if not the iPhone then what

This topic of conversation comes up often with clients and friends a like.

I am not sure I want an iPhone, so what should I get?

So long as you are intent on getting a smartphone and not just a basic phone, you will undoubtedly be looking at Android devices.

Android is a mobile phone operating system that was created by Google. Android is not the name of the phone itself. Dozens of manufacturers produce Android smartphones. Google sells their own line of these phones under the Nexus brand name.

If you use G-mail and other Google services, you can get along just fine with the iPhone. Google makes all of its major services available on Apple’s platform. However, if you really like Google services or don’t use (or see yourself using) any other Apple products or services you may want to consider an Android device. Some features are better. Two examples I can think of….

a) If you like the idea of OFTEN sharing information between apps, the Android platform allows a lot more of this behavior. Example: you are sending messages or photos in application X and easily want to share those with other people in application Y, you can. There is generally no need to copy and paste or re-upload this information. Truthfully, Apple is getting better about allowing this type of seamless s sharing but they have a long way to go.

b) I recently had an e-mail conversation with the host of a major tech podcast and she said that while she loves the iPhone and always sees herself being an iPhone user, voice dictation is better on the Android platform. Translation: if you like the idea of voice dictating messages, texts, and other input on your mobile device, Android would be a better choice. However, dictation would have to be one of the most important features for you. There obviously more to using a smartphone or tablet than dictation (for most people).

What you need to know about buying an Android phone

1) Consistency varies greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer. Also one product line from a particular company may be great while others may not be.

2) Unless you get a whale of a deal and only plan on using a phone for a short period of time, get a CURRENT MODEL Android phone. A carrier marking a phone down from $199 to $99 (or “free”) is not a half price super deal. (If you need to understand why, please ask.) There is a voluntary alliance among major Android device manufacturers. Most of them say that they will put out updates for your Android device for 18 months. In some cases these updates will stretch as long as 24 months. Rarely have I seen Android updates get delivered beyond 2 years. In contrast, it is very common for iPhones to get updates for three years FROM NEW. These policies are not set in stone. That is the key wording here, from new. It doesn’t matter when you purchased the phone. Do some research and look up when it first went on sale in this country. For example, the new Samsung Galaxy S6 went up for sale by the end of April through all major US cell phone carriers. It is reasonable to expect that this phone will continue to receive updates for 18 to 24 months from April 2015. With the Nexus line of Android devices sold directly by Google, I think it would be reasonable to expect that they will get updates for 2 years if not a little longer (from new). Singing a two year contract with a cell phone carrier does not mean you are guaranteeing yourself updates on that device for two years. If you like buying your phones on contract, don’t sign a contract for an obsolete phone.

3) You don’t need to spend a lot of money to get a decent Android phone, however you won’t be buying these phones from a carrier. I have mentioned several times before that Motorola sells all of their Android devices directly. Two outstanding models, the Moto E and the Moto G cost less than $200. This is the real price, not a price that depends on a contract. These phones will easily run on the ATT or TMobile network (or their prepaid partners). A company called BLU (based out of Miami) sells a lot of decent, sub-$200 Android phones on Amazon. Of course, be sure to follow rule 2. Last year an Asian company known as One Plus began marketing a premium Android device to the American market. It was known as the One Plus One and sold for $300. In many respects this phone could compare with the quality of the iPhone 6 Plus. The popularity and mystique of these phones made them very hard to get. The One Plus One is still available from the company, but their next generation One Plus Two device is right around the corner. It will be approximately $400 (without a contract), which is still reasonable compared to the $750 iPhone 6 Plus.

Looking Forward
The Windows Mobile platform is undergoing a significant overhaul and will be upgraded to version 10, just like desktop Windows. Microsoft is promising that Windows 10 devices will not need carrier approval to get updates. Currently, one of the major downsides to the Android platform is that (with the exception of the Nexus devices from Google or that One Plus phone) companies like ATT and Verizon need to approve device updates for all Android phones purchased through them. If you buy an outdated or low-tier Android phone through a carrier, you may never get any updates. Windows Mobile only has about 3% market share right now, but if they will truly bypass the carriers for updates and push them directly to the consumers I will start recommending this platform again in the fall. One of the iPhone’s greatest advantages is no carrier interference with the update process.