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Why I use an Android phone

A FRIEND who is the proud owner of the original first-generation iPhone likes to rag me from time to time about Android users who have a hate-on for Apple.

An Apple user through and through (he uses an iMac desktop, a MacBook Pro, an iPad Air and an iPhone 6), he believes that the company Steve Jobs built makes superior products and admits that he is perfectly happy in the walled garden in which they exist.

If he reads this, he will likely laugh and say, “E tu, Brutus?”

So let me quickly get one thing out of the way: I don’t hate Apple.

In fact, I have been a satisfied user of Mac laptops for a number of years, and love how thoughtfully the hardware is put together, and how most things just work on OS X.

On the other hand, I have never been a fan of the iPhone or the iPad because both devices are significantly more closed off from the rest of the world than the Mac. This garden within the walls that Apple built around its iOS devices might be really cool and wonderful—but I like to get out once in a while.

And that’s the main reason I use an Android phone instead of an iPhone—I don’t like restrictions.

OS X doesn’t stop me from installing free and open source software such as LibreOffice or Gimp, and I don’t even have to go through its App Store to get these onto my MacBook Air. That’s cool. What isn’t cool is that on an iPad or iPhone, the only way you can get software is through App Store, which Apple unabashedly censors.

It makes sense, of course, to vet apps to make sure they run properly on your device; it is altogether something else to censor them for other, non-technical reasons.

Just this month, the company purged all American civil war games featuring the Confederate flag, then backpedaled by reinstating those that did not include the flag in their icons or screen shots. In 2013, Apple removed an iPad game from its App Store called Sweatshop, worried perhaps that people might make a connection to reports that workers in the factories of its contractors in China were killing themselves from overwork. In another documented case of censorship that same year, Apple compelled the company Treehouse to remove a chapter on Android from its technical education app before allowing it into the App Store.

Android, too, has an official app store called Google Play, but Android does not stop you from installing applications from other sources, such as a developer’s website or a third-party app store. There are risks to this approach, to be sure, but the choice is ultimately yours to make.

Another reason I use an Android phone is that it costs less, even though the hardware specs are comparable. The cheapest iPhone 6 lists for almost P36,000. You wouldn’t need to pay that much for an Android phone with comparable specs because there’s a lot more competition among multiple manufacturers.

Which brings me to the third reason I use Android—variety.

With so many manufacturers making Android phones, there’s a wide range of hardware from which to choose. In contrast, Apple releases two new models a year—not much of a choice.

In the Android world, you get to choose from many competing brands to find a model with the design, size and the specs you need. The choice extends to price. Can’t afford a high-end phone? Drop down to a lower-priced model or brand.

After using Samsung phones for a few years, I switched to a Sony Xperia not only because I liked its design and specs, but simply because I felt like a change.

My last reason for using Android is that it fits my fondness for tweaking and customizing systems. I do that a lot on my Linux desktop and my MacBook Air, and I don’t see any reason I shouldn’t be able to do it on my phone.

On an Android phone, you can easily replace any of the default apps with those of your own choosing. In fact, one of the first things I did on my newest phone was to change the default keyboard, the messaging app and the browser. The Android system makes this kind of customization very easy.

As I was writing this column, I read that Apple will release an Android app to help users migrate their data from their Android devices to iOS. It is a curious one-way portal into Apple’s walled garden and as intriguing as it sounds, I think I’ll pass. I’m not ready to give up my freedom for the golden handcuffs of iOS. Chin Wong

 

Column archives and blog at: http://www.chinwong.com

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