The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Getting down with the Android and iOS

While Microsoft has been making noise about its upcoming Windows 8 operating system, Android and iOS are still the big players in town. If you’re getting a new tablet or smartphone, you’ll likely be choosing between one of these two. While there’s no shortage of devices you can play with on either side, here’s a quick overview at what each system does well, and what it doesn’t.

iOS, designed by Apple, powers the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. It’s well-regarded for its good looks and ease of use, and holds the dominant share of the tablet market. Although it has recently been losing ground to Android in the smartphone market, its development remains as strong as ever.

If you own an Apple product already, iOS is probably your best bet. Apple devices unsurprisingly work best with others of their kind, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the app market. By all estimates, there are over half a million apps in the App Store, many of which have equivalents on full-fledged Macs. For example, the DayOne journaling app can use Dropbox or iCloud to sync your data between a Mac, iPad, and/or an iPhone.

To take advantage of this, you’ll have to invest in Apple’s way of doing things. That means using Apple products, buying Apple apps, and following the rules. It’s something you should be decidedly conscious of for the future. Once you begin using Apple products, you put yourself at a substantial disadvantage if you ever want to switch.

Keep in mind that while Apple’s products are easy to use, they’re highly inflexible. iOS has no way to manage files, meaning that doing any real schoolwork on an iOS device can be tricky at best. Although several applications try to provide a workaround to this limitation (iFiles is an excellent example), they’re far clumsier than what you can do with a good Android device.

Compared with their Apple brethren, Android devices typically boast far more powerful hardware, and they’re far more versatile on the whole. In exchange, they sport a far more unfinished look—sometimes, positively childish. With more recent releases, Android has become a far more polished product—but one with many kinks still to be worked out.

If you’re willing to put in a bit of legwork, however, Android devices give you far more control over your device. File management on an Android smartphone or tablet is almost the same as you’d find on a desktop; fire up a file manager of your choice (one popular one is the free Astro file manager), and you can copy, rename, and open files with relative ease.

The applications you’re allowed are far more versatile. Unlike their iOS counterparts, programs you download from the Google Play store can actually replace their default counterparts. If you don’t like the built-in texting app, download a new one. The same goes for browsers, e-mail clients—even the default skins and launchers. It’s a far cry from iOS, where you have to jailbreak your device to make the simplest of changes.

Fan favorite apps such as Angry Birds, QuickOffice, Documents to Go, and so on are readily available for both Android and iOS devices. However, apps designed for Android tablets tend to be few and far between, especially when compared to those available for the iPad. Unlike the iPad, however, Android tablets do a reasonably good job of making phone apps “look” like a tablet application.

It’s worth noting that owners of the new iPad will find themselves in a similar situation. At present, most apps have not updated for the newer, higher-resolution display. While they theoretically look no different from apps on an iPad 2, the difference is starkly noticeable after a few days with native apps.

In both cases, you’ll find a number of silly restrictions. Android smartphones in particular are often restricted in one way or another by carriers, and Apple devices have Apple itself to thank. You can get around them (by rooting an Android device, or jailbreaking an iOS machine), but both tasks can be pretty risky.

Personally, I would recommend Android if you’re willing to put in some work fine-tuning. For an out of the box experience (or if you already own their products), go with Apple.

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