The iPhone defined what we now think of as a modern smartphone. The newest models are still great devices, but they also have drawbacks and the competition is stronger than ever.
I ultimately chose to get an Android phone (Nexus 5X) this time around, and I’ll explain some of the reasons that I didn’t get an iPhone, but in order not to appear as an ignorant, one sided internet troll, first let’s look at a few reasons that a person may choose to get an iPhone.
It just works: Simplicity has always been a selling point for Apple, even before the smartphone era. Early computers were difficult for people without a technical background to use and Apple was one of the pioneers in making a computer for regular people. The same is true of the early iPhone. Competing smartphone platforms, starting from scratch, were sometimes terrible and hard to use. Even now in the Android space, device makers such as Samsung slap their own customizations and skins over top of the Android OS base and as a result often make things very confusing.
The iPhone has largely become the smartphone for the non-technical user. Older people or people who aren’t good with technology. This isn’t their only market, but it is a big one.
Premium quality hardware: The iPhone has always been very expensive. For the amount of money you pay for one, you expect good hardware. Apple delivers on this front. There have been issues over the years, but for the most part, people know they aren’t buying junk when they buy from Apple.
Consistent experience: Apple controls almost everything in iPhone land. This can be a drawback, as I’ll discuss later, but it does have the benefit of making your experience on a new iPhone very similar to your experience on the old one.
Integration with other apple products and services: If you’re a big Apple user, your iPhone will integrate well with your other devices and services. You media from iTunes is there and it syncs up with your Mac and iPad. If you don’t use these other devices and services, this won’t mean much to you, but a lot of people do.
Status: As a premium product, the iPhone has a certain image that goes along with it. Many people think of anything else as cheap garbage for poor people who can’t afford an iPhone. These people are idiots, as I’ll show below, but if the opinion if idiots matters to you, you might impress them more by having the latest cool phone.
Now for the reasons why I did not purchase an iPhone, and why you may want to consider a similar decision.
Price: Apple products are expensive. Previously, this was hidden behind the carrier subsidized phone business model in the US, but thanks to T-Mobile’s innovations, that model is largely dead. You can now get an excellent device from other manufacturers for a fraction of the price of an iPhone. Depending on your needs, you can even get a budget phone from a company like Motorola that will more than meet your needs and save you significant money in the process.
Control: Apple controls everything on the iPhone. This prevents people who don’t know what they’re doing from causing too much damage, but it also limits your options. Want to install an app that Apple hasn’t expressly given you permission to install? I hope you’re comfortable hacking your phone and voiding the warranty, because Apple will not let you do this. Every time the modding community finds a way to jailbreak the latest version of IOS, Apple counters by blocking it in the next update. If I pay hundreds of dollars for a device, I want to be able to do whatever I want to it.
Similarly, IOS puts every app that is installed on the device prominently on the homescreen. Every update adds more Apple apps that cannot be deleted. You can’t even remove them from the homescreen. This means that most IOS users have some form of a “junk folder” where they dump all the useless icons that Apple doesn’t let them delete.
The same goes for default apps. Although they now allow third party keyboards, you are unable to switch your default camera, text messaging app, or browser to a competing product. Having this choice may confuse simpler users, but it limits the options of people who know what they’re doing.
Anti-competitive behavior: Long before the smartphone age, people listened to music on portable music players. The Apple iPod was the most popular of these. iPod users had two choices of where to get music. They could rip music from CDs they already owned, a time consuming process, or they could buy songs from the Apple iTunes store. These restrictions have loosened over the years, but as a result of this, many users have huge libraries of music and other media in the iTunes system. Some of these things can be transferred out, but many can’t, and Apple doesn’t make it easy for you. At the same time, access to the iTunes store is restricted to Apple devices and (reluctantly because not enough people owned Macs at the time) Windows based PCs. If you switch to another smartphone platform, you have a very difficult time getting your stuff over to it if it is currently in Apple’s ecosystem. This is intentional. Google, as a counter example, has most of their apps and services available on IOS as well as other platforms.
For years I’ve been using a piece of software on my computer called f.lux. This program reduces the brightness and blue light content of the screen based on the time of day in order to lessen the negative effect on sleep. I also use something similar on Android. The developers of f.lux have had an IOS version available for years. Apple has refused to allow it into the app store, saying it negatively affected the user experience. There were ways around this restriction, but they were too difficult for most users. Recently, Apple took legal action against these developers, while at the same time announcing a similar feature will be available in the next IOS update.
They may have justifications for this sort of activity, but it gives the impression that they are actively working against the interest of their users in order to strengthen their business. Even though their restrictions can be circumvented with technical knowledge, I prefer not to support companies who are actively working against me.
Lack of innovation: As illustrated in the example of f.lux above, it is common for features to be available on other platforms for years before they are finally made available on the iPhone. Apple certainly innovated greatly over what existed at the time that the first iPhone was released, but they’ve since fallen behind. The first iPhone lacked the ability to send MMS messages or to copy and paste. Third party keyboards existed for years on Android before Apple finally allowed them. Motorola introduced the original Moto X in 2013 with an always listening voice activated assistant. Apple’s latest iPhone is only getting a version of this in the Siri app this year.
As customers began to demand larger and larger phones, Apple stubbornly refused to make a larger phone for years. Consumers were wrong, and it was Apple’s job to show them what they should want. They finally gave in to the demand, but again, it was only after competitors had established this new market.
Apple seems to have fallen back from the front lines of innovation in favor of protecting, maintaining, and profiting from what they’ve already built. The latest and most exciting innovations are happening somewhere else before eventually, sometimes, being reluctantly adopted by Apple. Steve Jobs had to be convinced even to allow an app store with third party apps on the iPhone. Fortunately he didn’t win out on that issue. Imagine a smartphone without apps. Not very useful.
I realize that most of the issues I’ve raised, aside from price, don’t really affect the average smartphone user. Many people are perfectly content to stay within the confines of a walled garden, never thinking to peek through the cracks in that wall. For those people, an iPhone, or any other device they’re comfortable with, will serve their basic needs perfectly fine. My girlfriend’s mother still uses an iPhone 3s that was released in 2009 and is very happy with it. The iPhone is a fine choice for many people, but there are also lots of very compelling reasons to go with Android or another competitor.
LAST UPDATE ON 19-04-2017