iPhone, Android, and the difference between usability and functionality [Sticky]

TiPb.com vs. Angry Droids

Last night I quoted Marco Armant asking if Android phones would ever achieve iPhone-level polish and usability and a lot of Android enthusiasts fired back that they could do things on Android that they couldn't do on iPhone, so Android was more usable.

Well, no.

That's not usability, that's functionality. Those two can be as diametrically opposed as simplicity and complexity...

Copy and paste on iPhone is broadly consistent system-wide. On Android, even Gingerbread, there are at least three or four different ways of doing copy and paste in different apps, including Google's own Gmail. They're both functional but iPhone is more usable. FaceTime on iPhone 4 is locked to Wi-Fi but works the same way as placing a phone call. Android (and before them, Nokia) devices had front-facing cameras first but relied on 3rd party apps to handle the video call, even over 3G, but with decidedly mixed results. Android is more functional, iPhone is more usable.

I've mentioned other things before as well. Memory management on iPhone is invisible to the end user, they're never supposed to see an "out of memory" error. Multitasking on iPhone, via the Fast App Switcher, is all but invisible as well unless you hit the Home Button twice in rapid succession. It's literally behind the scenes and can be easily ignored. The App Store, thanks to iTunes, just works in over 90 countries around the world, even though it doesn't have some categories of programs, and doesn't allow for themes and skins. All of those might prove less functional to a hardcore user but it's more usable to the mainstream majority.

Even notifications on iPhone, one of the nastiest thorns iOS users still have to deal with and something most of us are begging Apple to fix in iOS 5, are so singular and modal as to be extremely usable (you just click and they go away or you go to the app) to a non-tech savvy user. (Something a few very well known, very push-notification heavy app developers have said they fear losing if Apple goes to a more Android- or webOS-style notification system).

A stock iPhone is inarguably far less functional than a high end Android device, but its consistency, attention to interface and experience detail, and level of fit and finish make it just as inarguably more usable.

My 2 year old godson can use iPhone well. He can turn it on. He can find and launch his apps. He can play his games and read along with Dr. Seuss and Disney. About all my 2 year old can do with my Android 2.1 Nexus One is throw it.

That doesn't indicate the iPhone is a "toy" for children, it indicates the level of usability Apple has achieved, and is something Android enthusiasts should be angry that Google doesn't seem intent on matching, just as iOS users are upset when they see that cool new feature Apple seemingly has no interest in.

And yes, you can Jailbreak an iPhone to make it far more functional but that increases complexity and lowers usability, bringing it more in line with the Android model. (I'm currently Jailbroken via redsn0w, though ironically my Nexus One isn't rooted. Go figure.)

None of this takes into account Apple's industry leading accessibility features either, which make iPhone usable to those with low or no vision. Nor does it reflect how carriers often mutilate Android by locking it down, or locking out or stripping functionality entirely. (Even Google with 720p video recording on the Nexus S.)

So if experts want to argue Android is more functional than iPhone, go ahead. Nokia enthusiasts can argue the same and probably from way before Android came around. However, since the day it was released in 2007 nothing is yet as usable for as many people as iPhone.

Have something to say about this story? Share your comments below! Need help with something else? Submit your question!

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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iPhone, Android, and the difference between usability and functionality [Sticky]

134 Comments

The question is though is what is more important? Usability or functionality. For many who use iOS, it's the former, and for those who use Android it's the latter. The problem with iOS as is see it is that it's too simple and inefficient. I'd rather give up some polish and replace it with efficiency and functionality.

When it comes down to it, I see ios aimed at everyone with it's ease of use, while Android aimed more at the tech savvy geek like me. They are both great devices, but I don't see young kids or older people using Android.

Right on Rene. I have a few friends who own the latest Androids phones who love to show off a feature or two, but are admittedly frustrated on the usability part due to their minimal geek skills. On the other hand my twin daughters when they were 3, navigated through my wife's 3G with ease to get to their pre-school apps and even figured out how to send texts to our friends (the text looked like this: skeooijdlkmlkdfjwifdkosjidoiasjdf.) The iPhone's usability is unmatched.

the iphone is most likely more usable, but imo, the gulf isn't anywhere near what it used to be between the two platforms, specifically when you look at an HTC device running Sense over android.
There are some consistency issues that are frustrating, sure, but if someone's never used a smartphone before, if you hand them a Droid Incredible/evo and and Iphone with some basic "this is how you turn on the screen) I think they'd pick up both platforms equally well.
If you're an avid iphone user and switch to Android, you'll notice all the differences and quirks a lot faster than a normal users, and the same can be said if you're used to android and try iOS.
I'd argue that while iOS IS more usable, a lot of those usability issues (with the exception of the accessibility features, where iOS still shines) come from people who are used to one platform and then try the other one out.
The "problem" for android is that practically everyone is used to how iOS does things, either by having an iphone themselves, having an ipod touch, or because of Apple's VERY effective marketing campaign of the past few years.

I wonder how a phone which needs something like 5 clicks to put a question mark in your text is more usable than any android phone (hold key .5 seconds - get the symbol you want. done. Oh, and you can swap keyboards too if you don't like the default).

As far as usability, my Droid X is usable by my 2 yr old daughter, so either girls are smarter than boys or my daughter is more of a genius. Either way both phones have their pros and cons and everyone's opinion is just that, their opinion.

That is an interesting bit. Oh you forgot to say how much of a pain it is too load a custom ringtone on the iPhone. I owned an iPhone right up until the the iPhone 4 came out. I now have a Droid X and love it. I loved my iPhone 3GS too. The iPhone just works. Android just works too but you can customize it to do what ever you want. You can make it as easy to use as an iPhone. I like the flexibility with my phone to set it up anyway I want to. Yes I know the iPhone comes right out of the box easy to use no setup required. But damn it such a boring interface. I enjoy the widgets and the shortcuts that I can set up on my Android homescreens. Android is doing something right if they are selling 300,000 a day. So the trend of simplicity that the iPhone employs is not the norm anymore. Android is not quite as polished yet as iOS. But iOS has a one year jump on Android too. Android is evolving more and more and 2011 should bring some huge changes to Android. All in all both are great at what they do. I prefer Android now.

Love my iPad and my iPhone ¡ Its the same with computers once you go Mac you never go back goo iPhone

With increased functionality comes decreased usability so its an unfair comparison. Also, I think this article is ignoring the superior usability of some comparative functions. For example, my calendar is displayed on my primary Android 'desktop' so no loading of a calendar is needed. Likewise, my tasks are also on my primary desktop. The 'multitasking' on iOS is really just a program pausing function that developers need to program for and that allows only select functions to work in the background. On Android, applications can be maintained in an active state and continue to function in the background in a true multi-tasking environment. While this can be considered a difference in functionality, it is also a superior usability factor because it enables the user to perform many more functions simultaneously. Also, the fact that Android phones have direct buttons for search, back, home, and options creates a consistent and quickly accessible method of manipulating programs and getting around the phone.... The more I think about it, I think the author is confusing simplicity with usability. iOS is simpler to use because there are fewer options, but it is not unarguably more usable. BTW - I have an iPad and a Droid X. I will get an iPhone if it comes out with a bigger screen on Verizon because of the superior applications available for it and the reliability of the platform. The simplicity of the platform is a drawback to me.

@Simone...have you ever used an iPhone before? Just one click and your done. And that one click doesn't last 1/2 a second.

I don't know why iOS and Android users alike have to define what is better. I like both platforms. I do think each has their pros and cons. For me, I like Android, but if you gave me an iPhone, I would take it...given I could still keep my Inc. I prefer Android, but have used both on each type of hardware (and even iOS on my Android).
I wish we would all just realize that it is important to have both options and stop trying to define the better system. Neither or better than the other, just that each person will have a preference for what they need.
I do have to object that older people and younger kids won't be using Android though. I have cousins who are "younger kids" and can program better than people in their 20's. Not that programing and Android go hand in hand, but if they can grasp programming, Android is easy. I also think that older folk can grasp Android easily if they wanted, it's really not that hard to use the simplest of tasks.

Good comparison; however, the great thing about Android is its customization options, how you can set up the device to be as usable as an iPhone in many circumstances. My 4-year old was able to access his games, apps & videos on my DInc with no problem because I set it up so he could easily find them (it was so cute watching him swipe across the home screens until he got to his stuff).

@Simone, for the record it takes one click to put a question mark into a text. Well two if count the question mark itself. So I'm wondering if you have even used an iPhone or if you are just one of those Android fans that think they know what they are talking about when it comes to iOS.

So basically what this article is saying is that when Android finally gets the polish and sheen it is supposed to be getting, it'll be all-around better than the iPhone. LOL

@Harry first, they're three, since you got to go back. Second, is the same for numbers, and if you want some weirder symbol, click count raise. The point is, such a simple and very used task is way less usable on iPhone than Android.

"... My 2 year old godson can use iPhone well ..."
Certainly true as the iPhone was created for people of a mental development stage of a 2 year old!

Functionality is much easier to understand as it can be enumerated by a simple bullet point. Usability is a more difficult concept to grasp and articulate. Everyone thinks they understand usability, but few actually do. Speaking as a usability engineer, if you think that Android equals the iPhone in usability then I would argue that you simply don't understand usability.
That doesn't mean the iPhone is better. For some people the additional functionality is more important.
Simone, 5 clicks to add a question mark? That isn't remotely accurate. I don't understand why people feel the need to make things up in order to validate their own choices in life. Why do you care if other people like the iPhone? I certainly don't care if you like Android. Grow up.

"My 2 year old godson can use iPhone well. He can turn it on. He can find and launch his apps. He can play his games and read along with Dr. Seuss and Disney. About all my 2 year old can do with my Android 2.1 Nexus One is throw it."
So ... what you're saying is that the iPhone is developed for people with the mindset of a 2 year old ... And the Andoid isn't ... Exactly what my suspicions were eluding to, now, they are confirmed.

I think the iPhone is an amazing device and has amazing features. Its just not for me tho. I have had ipods and always returned them. I had an iPhone and sold it.
I love android. I've seen it evolve from OS 1.5 to OS .2.3 I'm using an HTC Aria with 2.2 & HTC Sense and its my favorite device I've ever owned. It's rooted and Overclocked and is quick plus does everything I need. I think most android phones are garbage, ones from Samsung, Sony and Motorola. I'm an HTC fan.
It's apples and oranges to me. If the iPhone works for u, get one and enjoy it. It's an outstanding device and won't bash it. Android is for me and works to what I need it to do.
Both OS's are great, just enjoy what works best for you

Oh one more thing, for me android is the new Windows, and os for any device, I like the quote Steve did once, if you are serious about software do your on hardware sorry my English

I agree, iPhone is by far more usable than Android. People still fight about which system is the "best" but there is really no overall best, just best for you or best for me. For me, Android is usable enough for the power over the system it gives me. iPhone chooses to be a lot more usable by cutting down freedom, because too much freedom always reduces usability. If you want it easy someone might have to select what you might do and how, and avoid anything that can make things difficult for a common user. I am a power user and can't bear with that so that's why I chose Android.
You just have to choose what you need, not try to convince anyone about what they need ;)
Good article!

As always, opinions are like armpits, everyone has an them, and very often some of them stink.
I chose the iPhone for a variety of reasons. Two of my primary reasons are the response and fluidity of the touch screen, an the overal ease of use of the iOS platform. I have YET to see a single Android device that comes even remotely close to the sensitivity of ANY of my iphone's touchscreens. All if them, even the best ones, seem to lag behind the iPhone. This also translates to decreased usability in my opinion. If you think that stinks, then that's fine with me.

@Brian Ward, I see your multi-tasking point but at the same time there is a reason battery life on a lot of Android phones is less than ideal. Leaving an application fully functioning while not using it is a battery drain. Pausing the app like Apple does still allows you to return to its saved state and reduces the pull on the battery. So I would say both platforms have their strengths and weaknesses in that respect making them "tied" if anything.

I agree with the original post,after using a few android phones I got very frustated with inconsistent UI, poor performance and application crashes...Some may argue using different roms I can improve the performance..but thats not Usability..thats a poor performance device pushed over to the customer...
I dont say the ios is perfect but it is way more user friendly to the end user..

yeah what Brian Ward said ecept for the part of getting an iPhone, for me I never have liked Apple products much at all

For the first time, I agree with rene, and I am an Android user, althoght I had an Iphone for 2 years.
From a simple user point of view (and not developer, which I am not) IOS is nicer to look at, scroll through the device, more consistent in every sense (menus, settings, cut copy and paste, etc.).
On the other hand, again from a simple user point of view, Android has better customization features such as notifications, shortcuts to whatever you want, widgets, possibility to change keyboards, etc.
As I already said in another article, this is a very subjective issue. Some may want consistency and ease to use, others want customization features. The "fight" will never end because we are all subjective. So lets just accept, or better, agree, on some basic facts...

Rene I said it in the other thread. You DO run out of memory in iOS you just don't know it unless you use sbsettings so find the culprit. You're blind and clueless if you think iOS does a good job handling memory. I can't count how many times my friends who use an iphone have asked me why their phone is performing so slowly. They think hitting the home key is enough. A simple task manager would go a long way but Apple has fed and nurtured ignorance for so long that this is never going to happen unless you jailbreak and get SBSettings.

Simone, surely you can't be speaking of the iPhone. Let's test your claim. Click one: I see the question mark. Then I touch the question mark - ? See???? Five clicks? Try one click.

Simone said "I wonder how a phone which needs something like 5 clicks to put a question mark in your text is more usable than any android phone"
Simone is not a iPhone owner and has no clue what he is talking about. I can add a ? mark with one key stroke. Just touch and hold the symbol/number key about 1/2 second, the symbol/number keyboard pops up, slide your finger to the ? and release. You have a question mark with one key stroke.
And, these Android geeks that say the Android is so much more powerful than the iPhone have no clue either. Yes Android does some functions that are not native in the iPhone but there are far more polished and powerful Apps for any function you want to to for the iPhone that for the Android. My son has an Android and he is constantly picking at me saying how much better Android is but in every case he finds out he is wrong. iPhone is years ahead in quality and quantity when it comes to Apps.

Arment makes the better argument, Rene.
I know you are trying to delineate a line here, but it's got too many holes. A third party app is additional functionality, no? If so, wouldn't an iOS device be more functional?
Marco Arment's point is the same old Mac versus Windows argument. Apple products exhibit a certain polish and elegance that competing products do not. At least that what they strive to do. Icons are better, fonts and typography is better, user iteraction is better.
All this other stuff about openness, functionality, usability is on the edge IMO. What attracts people to Apple is the elevate their products to an extreme polish. The polish is across the board: industrial design, UI design, typography, even down to the layout of the PCB.

Alex: what the hell? I corrected myself some comment above (count is 3), and there was no trace of flame in my comment. Sheesh. Calm down, is a piece of hardware and software, not a religion.

I recommend the iphone to about 90% of people who ask me...why cause even my mom can use it (she can copy and paste on her iphone but doesnt know how on a computer...). But for myself would I ever buy an iphone? No, I would be bored...my inner nerd would be crying for more options and more functions.

Gary, can you read this sentence? It has a question mark. If you had to rewrite this comment on the iPhone it would take you 3 clicks. Press symbol button, press question mark, press symbol button again to get back. Repeat every time you need ? or ! or a number.
The point is that unless you don't text or not use the phone to write emails, inserting text is a very common operation and in something so basic the iphone is way less usable than any vanilla android phone.

I used an HTC Incredible for a little while yesterday, and while a little rough around the edges, it was nice. The biggest difference though was how light and fast it was.
It was shockingly fast after using my iphone 4. everything opened up instantly. that is a huge usability win.
and it was considerably lighter in my hand. also a huge win.

So you are telling me that people are so mindless now that usability is based on if a 2 year old can use it? That is a sad statement to what we have become. We have become a nation of iLemmings rather than leaders.
People can't even take the time to learn how to use simple functions of a cellphone. Even Blackberries have a learning curve. Once you understand the unique differences of a phone which takes about 5-10 minutes of their time. Or maybe Android user are just smarter because we actually use some of our braincells and don't have to rely on Steve Jobs telling me how and what I can put my phone.

@Brian Tufo
Most android apps are paused when they are put into the background. On any device running 2.0 or higher if an app is running in the background it MUST have an icon in the notification panel to let you know about this.
The real reason for battery issues is that most users set everything up to sync without thinking about it. They'll log into twitter, facebook, 3-4 news apps, etc. and as a default these things update quite frequently. Set their update intervals a bit higher (more in line with what you use them for). This is why "task killers" appeared effective. What they were doing was shutting down this auto sync, not really effectively closing programs.
Syncing is one of the best features on Android, but most people don't set it correctly. And it's not difficult to do this. it's typically the first option in the settings menu. Maybe apps should set themselves to only sync "on demand" as a default, but I think that people would then just uninstall the app because it "never works" and it would make widgets non-functional. I guess you could say that this is a usability tradeoff, but if you spend the 10 seconds to set up the app when you install it, it become MORE usable than one that only updates when you load into it.

iPhone addresses a target group that is mentally slow. Therefore it's USP is usability.
iPhone users usually tell you how awesome and functional their phone is, but again, they are mentally slow.
But that's not important, it's not the question whether the usability is superior but how your money spent returns value. And sorry, if you know how to android devices are way more powerful.

If you people read the tips section you'd see that you don't even need to click the option button and then the question mark. You just have to press and hold the option button and slide to the question mark and release. So technically, 1 press =)

Simone, you still don't get it do you. You can pit in punctuation by pressing down (not tapping) on the ".?123" key, slide your finger to the ? and let go. The keyboard will return to the alphabet layout automatically.
That's; press down, you don't wait as the punctuation layout appears immediately, slide to the ?, then let go.
But you know what, that isn't as usable because it's a mental break. You are mentally tapping and the press down and slide breaks your stream of thought.

If Android apps are indeed paused while in the background I fail to see it as a better implementation than iOS. WebOS IMO is how multitasking should be handled compared to these 2 ways.

@Brian Tufo - I am not taking the position that Android is superior. Although I am a big cheerleader of Google as a company, I think for the best mobile experience in terms of battery life and reliability is the iPhone. The same multi-tasking we have been discussion is a major source of instability (and battery drain) in the Android platform and, having to weigh the pros and cons, I think Apple's application pausing is the better way to go on a phone. As battery technology improves and phone CPU's become more powerful, then true multi-tasking will be more feasible. At that point in time, I suspect the iPhone and iPad will be implement a true multi-tasking environment. My previous point was to usability - and really, our individual needs define that usability. Thanks!

yet the answer to "How do I do X with Android?" is usually "you have to root your phone."
You can root your iPhone as well, and then there seems to be little difference between the two.

Appreciate the write up, I had to laugh when you used iOS notifications as an example of usability lolol. However, the rest of your write up is pretty solid even if overly biased.

@Harry Seaward
Simone can't count to 3 & mistakes 2 for 5 which largely explains why she's an Android user because that's what they are - slow & dumb.

@Brian Tufo - Some Android apps that don't require activity may be suspended, but I can tell you that I can have Google Maps GPS guiding me to a destination while simultaneous being on the phone while simultaneously taking a picture and emailing it. Just don't go off the route because the map app gets lost without the data connection! (supposedly this is changed in the recently released maps app). I can switch between all of these programs by holding down the home key. I did notice that a GPS navigation app on my iPad kept running when I was searching the web, however, which was a pleasant surprise.

Nerd enough here to hack the iPhone , I'll could install Linux or even android on it ,lol not android eww

I agree with hotmann when he says recommendations. I tell most people if they want a smartphone, iPhone is the way to go because they will never use half the stuff on the phones anyways. They just text/web/call/apps. Plus iPhone multitasking works for them.
But I have both an iPad and an Evo, I like them both! They both have their ups and downs. Georgia put it the best, this competition is only good for us, they keep pushing the companies to do better.

Why would I want a 2 year old playing with my phone possibly sending texts or emails of random gibberish to my business contacts?
I came from using a WinMo phone to the iPod touch then to Android. Coming from WinMo, both iOS and Android were huge improvements. But, I found that the functionality deficiencies of iOS were too irritating, and that relegated my touch to a fun gadget rather than even a low-level productivity device. In fact, when my touch was stolen, it wasn't even a big deal; I still haven't replaced it. If my android were stolen, on the other hand, I would pay whatever I had to for a replacement by the next day.

FaceTime is way worse than in Nokia. You do not need a 3rd party app for it. Just select the contact and choose video call. It was this easy since 2005.
Don't get me wrong, I'm an iPhone 4 user and I've used many Nokia phones for 10 years. There things that I miss my nokia but I'm happy with iPhone 4 anyways.

I agree. I use both a iphone 3GS and Captivate. Everything on the iphone is pretty usable. Email, calendars etc. If you use google email and calendars you can get that with android, if not...not so much without third party workarounds. Not to mention the cappy's GSP is crap, not usable or functional. While I like my iphone's useability in interface with mobile me and my other emails, I find myself going to the iphone less and less because of the cappy's screen size! If they ever make the iphone screen 4 inches, it will be my device. Period. I think a 4 inch screen is optimal for a phone.

Oh my god, that so much more usable and intuitive than pressing the goddamn key and let go. First I didn't knew, even if I used and iphone a couple of times - so long for "so intuitive a child can use it".
Second, considering holding down, slide, release 1 click is cheating at best. And third, can you keep your sarcasm for when your wife complains about your size? Sheesh, again, it wasn't a flame, I didn't offend anyone and this is the tone of answers I receive? it's true, iphone users are a bunch of religious zealots. Get lost.

@brian tufu
It's not a "better" implementation per se beyond the fact that it doesn't artificially limit what CAN run in the background. I just brought it up because iOS's implementation isn't fundamentally different from what android's had beyond those limitations.
I like webOS quite a bit, but their hardware is pretty crappy (including the pre2) which holds it back. the cards interface makes killing apps fun, but I haven't used one long enough to see how it helps with general usability.

@brianward
The new update to google maps allows offline caching for navigation data. I've tested this and driven quite a bit with a wifi only phone and it caught when I switched routes easily enough.
Most apps WILL pause when they go in the background though. If they don't, they have a notification icon to let you know they're still active (phone, navigation, music, etc)

Hey, Simone, this is the Internet. It's not a nice place so grow some skin. If you want to make a point on the Internet, it's very important for you to be correct, otherwise you're going to be flamed.
Not only were you incorrect, you're not even considering the usability of entering punctuation. In reality, I think most people just tap the punctuation key with the left thumb, tap the question mark with the right thumb, then double tap the space bar. This adds the ?, the space, and the caps key for the start of the next sentence. In practice, this is the fastest way to go, instead of the press-down and slide.

With sales figures of Android phones on track for blowing iOS phones out of the water, and market analysts predicting the same to happen for tablets in 2011, I think it's pretty clear which platform the average consumer finds most appealing. Apple's dominance in these areas thus far has been dominance in a vacuum. Being the first on the block doesn't mean you have the best formula.

great article. Exactly rene what i was thinking rene. Also polish is harder to optain then functions. besides most people don't use those functions. Also there is an app for everything which makes me care that apple pushes for a polished os, cause the apps run smoother on there. Even if we don't have standard turn by turn by google nav. There are many apps that fix that like navfree that just came out that has all the maps preloaded. It's choppy now, but it will run smooth once they update it. I might not have a downloader but idisk or idownloader apps on the appstore, help by letting you download anything or open any files with them. This is the beauty of the app store. Where ever apple misses the point the developers catch up. That's why im not worried about extras like a hot spot. I never need that because i have wifi in my house and most places i go have wifi. Also if there isn't anything on the appstore i could always jailbreak and get new things to keep me occupied. I am currently on team pure. I find no need to jailbreak only thing i used was 3g unrestrictor but with youtube hdml5 site i can have hq videos on 3g. All of this is why the iphone is perfect for me. Were ever apple leaves out in functionality the develpors and dev team make up. While on android its just a bunch of features thrown in a phone with poor organization.

@Menoetios actually the only reason android sales are up is because they are on every carrier and there are 100 or more different android phones. Most people just get one cause they cant get an iphone because of what carrier they have. So what you say has no weight. If people wanted android more the captivate or aria would outsell the iphone.

iPhone and iPad are just like they are. If you like them, good.
But I don´t like them.
They are very simple and easy. I agree with you, they seem to be designed for two years old children.
But I don´t have two years.
I want to do more things, I want to do them my way.
I can not do many things with Apple products, but I can do them with Android, although it may be not easy, in certain cases.
Besides: Apple products are too expensive, their value is much lesser than their price.

If you spend time teaching a 2 year old to use an Android phone they can pick it up and use it. I am certain that no 2 year old can just blindly "pick up" and use an iPhone. It is simple...but not that simple.
I realize this is an iOS site...but be realistic at least.

First time commenter.
As a proponent of both operating systems (I find Android better suited for my mobile needs, and iOS better suited for my tablet needs), I initially took pretty big issue with your post yesterday claiming that iOS was, without question, more usable than Android. I don't consider myself a fanboy of either platform, but I found the statement to be rather ridiculous considering the sheer number of things I can do on my HTC Incredible that I could never dream of doing on an iPhone.
After reading your much appreciated clarification though, I do agree with your overall point, all symantics aside. I absolutely do not want an Android experience as restricted and locked down as the iPhone experience is. BUT, I do think that Google could learn a lot from the consistency of Apple's end user experience. Even as a long-time Android user, I still often forget when I'm supposed to tap, or long-press, or how to clear data fields in different applications.
I don't think you need to sacrifice the openness and, yes, functionality of the Android experience in order to provide a cross-platform consistency. Nor do I think that Google would be "selling out" their open source ideals by talking to hardware manufactorers and saying, "Listen, this is the order that the four main Android buttons must ALWAYS go in."
Thanks for the clarification.
I enjoy the site, keep it up.

@Simone actually its just one click. You can press and hold the symbol button the symbols will pop up slide your finger over to the question mark. Let go and the alphabetical keyboard pops back up. I think that's usability.

@janey Unfortunately you are wrong there. While to do certain high end functions on an android device does require root access, the customization of a non-rooted android device can be miles ahead of stock iOS device. I understand that with certain changes comes sloppiness, but if it is done right a fully customized android device can be very polished. On my android device when you unlock my phone i can create a streamlined launcher that is even (god-forbid) more streamlined than iOS without root. So to sum it up heavy customization does not require root but on an iOS device it does.

@Shrike - And that, my friends, is what is wrong with the world today. All of the kids that have grown up on the web, being rude when they disagree, are now growing up and running things. It scares the bejesus out of me!

I can see why the Schmidtheads of the world are angry. They're thinking "Why can't Android be as cool as iOS?" "Why do we keep having to explain its technical features over and over?"
The answer being, of course, that functionality isn't the same as usability. Android users say "Look what I can do to my device." iOS users say "Look what my device can do for me."

I absolutely agree, my son is a year and a half and can use my iPad and iPod touch ver well he already knows which apps I've played with him before and can launch and use them on his own. I am jail broken tethered on the iPad and the iPod touch is untethered with green poison. Somehow every time he gets the iPod however, he somehow manages to crash the springboard. I suspect it senses it's in the hands of a baby and goes into safe mode to protect it self against the inevitable end result. A "I'm now board with this" throw across the room. Thank god for otterbox. That said nothing hold his attention longer than my iDevices, and he really enjoys launching apps he has never seen before.

The real reason for all the blind, angry, biased Android vs. iOS arguments? It's the same reason why people become fans of professional sports teams. Men use sports as an emotional release. Watching pro sports on TV is like "soap operas for men."
And, since most technophiles are male, the same thing happens with competing technology products. Men get invested emotionally in one brand or another. Ford vs. Chevy, Sony vs. Samsung, and Apple vs. Google. Face it. If you didn't have an emotional investment in your iPhone or Droid, you wouldn't bother posting about it. You'd just shrug, move on, and do something useful instead.

Most used features on my iphone, swipe, scrolling, pinch to zoom,copy and past, and texting. I love the polish feel of all of them. There is no lag. It is fast smooth and effortless. Then with texting the virtual keyborad is ideal. Tt's fast responsive, muilitouch, a great size, auto correct is perfect. Only thing i would like to see is a personal dictionary. Finally copy and paste is unified system wide. It works perfectly.

wow, easy guys, easy!
lets all remember we're talking about phones here...
i have one point to make for people saying android is just as easy to use:
to people reading blogs about gadgets, yes. they're both pretty equal on usability.
to the average non-technophile, non-blog reading, no-idea-what-an-rss-feed-is end user, the iphone wins out of the box on all counts.
the average end user doesn't want ui customization, they just want something that works and doesn't require a manual to learn to use. i'd have to teach my sister to use an android phone out of the box, whereas it took her a month or two before having a question about her iphone.
yeah, android is a bit more open, but at least i don't have to wait 6 months after an update's release just to put it on my device (even if you wait for a jailbreak tool first).
that fragmentation crap urks me. i long for android to be truly open, sans carrier/hardware maker bloatware. then maybe i'll make the jump. for now, iphone/ipad, iUse.
but, of course, this is all opinion.

I am a long time Mac user and recently converted to sprint to see what the iPhone buzz was about. It lasted about 2 months as I became very bored with the iPhone 4. I would rather have an iPad with no contract or a touch. They are the same thing with less cost. 4 inch screen should be the standard the iPhones is to small. Yes the phone works well but the os is dated and boring. They can have all the apps in the world it's still just app squares on a screen. I know android has fragmentation issues but you can do so much more on them. For me gtalk alone is worth it. Before I ever buy an iPhone with the current operating system I would rather buy a WP7 the os is modern and potential is great. Apple controls to much on the iPhone and it's old already. They even need to have their own sized sim card. If macs app store goes the same direction then that system will go down hill as well. I own two macs and love them, 2 iPods love them, iPad love it. The iPhone has some serious competition and it is showing by users trying to make excuses for using and buying them.

Two year olds on average, I doubt pick up any tech and use it.
OTOH, my five year old (oops, she just turned six) has been using my iPhone(s) for over two years. The only thing I had to teach her was my unlock code.
It really is that easy...
Droid folks are so touchy. Jeez Simone, sounds like "your man" is the one with size issues. Or, by definition, your issue. Step up to a "bigger man" with an iPhone and smile babe!

@Mark - It's not bad and there is nothing wrong with the world. Just different. Having grown up on USENET, the flamewars on these fansites today are not that bad. Kidfare if you will. On USENET, man, some threads were vile and they'd go on for weeks. With blogs, as soon as the article gets 2 or 3 days old and is pushed off the front page, the thread basically dies.

You mean to tell me if I hand Someone an evo, their not going to know how to easily text, email, browse the web or use the marketplace? Android is made for you to personalize. So no anybody who picks up my phone wont no why ; when I plug my headphones in my music starts. Or why my keyboard doesn't look like everyone else's. Ios is more usable because u can't personalize it. Yours looks like everyone else's.

I dunno. Never even looked at an Android phone. Came from RIM to iPhone. Staying with iPhone from now on. I have lots of friends with Droids who don't know how to use them tho. It annoys me when I send them something cool or recommend an app & they can't figure out how to open it or get it. That's about all I know of Droids. Average Jane or Joe struggles with them.

SOOOOO biased. I think android is wayyyyyy more usable than ios. I mean come on. You need wifi for EVERYTHING you do on the iphone it seems like. Need to donwload a "large" app, connect to wifi. Wanna video chat. Wifi. None of that with android.

I love when people try to compare android sales to iPhone sales. Why dont you count how many different android phones there, then count how many different iPhones there are (4). Now compare am individual model of An android phone to an indicidal model of iPhone. Ya, that's what I thought.

Ummmmm, try this on for size. The iPod Touch is more usuable than the iPhone. The iPhone is more functional than the iPod Touch, because it has a phone, so get rid of the iPhone, and get you a free phone from your favorite provider, and buy a very usuable iPod touch 4. Everyone is happy. LOL

@Mark... your using the crappiest android phone lol! that little plastic 12 year old girl phone blows! thats like bringing a pocket knife to a gunfight!

It's kind of telling that some days I read more (almost all of it laughably wrong) about Android on this Apple site than I do on dedicated Android sites. I virtually never read anything whatsoever about iOS on Android sites, where frankly no one cares about iOS one way or the other, yet here Android is treated as something in need of judging by the Apple faithful rather than the market force it is. In short, other than as red meat to get hits (a pathetic, but depressingly common tactic) what's the point of this? No one gives a rat's arse if some obscure writer on some obscure Apple 'blog thinks Android isn't as good, the market is what gets to decide and, based on growth numbers... Well, you do the math.
I'm looking forward to reading what depths of lunacy this odd obsession leads to in the new year, when things are going to get even hotter in both the tablet and smartphone market.
Oh, and you might want to look up "subjective" and "objective" because clearly you have no clue what the difference is.

@chris.. have you seen video chat over 3g? it sucks... hell on a bad wifi connection, skype on a laptop is terrible... why would apple or anyone put their name on it... on yea.. thats right, because the only people that care are people that read tech sites.. the average consumer I kid you not, thinks that Android is a phone on verizon... I had to tell a girl that has a xperia that she has the android os, and she argued with me... "no its sony"

First of all, please excuse me for my english. I'm an Android user using a Galaxy S device, and I found this article via a Tweet in a Android blog Twitter Account. I think this article is completely biased and give no evidences to enlight the things it says.
I love my Android device, without no intervention, I have my contacts synchronized with facebook, my corporative mail and my gmail account, I can call them via VOIP (with SipDroid), doing a videoconference (with Tango or carrier support) the same way as doing a normal voice call, this is a great point of usability.
I can have info displayed on the screen without running any App, and this is also usability.
I can share any file via bluetooth in the same way than emailing it, and this is functionality and usability.
I can text or write emails fast enough to embarass any other cell phone user using the Swype Keyboard, and this is usability.
I can download or upload files in the mobile without the need of installing iTunes, and this is usability.
I can dictate text to my cell and this is usability.
And finally, I think iPhone is a great phone but now its OS is getting aged and obsolete.
Happy Xmas!

@Mom of Naa
How exactly do you send Android users apps from your iPhone. If I want to send/suggest an app to someone I just click the share button in my app drawer on my phone, select the app then select the method in which I want to send it(text, email, bluetooth, etc..). The person I send it to has a direct link into the app market. Sorry, but it doesn't get much easier(usable). Please explain how you do the same thing in iOS.

FreakNasty,
You can do the same from the iTunes store by sending a link to the App (in iTunes) or you can "gift" an app that the receiver can download. Easy as pie.
How are you able to share paid applications? When the receiver gets the app, what happens when they try to launch it. Since there is a lack of registration does the app automatically become a "trial" version?

iOS vs Android from a developers view... http://theapplegoogle.com/2010/12/devdialogue-cover-art-downloader-app-d...
TL;DR version: Android allows for far more creative and engaging applications than Apple can ever hope to provide with iOS. This is a win for users, developers and Google alike, and it has only been getting better with each release.
From the sounds of it, TiPb has never touched an Android device and is just repeating FUD from other fanbois. The are both great OS's for different reasons, and there is nothing wrong with having an opinion either way. Personally, IMHO, Android is a better system, but use what you like and be happy with it. Don't spread lies like a little troll looking for hits.

speaking of notifications people forget that apple got the main guy from palm for their notifications not to long ago. So i can see some changes coming.

I respect that you are a writer for an Apple product website, but I am shocked at the "fanboy" style of defense you are using. as a member of the tech blogosphere I would think you would show a little more open-mindedness to other products. I am a huge fan of iOS, but am also a user of an Android phone and I can say without a doubt that you are arguing semantics with the usability/functionality argument. if You had ever used an Android phone for more than a day or two it is fairly obviousnthat it's use is supple, effective and fun. Yes, it may not be AS simple as simple home screens and screens full of square apps, but there is little flexibility for customization, a feature that I feel gives Android a nice edge. I was quite shocked to find a device as "polished" as an iPhone require multiple generations of OS just to include a home screen wallpaper. and issues like multiple copy/paste methods, yes it may be the same across all applications in iOS, but I find it just as effective in Android, albeit it's multiple methods. I am typing this on an iPad so I can say that I am not doing this with a bias, but I honestly feel that your perspective on usabiltiy is far too narrow-minded and lacks a persecutive from actually using an android device. just acme food for thought

@JNGold I do own a Nexus One and love it quite a lot. I also have a Palm Pre Plus and love that as well. Unfortunately it's easier to dismiss writers than to engage in any factual debate, but that's probably why they created the interwebs to begin with :D

@birbeck
Um, the article is a rather poor example of Android enabling developers to be far more creative and allowing developers to do things they can't do on iOS.
Obviously, creativity is a bit of vague term and has rather poor correlation with the quality of the developer environment. The only thing with good correlation with creativity (in mass quantities) is money. If there is money in the platform, creativity will blossom. If there is one thing Android is still lagging iOS in, it's the money flowing into developers hands. (IMO, there are lot of things I think Android still lags in, but that's my opinion).
The poor example is the article is an interview with the developer of an app for downloading cover art. True, this isn't something that is likely possible on devices running iOS, but it's a simple function on iTunes on the desktop. A function already available for iOS users. Since there isn't a centralized music sync app on Android, mayhap there is a need for downloading cover art and a 3rd party app can fill that role. But on iOS, cover art is just something you do on iTunes. It's just a right click and a get album artwork menu item. Or you can create your own.
The talking point for Android should simply be choice, choice, choice. Or options. It allows consumers to have a variety of options, both in hardware and software. That's basically its advantage boiled down to a word. For iOS, I'd say it is polish or elegance. That's Marco Armant's comment.

Shrike the point you make about downloading cover art about being able to do that on itunes and sync it directly with and iphone, there are MANY third-party applications for doing that that can sync with android phones, and the fact that you can download music and then download album art for that music directly from phone sounds much better than having to download the music on your computer, load it in itunes, search for the album art, pair it with the song, and then finally get it on your phone

All this tribalism is so goofy. I'm a fairly devout Android fan and user with experience using iOs and iPhone OS before it. Right now, I couldn't imagine functioning inside the confined sameness that is the iPhone experience but even I know that said sameness is a wonderfully consistent and pleasant experience and, more importantly, not everyone places value on the same qualities or desires the same user experience.
Everything stated in this article should be recognizable as irrefutably true, but only to those of us who have really invested time in both of these operating systems. The iPhone is probably the easiest to use of all the premium smartphones available in the world today... but that doesn't tickle my fancy... so I don't want one.... so what? Is chocolate better than vanilla just because I don't like vanilla??? Should every phone be an EVO or an iPhone? I really don't think that's the world any of us want to live in.
Seriously folks, different strokes...
Lets spend less time hating and spend more time enjoying our OS of choice. We really should be thankful that we even have the luxury of so much choice. The situation could be like North Koreans who have to use a government sanctioned woodblock with a modified TI 99 inside it.
Sent, in honor of iOS, from my HTC EVO 4G...

I love how everybody touts that Android has many form factor and carrier options, stating that that alone is the cause for its recent success and impending sales dominance over ios. The iPhone is sold WORLDWIDE. Only in America is it carrier locked and that is not a logical argument when comparing sales figures. Boo on Apple for contracting a single carrier for their flagship device. I own both Android and ios, and respect the benefits of both. To say that ios's simplicity makes it a better system is disappointing. Android is simple to use and my three ytrouble has no trouble finding Angry Birds or any other game she would like to play. Try deleting a folder that you've created on an ios device. You wont find it so simple. Do the same on Android and you'll appreciate its shortcuts system and seperated app drawer and home screens. If its too complicated you're too simple for a" smart" phone.

I agree with rico, i could not imagine myself operating within ios, but ios is much more consistent and simple than android. I just like to undermine other peoples arguements, I have even been known to debate against my own views just because I find a thoughtful engaging debate extremely fun ^_^ and I personally would not like using an os that a baby could use. I'm use operating systems many adults can't use or understand.

I also believe the many widgets that android has to add to the homescreen adds the the usability factor of the device over ios

The topic about being "useful" and "usable" is actually a part of HCI (Human Computer Interaction) courses for IT professionals. Apple's focus is not what you can do, it's how you do it. Back in the 90's, computer design was all about functionality, but now, it's always more about "usability". Usable design is a much more challenging requirement for developers. As a developer myself, I can easily put more features and functions on my applications, but actually making them easier to use is the most challenge.

No offense, but I always feel like your articles have an incredible a sense of arrogance. I heard about this website and wanted to check it out because I am a huge Apple fan, but after following for a few weeks, the the tonality of the posts are far too pretentious. This is the last time I'll probably visit, but I hope in the future you consider a change in writing style.

@Nightshade
If you buy a song from iTunes on the iPhone, album artwork comes with it. I do not believe there is any other way to download new music (they you don't have elsewhere) onto an iOS device other than through the iTunes app on the iOS device. I just did it. So, why would I need an album cover app?
The only time where I ever need to get album artwork is when I'm ripping my CDs. The are a few old CDs that don't have artwork in the database Apple uses, and I end up finding it from some other source and dragging it in to the album well.

I agree with your article completely. As a user of both devices I love to play games and multimedia on my iPod Touch 4gen while for phone I use Android on Samsung Galaxy S for GPS, maps, text, calls, twitter and email. I do find iOS easier to use for anyone.

Android is open, google bundle in everything including sat nav free and you don't need crappy itunes aswell..!!

Same old argument. Of course a FANBOY site is going to favor their bread and butter that's a given. As a user of an android phone and a user of an iPad both have pluses and minus. To say one is less usable it just, more fan boy talk! Both are very usable and functional in different ways. This back and forth BS is for the lame and lost. Just as with any device. There will be something that replaces them all. Let the FANBOY'S rage on.

Cover Art Downloader isn't the best example of a useful iOS application, in fact, it would be completely useless on iOS because your music library is locked down by iTunes. You can only get your music from one source, only one program can edit the database, and Apple will not allow 3rd party music players on the devices. What it does show is the possibilities enabled by Android which are unimaginable on iOS, and it is presented with a good UI, it is simple to use, very fast and functional, so it goes against all of your complaints about Android.
It makes a lot of sense on Android, because unlike iOS you are not locked in to one program and one source of music. Your music can be downloaded through the browser, loaded from usb or your lan over wifi, shared via bluetooth, or downloaded through another app. You can have third party players that utilize a single database or collection and provide a better experience and more features than the stock player. Having one simple to use program to manage all of your music tags and album art that works with any player or music source is a great asset to an open system like Android. Options, it is something Apple has never heard of.
My next app out is Starbucks Card Widget, open beta starts next week. You may say, but iOS already has an official Starbucks app! Not like this it doesn't. By placing the widget on one of your home screens, you can see your Starbucks card balance at a glance, updated in real-time. You can tap the barcode icon to get a fullscreen barcode which can be used for paying for your drink. Compare this to the offical Starbucks Card app for iOS where you have to dig through your apps and folders, find and open Starbucks Card, locate your card and then finally show a small barcode that is difficult to scan. With the widget you can tap the card name, icon or balance to view that cards transaction history or reload it. Need to find the closest location? Tap Find Starbucks, and select from a list of the closest locations and instantly get directions or get turn-by-turn voice navigation provided by Google Maps.
You might say, oh, but I drink Peets or Tullys. I say to each their own, but there is no way you can say that it is slow, unintuitive, ugly or lacking usability in any way, and is something else entirely impossible on iOS.
iOS is a great mobile OS, and it's a perfect fit for some, but your arguments against Android here are solely fanboish, and not based on any such facts or merit. iOS just does not provide the same kind of flexibility, power or features that enable developers such as myself to create truly usable and creative applications. If iOS works for you and you are happy with it, then great, people are allowed to have their own opinions, something seem to have forgotten.

@Brian Tufo By default they get paused, but they can use background processes not limited like on iOS

I would like to add that apart from android, apple's iOS is simply the only os worth using.
I actually find the reviews very insightful on TiPb, I think the point of this post was to get a valid opinion of someone who used both phones on a regular basis, and he never made one phone seem better than the other, he just said that Android is more functional and iOS is more user friendly.
Love your posts Rene.

@birbeck
Speaking for Rene here or maybe the "you" was referring to me. Mind that, I didn't back Rene's usability vs functionality argument. I'm with Marco Armant who's argument was that Android wouldn't reach the fit, finish, and polish of iOS. And Armant was replying to a statement from Engadget's Nexus S review: "We don’t question the power of the [Android], but the fit, finish, and ease of use simply is still not there." Usability vs functionality is too much of a rabbit hole as the terms are very intertwined.
I really don't see what Cover Art Downloader is doing for the argument when you yourself is saying it is unneeded on iOS. And it's not "unimaginable." Obviously, it can be imagined on iOS or any platform. "Impossible" would be a better word for it as Apple won't allow that functionality. There is an argument to be made that having many choices to manage and play music is better than having one. But Apple's philosophy is to have one, but make it as good as possible, and iTunes + iPod app for iOS is arguably the best one out there. Choice vs fit & finish. Elegance. (And elegance != choice in my world). In this system, such a program isn't needed because the functionality is already provided.
The Starbucks example is better example as it shows what is possible with widgets and providing better usability for some things, which is great for Android users, and noted non-feature in iOS. But Apple won't put in widget-like functionality until the triangle of battery life + CPU/RAM + Usability reaches a happy equilibrium for them. Again, it's choice vs elegance. Time and again, as repeated on Tipb multitudes of time, Apple won't put in the functionality if they think it is detrimental to the experience.
This leaves many users off the platform. They willingly do this in trade for great experience.
Here's an interesting example of functionality versus user experience. It's arguable that Apple should have left iOS 3rd party app backgrounding off of the 3GS. It introduces more lags compared to iOS 3.x. Lags make for a very poor experience. A 3GS on iOS 3.x is rock solid fast, no hiccups. With iOS multitasking in iOS 4.x, there are now the occasional hitches. Some days, I don't think the increased functionality from multitasking doesn't really overcome the introduction of some lagginess here and there. I've got a 2nd iPhone 3GS with 3.x, and when I use it, I'm pleasantly surprised how rock solid fast and steady it is compared to a 3GS with 4.x.
If Apple left backgrounding tasks out of, but kept automatic saved states, iOS 4.x on the 3GS, it wouldn't have been a bad deal.

You raise a great topic for dialog, but I think you are again taking a term and defining it one narrow way to suit your line of thinking and to so definitively favor the iPhone. Usability is about effective use and usefulnes as well as (but not only) ease of use.
You make some very appropriate concessions about Android and webOS, but it ends feeling like a setup to appear objective before rather arrogantly presuming to be the authority on a topic to tout the iPhone's superiority. Because of that, though I often love the topics, I often find your articles offputting. For me, though I love the iPhone, it makes me want to be adverse to it...though it is certainly in my opinion a great user experience. You make valid points, and it's great to love and favor a device, but you just don't need to take it that far, and I think your articles would be better received and more respected if you didn't.
Objectivity is wonderful; and opinions and preferences are understandable, especially when rationally explained, but really should not be touted as undeniable fact no matter how strongly you may feel about it. It just doesn't come across well or credible to intelligent, informed thinkers.
I like iOS, Android, and webOS, but for a mix of reasons finally switched from my beloved iPhone to the myTouch 4G on T-Mobile. The simplicity of the iPhone posed both functionality and usability issues for me, which finally led to my transition...and it certainly was a transition! I would agree that iOS is simpler but also limiting along with that, while Android is more intricate due to offering more functionality, options, and user control. However, there are numerous things I can do more easily on my myTouch 4G than on my iPhone...not to mention the thing it can do that my iPhone simply can't.
In the end, Android (at least for now) is serving me better. And though I don't find Android as polished as iOS, I do find it more capable -- it has the increased functionality I wanted, and for my purposes (productivity power user) its overall usability is higher than my iPhone because I can both do more and do key things more efficiently.

You raise a great topic for dialog, but I think you are again taking a term and defining it one narrow way to suit your line of thinking and to so definitively favor the iPhone. Usability is about effective use and usefulnes as well as (but not only) ease of use.
You make some very appropriate concessions about Android and webOS, but it ends feeling like a setup to appear objective before rather arrogantly presuming to be the authority on a topic to tout the iPhone's superiority. Because of that, though I often love the topics, I often find your articles offputting. For me, though I love the iPhone, it makes me want to be adverse to it...though it is certainly in my opinion a great user experience. You make valid points, and it's great to love and favor a device, but you just don't need to take it that far, and I think your articles would be better received and more respected if you didn't.
Objectivity is wonderful; and opinions and preferences are understandable, especially when rationally explained, but really should not be touted as undeniable fact no matter how strongly you may feel about it. It just doesn't come across well or credible to intelligent, informed thinkers.
I like iOS, Android, and webOS, but for a mix of reasons finally switched from my beloved iPhone to the myTouch 4G on T-Mobile. The simplicity of the iPhone posed both functionality and usability issues for me, which finally led to my transition...and it certainly was a transition! I would agree that iOS is simpler but also limiting along with that, while Android is more intricate due to offering more functionality, options, and user control. However, there are numerous things I can do more easily on my myTouch 4G than on my iPhone...not to mention the things it can do that my iPhone simply can't.
In the end, Android (at least for now) is serving me better. And though I don't find Android as polished as iOS, I do find it more capable -- it has the increased functionality I wanted, and for my purposes (productivity power user) its overall usability is higher than my iPhone because I can both do more and do key things more easily and efficiently.

I had an iPhone (3G) for a year and then switched to a plain ole cellphone and then switched to an Android. I own an anroid, I use an android, I like android... the iPhone is more useable.