Saturday, July 27, 2013

Slate: Android vs. iPhone: Why Apple still has the edge over Google';s operating system

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Farhad Manjoo, writing for Slate, points out that although Google has developed a great operating system in Android, it usually gets mangled into a steaming pile of trash by cell phone manufacturers and phone companies before you ever get to see it.

... Over the last few months, though, I’ve been testing two of the most expensive, most advanced Android phones on the market, the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One. Actually, I’ve been doing more than that. I’ve been using two versions of each of these phones—the standard phone that you get for $199 when you sign a two-year cellular contract, and a second “Google Play edition,” which is a special, full-priced version that features only the essential software you need on a smartphone. (The Play edition HTC one is $599, and the S4 is $649.) I’ve been switching between these four devices, using one or the other as my primary phone at all times.


This is one of the most important advantages Apple has over Android devices. When you buy an iPhone, it works exactly as Apple intended; it’s never adulterated by “features” that the company didn’t approve. But when you buy an Android phone, even a really great one, you’re not getting the device that Google’s designers had in mind when they created the OS. You’re not even getting the device that the phone manufacturer—Samsung and HTC, in this case—had in mind. Instead you’re getting a bastardized version, a phone replete with software that has been altered by many players along the way, usually in a clumsy, money-grubbing fashion.


There are lots of annoying nuisances like this one, in which Samsung or HTC took Google’s easy-to-use design and monkeyed with it for no good reason. Together, all these little bugs add up to a frustrating experience. In most cases, you can fix the problem; you can replace Samsung or HTC’s apps with Google’s version, you can remove the unnecessary stuff from your home screen, you can opt-out of flashy but terrible gimmicky features (like the totally useless “eye tracking” system in the Galaxy S4). But doing so is too much of a hassle for people who just want a phone that works right out of the box. If that’s what you want, you’ve got two choices. You can pay full price for a Play edition Android device (I’d choose the HTC One over the Galaxy S4, because it’s much more attractive, physically). Or you can buy an iPhone.

Read the complete article here.