Apple iPhones are expensive. You either pay a lot for the phone or you pay less than a lot and make up the difference by paying a lot for a contract with a carrier.
Starting our fourth decade: Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously online for 30 years


Advantages of a non-Apple phone or tablet

February 17, 2013

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2013, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2013, The Post-Standard

Android, Apple's main competitor for the way phones and tablets operate, has many advantages over iOS (the iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch operating system). But that might not matter. Let me explain.

Android tablets and phones are not locked into Apple's grandma-knows-best ecosystem. Android developers can make any apps they want, of any kind, without getting permission from Granny. There are just as many Android apps as Apple ones.

We probably could all agree that more than, say, 50,000 apps is too many. Guess what? We're talking about 700,000 or more apps here, so there's no point arguing about how many apps are in one camp or the other. And Android apps get updates just like Apple apps.

Android phones generally work fine. A modern Samsung, HTC, Nexus or Motorola phone can be just as good as an iPhone. (There are hundreds of other brands, too.) The point to remember is simply that designing and building a modern smartphone -- in other words, an iPhone class phone -- is not rocket science. Apple has no secrets. Android phone makers are just as well informed as Apple is.

Apple iPhones are expensive. You either pay a lot for the phone or you pay less than a lot and make up the difference by paying a lot for a contract with a carrier.

Some Android phones can be just as expensive, and you can buy them the same two ways. But many Android phones cost much less than an iPhone -- $100 or so for a cheap Android phone compared with $650 for a non-carrier ("unlocked") iPhone. So the difference here is that you can't get a bargain with an iPhone, but you can indeed with Android.

But we have to consider the benefits of Apple's ecosystem. It includes features some people can't live without -- easy syncing of all the data (contacts, numbers, appointments and all that) between an iPhone and another device, for example. That's a nice feature. Android phones can do that, too, but Apple probably does it best. If you absolutely need that, you need an iPhone, end of story.

But if you don't need that, an iPhone might be an unnecessary expense. It doesn't last longer or send a signal farther or thrill your friends more when it's in your pocket. It just costs a lot for a cool design. Period. (If the "coolness" factor is important, take a look at one of Samsung's top-of-the-line phones. I think they're cool, too.)

If you have a carrier you are pleased with and you're considering an Android phone instead of an iPhone, ask what Android phones it offers. But do this only if you are pleased with your carrier's service and policies.

If you're not, you should also consider a much cheaper alternative to a locked-in contract. One of the companies offering no-contract service is Straight Talk. I've been using Straight Talk for a few months with no complaints or problems.

It works this way. You buy the phone -- I bought a modern Android smartphone for $100 -- and pay for the service separately. Because Straight Talk doesn't pad the cost of monthly service with an attempt to recoup the cost of a phone, you pay a low monthly fee. My plan costs $45 a month for unlimited voice, messages and Internet connections.

Straight Talk is a service of Walmart. Go to a Walmart store for more information.

As for tablets, the iPad is very nice. I love mine, I really do. But it's also caught in the Apple ecosystem, and you pay for it. I have some Android tablets that are very nice, also, and much cheaper than the iPad. Probably the best Android tablet at this time is the Google Nexus. There are two models, the Nexus 7 (7-inch wide screen) and the Nexus 10 (10-inch, etc). Stores sell them, or you can buy direct from Google. (Do a search for NEXUS 7 ORDERING INFO or something like that.)

A Nexus 7 costs about $200. The cheapest iPad, the mini, never discounted, is $330. They are the same basic size., although the Nexus has a wide screen and is therefore not as awkward to hold. (You should be able to cup it in your hand, something you almost surely can't do with an iPad mini.) The Nexus 10 is $400, $100 less than the full-size iPad. All these prices go up if you specify extra storage.

Walmart and Best Buy sell the Nexus at physical stores, if you don't want to order over the Internet. Apple stores sell the iPad.