It is a common question most tech friends are asked when someone is about to get into the world of smart phones. Typically if the tech friend is in the Mac camp, they say iPhone; in the alternative camp, Android; looking to the future with optimism, Windows 8; looking to the past, Blackberry.
A tech friend should respond by asking the following two questions, “What do you have,” and “What do you want to do?” We are not looking at a decision to buy a phone in as much as we are looking at a decision to buy into an ecosystem.
When deciding on a phone or phone OS, it is important to take stock of what is important to the individual. Twitter, Facebook, and even Google+ are available on all platforms, so it doesn’t matter if the individual is into social media or not. Since iOS and Android have many apps fitting almost any mobile need, the decision can’t be based on what apps the individual would use either.
Both the current Android and iOS user interface are polished, and picking one over the other due to OS features doesn’t help. Voice recognition on either device and iOS maps will soon be better in a few years.
However, in the long term being able to do mobile search and navigate are huge in the mobile space. If searching and navigation are key right now, Google is pretty strong.
I would say another reason to pick one over the other is synchronization among accounts and devices. Photo sharing, calendar, email: these are all items that, in order for a smart phone to be really useful, must work together to benefit the individual.
Does the individual use Gmail or Apple.com? Do they have an online calendar? If the individual is heavy into Google Docs, Gmail, Google calendar and the like, I think the answer could lean towards Android.
If the individual has a Mac and uses iTunes, calendar, and Apple email, then I would strongly encourage going with an iPhone as synchronization of music, photos, contacts, and calendars will automatically work better.
If the individual is not into any of these (perhaps Yahoo or Exchange) then it is still a toss up.
Is music a factor? Does the individual use iTunes? iTunes is only available on iOS and I find Google Music only reliable on an Android. There is not a Google iOS app for Google Music, just a web page which I find less than fulfilling. I enjoy listening to my Google Music on my Android, but I haven’t spent the time to set up iTunes on my iPad. Too much work to coordinate two libraries.
Photos? iOS automatically uploads pics from an iPhone and you can sync them with a Mac. Google uploads to Picasa which is accessible from a computer.
The answer: if the individual runs their life through Apple, get an iPhone, if they run their life through Google get Android. Pick an ecosystem first (even explore Windows), then pick the OS.