2013 iPhone buyers guide: How to choose between the iPhone and other phones, including Samsung Galaxy, HTC One, Moto X, Nexus, Nokia Lumia, BlackBerry, and more!
Apple has released the brand new, top-of-the-line, flagship iPhone 5s and less-expensive, colorfully fun iPhone 5c. But is either of them the right phone for you? While everyone here at iMore certainly believes the iPhone is still the best phone for most people, most of the time, we're lucky that every major platform now has one or more great phones for us to choose from as well. The iPhone may have the best overall user experience, the highest quality apps and games, the widest range of services, the biggest selection of accessories, and the best customer support, but there are also things the iPhone doesn't offer that other phones do, like much larger screens, physical keyboards, high power cameras, greater hardware options, or simply no Apple about them. How do you know which one is for you? Keep reading!
Apple prioritized iPhone user experience from the get-go. It didn't have as many features as other phones of the time, but it had an interface that made every other phone look obsolete by comparison. From slide to unlock to pinch and zoom, it became a mainstream sensation. Over time, Apple's built on that with everything from FaceTime for incredibly easy video calls to Siri for incredibly engaging voice control. A lot of other companies throw a lot more features at the wall, hoping something sticks. Apple's focus on the best, more coherent, most usable features. iOS 7 makes it even better. They re-built the entire interface on top of a game-style physics and particle engine, so it's even more discoverable, playful, and powerful than ever before.
Plus, with the new iPhone 5s, you get Touch ID, a breakthrough fingerprint scanner that lets you unlock your iPhone and buy from the App Store and iTunes Store without having to enter any long, difficult passwords. Simply touch your finger to the Home button and you're in. And it can recognize up to 5 distinct fingerprints!
Apple is neck-in-neck when it comes to sheer number of items in the App Store, but they're still way ahead when it comes to the quality of items in the App Store. Sure, every platform has more than its fair share of junk, but the best of the App Store is still unmatched. There's a simple reason for that: Early iOS developers came from the very design-centric, experience-centric Mac developer community. That set the bar very high. Likewise, some of the biggest and best gaming franchises came to the iPhone early, and still come to the iPhone first. While you can get a lot of name brand apps on multiple platforms now, many of the boutique apps are still iOS exclusive, including Tweetbot, Fantastical, Drafts, Screens, Twitterrific, Vesper, Launch Center Pro, Infinity Blade, Tiny Wings, Letterpress, and more. That's not even including Apple's own apps, some of the best in mobile, like GarageBand, and iMovie. Other platforms are attaining breadth. iOS has kept ahead on depth.
When you get an iPhone, not only do you get instant access to all of Apple's great services, like iCloud backups, and iTunes in the Cloud re-downloads, but you also get access to pretty much all of Google and Microsoft/Nokia's best services - like Gmail, Google Maps, Chrome, Google Drive, Google+, Hangouts, Outlook, SkyDrive, Bing, Skype, Here Maps, and BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) coming soon, and to the best third party services like Dropbox, Box, Spotify, Songza, Pandora, Netflix, Amazon Kindle and video, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, and many more. Apple doesn't offer their stuff on any other phones, but almost everybody offers everything on iPhone.
From protective to decorative cases, to macro and wide-angle camera lenses, the choice of iPhone accessories remains the best of any phone on the market. Part of that is due to the iPhones popularity. Part of that is due to Apple releasing new designs only once every couple years, and keeping designs on the shelf for 3-4 years. That means accessory makers can sell the same accessory for a lot of phones, for a long time, which is the best thing in the world for them - and for iPhone owners. Instead of worrying about making something for a wide range of phones, they can concentrate on making a wide range of things for the iPhone. No matter what kind of case you want, what capacity battery charger, what kind of photo mount or lens, what type of Bluetooth accessory, chances are you won't only find it, you'll find several different options to choose from.
If you have an Apple Retail Store near you, there's no point choosing any other phone. Apple will not only sell you an iPhone, but they'll help you set it up and show you how to use it, give you free lessons on all the main features. More importantly, if anything goes wrong, they'll fix it for you or swap it for a new phone, usually while you wait. You can make a Genius Bar appointment, walk in with a broken iPhone, and thanks to Apple customer service and iCloud, walk out half and hour later with a replacement phone containing all of your stuff, that's essentially a clone of the one you walked in with. No one else comes close to matching Apple's level of customer service. Appallingly, no one else even tries.
Even though the iPhone's user experience is unmatched, the app, accessory, and services unequaled, and the customer service the best in the business, there's still more you may need. That's where iMore comes in. We'll help you get used to your new iPhone, help you figure out which are the best apps, accessories, and services for you, and help show you all the things you can do with it, like photography, music, and more. And when you're ready, we'll help you upgrade to your next phone. Whether you keep up with us on the web, with our iPhone app, or via RSS, Twitter, App.net, Facebook, Google+iMore, YouTube, or iTunes, or some other way, you'll quickly find out the iPhone doesn't only come with great stuff, it comes with a great community!
If you want a phone that just works, and that has all the great user experience, app and game, accessory and services, customer support and iMore community benefits, then the iPhone is for you. It's smaller than many competitors these days, doesn't have a hardware keyboard, and there's no giant camera bolted on, but it remains the single best phone in the world at what it does, and what it does it does very, very well.
Unless you have a very specific set of requirements or use cases that make something else a better option for you - see below - get an iPhone. You'll be glad you did.
If you absolutely need a bigger screen, anything from 4.3-inches all the way up to 6-inch "phablets", you should get Android instead. Apple probably won't make any iPhone that size until 2014 at the earliest, so if you need something between a phone and a tablet, and can't afford both, or if you need something that emphasizes the computing device more than the mobile phone aspect, you'll have to go elsewhere. Both the 4.7-inch HTC One and the ironically named 4.3-inch HTC Mini are great phones with excellent build quality. Samsung isn't quite as well made, but the 5-inch Galaxy S4 and the 6-inch Galaxy Mega are extremely popular and very large respectively. Google's Moto X provides a big screen in a small package and includes highly customizable back plates. LG's Nexus is the best option for those who want a big screen and a stock Android experience.
If a physical keyboard and a focus on communications above everything else are a deal-breaker for you, then Apple's iPhone will never fit your needs. BlackBerry, however, is phenomenal at hardware keyboards. They also rebooted their operating system, bringing them fully into the era of modern smartphone. The BlackBerry Q10 is currently the latest, greatest high-end keyboard BlackBerry. The BlackBerry Q5 is lower-end but still terrifically tactile. If you simply insist on being old school, a few BlackBerry 7 devices remain on the market as well.
Windows Phones come in a variety of screen sizes and price points, and all run Microsoft's elegant Metro (sticking with it!) interface and experience. The biggest reason to go with Windows Phone - literally - is the amazing camera available on the Lumia 1020. It's almost like they grafted a dedicated point-and-shoot onto the body of a phone. It's also got a big screen and some of the best build quality in the business.
If you're still not sure about the iPhone 5s or iPhone 5c - or even the still-on-the-market iPhone 4S! - jump into our iPhone discussion forums and the best community in mobile will happily help you out. If you're not sure in general, head on over to your local big box or carrier show and ask to try them out. Don't settle for dummy phones, ask to use demo units, and ask a lot of questions. Then dive into Android Central, Windows Phone Central, and CrackBerry and the experts there will help you make a final, fantastic decision.