The Android avalanche continues to gather pace, sweeping all before it. At last estimates 79% of all smartphones shipping in the second quarter of this year were Android models (coincidentally, 79% of all mobile malware in 2012 was also targeted to the Android platform, but that’s a whole new story) so there’s no question that the open source platform has captured the world’s imagination. If not wallets. Of course almost all of this is due to the astonishing surge from Samsung, which now almost literally owns the Android brand on its own.
So what does this mean if you’re an iPhone user gazing wistfully at the choice of huge screens, cheap prices, numerous accessories and the rest? Is it worth switching, and if so to which handset? In this post we’re going to try to help you make a decision that you won’t regret later.
1. HTC One
This new Android superphone is a handset which is likely to appeal to iPhone users from the outset. This is because, like the iPhone, it offers classic styling and the kind of solid heft which is the hallmark of the earlier iPhone models. The HTC is also a unibody design like the iPhone, which means you won’t be able to remove the battery or add in extra memory in the form of a microSD card, again in line with the Apple experience.
2. Samsung Galaxy S4
The S4 is the dominant smartphone of the moment, with over 20 million shipped since launch, building on the already massive Samsung fan base with the Galaxy S3. The phone is something of an engineering marvel, offering more than 20 sensors and radios which can deliver services ranging from a barometer and pedometer to an altimeter. All of this high tech is housed in a wafer thin body which defies logic, wrapped up in the now trademark Samsung Touch Whizz interface.
3. Change is good
One of the key things about Android is the fact that you don’t have to put up with something you don’t like. If the keyboard annoys you change it. If the home screen displeases your eye, swap it out for another free one. Just about every aspect of your Android phone can be changed, from the fonts to the icons and more. Take advantage of the huge library of customization tools and you’ll never look back. We recommend you start with something like the Nova Launcher just to play around.
4. Relish the aftermarket
By moving to the Android platform you’re opening up a world where you’re not limited to the closed environment you’re used to. If the operating system goes out of date, chances are there’s an alternative out there which you can install instead. It may not be easy but it’s possible. Need more battery life from your phone? Then hunt around for an extra capacity battery which you can fit into your handset, most of the major brands offer their own top quality options. And whatever you do don’t forget that you now have a phone with an infinite amount of storage on it, via the ever capacious microSD card. Many Android users carry around 64GB of songs, movies, photos and files from phone to phone, backed up and continually extensible. And the phone’s internal storage stays empty for emergencies.
5. Bigger is better
Once you’ve tasted the fruits of a large 4.7 or 5 inch screen, you’ll never want to go back. Browsing, gaming and just generally using apps is transformed with the larger real estate. Sure retina display is nice, but nowadays screen resolution on the high end handsets is so good it doesn’t really make much of a difference. But size does. Trust us on that. There’s a reason the phablet took off in such large numbers when the Galaxy Note first came out.
6. The app trap
The big issue with switching from iOS to Android is likely to be the loss of your favorite apps, but if you’re happy to hunt around you should be able to find replacements for all but a few of the more important ones. Of course there are bound to be apps which you won’t find on Android, in which case you need to evaluate beforehand whether you’re happy to do without until one migrates over, or whether it’s a deal breaker, tying you to the Apple platform for life. In a similar way, if you’re a devoted user of the full Apple eco-system, laptop, iCloud, iTunes and everything else, then the switch is going to cause you pain. Prepare for it by planning ahead.
7. Choices choices
The major shock you’ll face moving platforms is the realization that you finally have choices available to you. A choice of manufacturers, models, types of device, even accessories which you won’t find in the Apple stores. There’s no one company dictating what can and cannot be attached or used with your phone, so the field is wide open for developers and manufacturers to let their imagination run free. The phablet, waterproof handsets and other innovations have sprung from this open environment, so take advantage of your new wide open universe. Take a look at the video below for a more detailed look.
So which is best handset to choose?
Performance wise there’s very little to choose between the two super phone handsets, with the S4 probably having the edge in outright processor grunt and graphics handling. They both sport superb cameras, with high definition video and decent low light capabilities, and both handsets rocket through traditional apps, games and browsing at laptop type speeds. Where we think the HTC misses out is because of the lack of additional microSD storage and with no way to upgrade or swap out batteries. Long time Android users will know that there are times when having that facility can be really valuable, especially if you’ve set up a charging routine with 2 or more batteries on the go.
We’re also less than impressed with the HTC’s ergonomics. The awkward positioning of the top mounted activate/power button makes it harder than necessary to trigger the phone into action when you need it, which may sound like a small niggle, but when you’re doing it repeatedly over the course of a day, it becomes more than a little tedious. For the above reasons we’re going to have to give the S4 the trophy as a better choice for switching.
So take some time to shop around, get some hands on experience with the different handsets on offer and see which package makes the most sense to you.