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Smooth Operators: Android vs. iOS

May 18 2011

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Okay. You've made the wise decision to buy a smartphone. Now what? You're going to be offered several options (determined largely by your cell service provider). Which smartphone, with which operating system, is right for you? Today, I'm going to discuss the main contenders: Android and iOS. These aren't the only operating systems you'll find running on smartphones, but they're the two I've been reading the most about lately.

The Basics

Here's the basic info you should know about these operating systems before you start your selection process.

Android

  • Who's the name behind Android? Google. They purchased Android from the original developer and worked with many other firms (the Open Handset Alliance) on further development.
  • Which manufacturers make phones that run on Android? Big names like Samsung, Motorola, and LG manufacture phones that run on Android.
  • Which cell providers work with these phones? The majority of cell service providers work with Android phones. These include T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon, and others.
  • Is it just for phones? Nope. You'll find Android on tablet computers, e-readers, netbooks, and other devices.

iOS

  • Who's the name behind iOS? Apple.
  • Which manufacturers make phones that run on iOS? iOS is available only on Apple devices.
  • Which cell providers work with these phones? AT&T and (very recently) Verizon.
  • Is it just for phones? Nope. You'll find iOS on the iPod touch and iPad.

Weighing Options

Smartphones are popular with people of all ages and lifestyles. Today, I'm going to be focusing specifically on the needs of professionals, REALTORS® in particular. Here are a few factors you may want to take into consideration.

Usability

Most of us are busy enough as it is; we really don't have the time or the bandwidth for a steep learning curve. So, when you're choosing a smartphone, you want an operating system that is intuitive and easy-to-use from the time you take it out of the box. Although most people may find iOS easier to use in the beginning, those who take the time to familiarize themselves with Android are rewarded with the customization they need to make their smartphone wonderfully usable.

I'm going to throw this next fact in with "usability" because, believe me, it can lead to a much more positive user experience. What is it? Removable storage and battery. Android has it; iOS doesn't.

Email and Chat

If you just wanted to talk, you wouldn't be buying a smartphone. You're making this investment because you want to be able to email and chat on-the-go. So, the quality of these services really matters. Android works wonders with Gmail, keeping your email constantly up to date; not so for iOS. Android also seems stronger with chat, using integrated Google Talk. iOS requires a third-party app for chat.

Maps and Photos

Maps and photos, although not top priorities for all professionals, are still worth mentioning. Maps are something REALTORS® frequently use. People who love Google Maps on their laptop or desktop (a.k.a. everyone) will love the maps on their Android; iOS doesn't even come close.


Photos, on the other hand, are more about hardware than software. While image quality will be determined by the phone (not the OS), it's the OS that determines how easily you can share the photos you take. For example, if you're taking a quick picture of a new property to send in an email, you'll have an easy time with iOS. If you want to post that picture to Facebook, you'd be better off with Android (iOS requires a third-party app to post photos to social media sites).

Web Browsing

Web browsing is one of the most important ways you'll use your smartphone. In this crucial category, Android and iOS are truly neck and neck. Each has its own unique benefits. For Android, for example, the address bar can conveniently also be used for search and, of course, Android actually supports Flash (unlike iOS). For iOS, zooming and scrolling is easier.

But what about speed? There's no clear answer here. Many sources report that Android offers faster page loading than iOS, with as many sources claiming the opposite. The jury is still out on this one.

Apps

Whether you're on Android or iOS, you're going to find some nifty apps related to real estate. Obviously, these span the spectrum from delightfully useless to invaluably useful. The more useful apps, such as those from Zillow, Homes.com, Realtor.com, etc. are available for both operating systems. But, in general, iOS offers a much richer selection of apps. Most people agree that, when it comes to apps, iOS definitely has a leg up on Android.


If we're talking apps, it's important to mention a brilliant app Android offers that iPhone doesn't: Tasker. This app allows you to adjust settings by time of day, location, or other condition. With strategic commands, Tasker allows you to access even the most obscure settings on your phone. There's nothing comparable for iOS.

Android also allows for wireless app installation. This means that you can search the Android market on the Web, select an app you'd like and it'll be installed on your phone automatically. That's not an option with iOS.

Another factor that helps Android gain equality with (or superiority to) iOS is that it allows for true app integration. I've read about Google Voice as an example. Although Google Voice is available as an app for the iPhone, it requires you to manually navigate to it yourself. Android, on the other hand, will use Google Voice for every call that you make with the phone's dialer.

Help and Support

From the most advanced user to the extreme novice, everyone is going to need help with their mobile device. iOS seems a bit stronger here, with help more accessible and updates easier to install.

The Verdict

You probably saw this coming: I'm declaring a draw. From my research and my conversations with others, all I can prove unequivocally is that the old adage – "to each, his own." – is certainly true. The best thing you can do is spend some time using an Android phone and an iOS phone.

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