition of all of the effects/stickers/apps built into it in iOS 10, it’s obvious that Apple is doubling down on its efforts to make it even better. It’s one of the best reasons to use iOS.
One of the biggest pain points of living with Android is the radical inconsistency of updates on the platform. Some devices get software updates on a regular basis (like Google’s Nexus line), while other phones may see sporadic updates for a year, and then never again. Since hardware vendors and carriers can be responsible for those updates, you never know if and when you can expect to get improved versions of Android.
Since Apple controls their hardware and software, updates are available for everyone at the same time, and typically for at least 4 years on the iPhone. For example, my friends that are still using an iPhone 5 from 2012 were able to upgrade to iOS 10 on Tuesday just like me. That’s years of useful improvements that Android users will probably never see.
This one’s up for debate, but iOS is considered a more private platform to live with. Apple likes to emphasize its privacy initiatives (end-to-end encryption on iMessage, using machine learning privately on your device but not on their servers, etc), where it’s an open secret that Google’s business model with Android and all of their products is to sell your information to advertisers. Microsoft makes their money on software. Apple makes their money on hardware. Google makes their money on you.
Is that as “evil” as it sounds in a society where privacy is generally shot anyway? Probably not (unless you like to wear tin foil hats). I do appreciate Apple’s stance in this area, though.
As soon as our new phones arrive, Lauren and I are sending our old phones in to Next Worth for about $500 cash. That’s insane.
The quote for my gently used 64GB iPhone 6 from 2014 was $265 (nearly the full $299 subsidized price I paid for it!). A quote for a 64GB Galaxy S5 from 2015 is currently $60. Apple’s hardware has legs.
Android isn’t a bad platform, and between some increasingly great software and some really innovative hardware, it has a lot to offer. I still think Apple has a lot more to offer to consumers though, and that the iPhone is a far better experience and value in the long run. Unless you desperately need a headphone jack, picking up the iPhone 7 is a no-brainer to me.