A question I get a lot is which mobile phone I would recommend to my clients. This may seem strange at first that someone would ask their IT consultant, but considering how integral it can be to one’s business and overall communications, it’s a legitimate question to ask.
I read daily that Google’s Android mobile is growing in market share in leaps and bounds, surpassing the iPhone and even the BlackBerry. But is it the best mobile device for you or your business?
Google and Apple are now the market leaders of smartphones, but they have very different business models. Apple, adhering to its own policy of controlling the user experience from start to finish, has a restricted marketplace that requires that applications pass through a testing process before being available for purchase through iTunes. On the other hand, Android allows a user to run anything developed for it, no matter the source. And therein lies the problem. Without a strict QA process, malicious software easily infiltrates Android devices, to the point where 63% of malware discovered last quarter was on Android devices. Android’s other major issue is a phenomenon the industry refers to as “hardware fragmentation”. A more detailed description of the problem and how it applies to Android devices is available here -> http://bit.ly/tVI9gh. That being said, Google’s Android phones are great for the tech-savvy who love the ability to do whatever they want – much like the kind of user who chooses Linux over Windows or OS X. The cameras on current-generation Android smartphones are also noticeably superior to those on the iPhone or BlackBerry.
The old standard of BlackBerry for the business place has lost a lot of traction due to RIM’s failure to keep up with the market for apps, and the notoriously painful BES (BlackBerry Enterprise Server) which, among other things, links the devices to Microsoft Exchange server to deliver email and offer other security options like remote wipe (allowing you to completely erase the device of all personal information and content in the event of a lost or stolen phone). The iPhone has this remote wipe feature out of the box with current firmware, and the Google Android phones have the feature available via third-party applications – but both without the need of expensive or clunky middleware. Then there was not one but two major BlackBerry services outages that affected the entire world this year for considerable periods. As a form of apology, the company offered customers free stuff, but it may be too little too late for many. The advantages of the BlackBerry though are not to be understated. They have put a lot of effort into the security of the devices, attaining security ratings that no others yet enjoy. The tactile keyboard is great, and BlackBerry messenger (BBM) alone is enough of a reason for some to sign right up. Their application pool is growing but is nothing compared to Android or iPhone.
The iPhone itself has a problems of its own. Complaints of shortened battery life plagued the 4s for a long time after launch (reported to be fixed with latest updates). The iPhone 4 similarly had antenna problems that Apple downplayed initially. And there is always the issue of screens cracking when dropped (though this isn’t typically a problem for those of us who have protective cases). As mentioned above, the iPhone app marketplace is strictly controlled, which for the very tech-savvy consider too restrictive. And the hardware itself is not user-serviceable, so is not an attractive option for tinkerers. Contrasting that is a massive marketplace of applications, tools and games, an active developer community, a company that is serious about streamlined experiences, and the intangible “cool factor” that goes along with Apple products.
Honorable mention goes to the Windows 7 phone, Microsoft’s relatively new entry into the smartphone market. Reviews are pretty good, but market share is quite low. Microsoft has had a rocky past when it comes to mobile devices. Time will tell whether their device will stick around.
Personally, I own an iPhone 4. I came from the BlackBerry world initially, frankly because the company I worked for required one. When my contract ran out I immediately chose the iPhone 4 because at the time, it was light years ahead of their competition with its high-resolution retina display. Since then, more advanced and faster competing phones have come available but I actually enjoy the fact that I don’t have to tinker with my phone to make things work. Past unpleasant experiences with both BlackBerry and Android have soured them for me, but I can certainly see the draw.
In my dealings with clients and even mobile solutions providers and other IT consulting firms, I frequently hear them express frustration with Android and BlackBerry and wishing they (or their clients) could “just get an iPhone”. That being said, personal preference rules, and company policy rules above all when selecting a phone. Weigh your options and see which feature set will best fit your needs and select your smartphone accordingly.
There’s not really a wrong answer, but it has a large impact as a piece of the overall IT infrastructure picture.