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Why This Fiercely Loyal iPhone User Finally Bought His First Android

By Evan Niu, CFA - Apr 21, 2013 at 9:00PM

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Should Apple investors call him a traitor?

As many of you Foolish readers may know, I'm a devout Apple (AAPL 4.01%) bull. Over the years, there's only been a single-generation iPhone that I didn't own -- the iPhone 3G released in 2008. I've been fiercely loyal to the platform.

Well, I went and did the unthinkable. I went and finally bought my first Android.

Don't call me a traitor
Let's be clear about something first. I remain a fiercely loyal iPhone user, and the primary reason I bought a device on Google's (GOOGL 2.37%) competing platform is so that I can understand it better. As an analyst who closely follows mobile trends, Android is simply too important not too be well acquainted with. To date, my knowledge of Android has been built on extensively reading and watching tech reviews and other commentary, playing with demo units at retail stores, or playing with a friend's device for a minute or two. It's about time for me to get some firsthand experience.

The device will be secondary, and I'm still sticking by the iPhone for primary usage. I purchased Google's Nexus 4 specifically because I was interested in a stock Android experience. I'm enamored by the HTC One and its Apple-caliber hardware, but the $600 price tag was a bit much, since I was buying unsubsidized and off-contract. Carrier and OEM software layers like HTC's Sense also irk me.

Photo taken by author.

After a couple days of exploring the operating system, how do I think Android and iOS stack up?

The good
With the core interface, I believe Android has surpassed iOS. The design aesthetic is cleaner, and Google has made incredible strides over the past two years or so with incorporating numerous intuitive gestures throughout the OS. There are areas where Android undoubtedly has iOS beat, like gestures and options within the notification center; there are a lot of these little areas.

Altogether, these small features convey a sense that Android is much more refined than iOS is at this point. Playing around in Android reinforces the feeling I'd already been having that the iOS interface is stale.

The bad
While I have no direct experience with it (and don't plan to), there's abundant data that shows that Android is far less secure and that the platform is a malware magnet because of both its sheer ubiquity and its open nature.

Even though I appreciate the stock Android interface, sadly my experience isn't representative of the broader Android army. Platform fragmentation is exacerbating, and there are so many versions and distinct forks of Android that experiences vary widely. HTC Sense and Samsung TouchWiz are among the more prominent overlays, but there are countless others.

The ugly
Within apps, iOS still has the clear advantage. Since Android also faces hardware fragmentation and innumerable device configurations, many developers rely heavily on scaling algorithms to have their apps fill up the available space. This frequently results in apps that aren't fully optimized for displays, and you end up with empty and unused space.

For example, here is the CNN app on both platforms. The iPhone version is much more engaging.

CNN on iOS (left) vs. CNN on Android (right). Source: Screenshots from author's devices.

This gets even worse on tablets. Since iOS has only three smartphone resolutions (and most are on two), developers can better optimize content to take full advantage.

A matter of perspective
Since buying the Nexus 4, I'm able to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of each platform, which should provide me a better competitive perspective as an investor. Overall, I still believe iOS to be the superior platform for users, developers, and for the platform operator. I may have just bought my first Android, but my primary smartphone will always be an iPhone.

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