Is the iPhone Still the Best Phone?

Is the iPhone Still the Best Phone?

“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.

iMessage

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.

Frequent Updates

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.

Security

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.

Resale Value

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.

Conclusion

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.

Author

Eric is the creator of At Home in the Future and has been a passionate fan of the future since he was seven. He's a web developer by trade, and serves as the Director of Communication and Technology for a large church in Nashville, TN (where he and his family are building a high tech home in the woods).

5 comments

  • Hey buddy, enjoy the blog as always. Thought I would throw in a few things since I actually relate to this topic haha.

    As someone who has played both sides of the field, iOS and Android, I’ve found myself to be more concerned about the ecosystem more than hardware. I currently use a Motorola Nexus 6 with Android 7.0 Nougat and this has been the best phone that I have ever owned. However, there are things that Google does/has done that really gets under my skin.

    You mentioned that Google has yet to come up with a decent competitor to iMessage and I completely agree; it’s probably the biggest argument in the Android fanbase. Hangouts is ok to an extent (I use this daily; stock Messenger for SMS is more reliable and that’s sad) and I don’t see Allo/Duo being on that level since it relies on a phone number and not a Google account. People just aren’t going to deal with it. Although, Duo with “Knock Knock” is really, really cool. I’ve been excited anytime I see rumors about Apple bringing iMessage to Android but we all know that’s a pipe dream.

    The update cycle for Android is abysmal, simply because Google gives the carrier too much control. Each Android user is at the mercy of their carrier and the carrier simply doesn’t care. My Nexus 6 has done really well with the latest and greatest of Android . . . however, I’m still on a beta of Nougat as we speak. The Nexus 6 is losing official support as of next month and Google is putting the final touches on the final update for my phone, at least that’s what I’m thinking. Very sad but if you still want to keep up with the latest and greatest, the community always picks up where devs leave if you want to go that route.

    Nexus phones are being “renamed” to the Pixel next month and they are slated to be true iPhone competitors. Who knows what will happen with that.

    Despite all of these negative things about Android/Google, I’ll more than likely stick with them for a few reasons. The main reason is openness. I can see a benefit or two with having a closed ecosystem (hardware lockdown, app lockdown, etc) but the pros of an open ecosystem is always going to outweigh the cons. For example, iMessage is only for iOS, whereas Hangouts/Allo/Duo is for iOS and Android. And when you have family and friends that have all types of phones, everyone can get on the same communication app and play along. No one is left out because they don’t have a certain phone. Sure, you can do Telegram or WhatsApp but again, no one will want to deal with it; they will want what is already on the phone.

    I would be very, very interested in getting an iPhone for my next device if Google integration was a little better. I just prefer their services over any one else. Gmail, Drive, Keep, Calendar and other services, I rely on every day. And sure, I can use them on iOS, but obviously it’s not the same experience as Android and I don’t expect it to be. Finally, AI with Google is much better compared to Siri (I think you’ve said so yourself in another blog post).

    Also this whole headphone jack thing. I understand that we need companies like Apple and Google to push the boundaries of tech, moving us users along with new things. However, throwing adapters at things isn’t the right way to go IMO. I believe that BT eadbuds/headsets just aren’t there yet with audio quality and battery life. Just think the whole thing could’ve been handled a little better.

    As for security (adjusting tin foil hat), let’s just say that all big companies aren’t really there for your privacy. They are all out for something, whether it be money, info, etc. You just have to protect yourself with some common sense and start crossing your fingers.

    I’ve got another year on my VZW contract so who knows what phone I’ll want then. I may have to put up with an iPhone w/Google Apps and just be happy with it.

    Keep up the blog brother, awesome stuff as always.

    P.S. Keep an eye out for the Echo Dot, Google Home and new Chromecasts. I would like to see reviews!

    Reply
    • You know, one of the most disruptive things Apple could do in the market is allow a dual boot option for Android (much like they’ve done in the past with Boot Camp and Windows on macOS). Can you imagine how awesome that would be as an option for power users?

      Also, I need to find the link, but there was an article recently about how Google’s own services/apps are better on iOS than Android. Pretty crazy.

      The platform specific of iMessage is painful for Android users, but glorious for iPhone owners. By being baked into the system, I know that EVERYONE with an iPhone has it, unlike Hangouts or Duo/Allo/whatever app Google reboots next year.

      Yeah, the headphone thing sucks.

      There’s def a review of the Google Home on the horizon 🙂 Thanks for commenting… this is great feedback for discussion.

      Reply
  • I’m at an impasse. I am still using a 16gb iPhone 5 — it 5 has treated me well and I love the fact I can comfortably, confidently use it one handed… but I need to upgrade.

    As with a lot of people, I am somewhat underwhelmed by the 7 and am wondering how the 6S is holding up. I’m compared the specs online, but its difficult for me to qualify the differences in real world use. I’m looking at used options because I’m not going to buy the 7 I don’t want to pay full price. Wondering if you have any thoughts or experience with this company https://www.getorchard.com/us/iphone-6s-for-sale/ ?? Thanks! – David

    Reply
    • All of the carriers are running some outstanding deals right now to help you upgrade. I wouldn’t waste time purchasing through a company like that. If anything, purchase a used one off of a friend.

      Reply

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