How do I know whether an iPhone or Android phone is for me?

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Answered by: J Michael, An Expert in the Cell Phone Reviews and Profiles Category
The mobile landscape is fast-paced, and choosing the right cell phone can be tough. Someone unfamiliar with the industry might find themselves overwhelmed. When you go to purchase a new iPhone or Android phone, how do you know which is the right choice for you?

At this point, the mobile industry has reached a point where there aren't a lot of *bad* choices. The latest offerings on either side of the fence will astound you with what they have to offer: plenty of computing power, a ridiculous selection of apps, and great cameras. Either way you go, the phones we carry with us everywhere are by and large more powerful than the computers that put man on the moon.

Still, which one will suit your individual needs best? Ultimately it will come down to which features you want, but most people tend to land on one side of the debate or the other. Android is an "open" operating system, which tends to lend itself to greater customization and more flexibility of use. You'll find Android on a wide variety of phones from various manufacturers, leading to many different designs and styles. Each developer can customize the operating system to give it their own look and feel, and highlight the features they choose. There is a downside to this openness, though. Some manufacturers install large amounts of "bloatware" — extraneous programs custom-tailored to manufacturer or carrier that often serves little purpose other than to take up space, and in some cases slow the system down.

iPhones, on the other hand, generally all look the same coming out of the box. Apple makes every device, hardware and software, and streamlines the process. They have a focus on things "just working," but this leads to a less customizable experience. This carries over to the app store, as well. While apps in the Android market can seem like the wild west due to Google's philosophy of openness, Apple puts apps in their app store through a much more rigorous screening process. While this can be a hurdle to developers, it generally means the final product has a higher degree of polish than an Android equivalent. Of course, such strict guidelines and "walled garden" philosophy means that while the phones and apps generally "just work," it also means that, generally speaking, you will be forced to use the phones and apps the way Apple has envisioned, rather than making the experience your own.

Generally, it seems the more tech-savvy phone shoppers lean toward the Android side, while iPhones are aimed at the "everyone" audience, but that gap is narrowing with Samsung's Galaxy line of phones. The choice that people make up front tends to govern them for a while, though, as "jumping ship" becomes increasingly difficult once you get your photos, contacts, and more important, app and music purchases tied up in one ecosystem or the other. Personally, I have always been an Android guy, because I like the flexibility that the OS allows me, and it was built into the Gmail environment from the ground up, and I have been a Gmail user since its inception. However, even more than I embrace Android, I respect the innovation born from the competition between the two worlds, as each looks to push the envelope a little farther than their competition.

While many people, myself included, have their preferences, at the end of day, it's hard to make a bad decision. The days of low-rate Android phones are largely behind us, and the price gap has narrowed somewhat as Samsung, LG, Motorola, and HTC push their flagship devices into the higher ends of the hardware spectrum. So really, iPhone or Android, you'll be carrying a phone that can do it all. Just shop smart and do your homework before you commit to one side or the other, and be sure and get "hands-on" time with whatever phone you buy before you pull the trigger. And most of all, enjoy your new device!

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