iPhone vs. Android
With today's smart phones, you can bring much of your office with you, play games, read books, shop, read and send email, check your calendar, and a ton of other useful and fun things.
But which smart phone best does what you want? Like most of my advice, this is meant for non-geeks.
Apple, of course, makes the iPhone (and iPad). Apple also develops the operating system "iOS" as well that runs on the iPhone and iPad.
Google develops the Android operating system. But there are many makers of phones and tablets that run Android, including Samsung, LG, Motorola, and Sony to name a few.
What to buy
Included here are some screen shots from iPhone and Android phones.
I recommend iPhone to my clients for many reasons. In my opinion, the UI (User Interface) is more polished, coherent, and intuitive. The iPhone has what I consider a more top-down approach to the various menus. Functions are grouped together to facilitate access and are searchable in the settings app.
Android's menu structure is more interconnected. You can reach many settings via several different paths. That might seem like an advantage, but you'll be wondering why you reached a feature "this way" when last time you reached it "that way". It can actually be more confusing.
The iPhone is more "locked-down" than Android models which can help keep users out of trouble from malware. Unless you're a computer geek or experimenter, the locked-down aspect of the iPhone will present absolutely no impediment to your full enjoyment and use.
Which features and specs really matter and which are just marketing hype?
Lots of the features and specifications you see advertised for (especially high-end) mobile phones aren't nearly as important as the manufacturers would have you believe. Here I'll go into the most-hyped features and discuss what you want and what's pointless.
This is one of the more hyped-up specs. For example, the Samsung Galaxy S8 boasts a screen resolution of 2960 x 1440 pixels which yields 570 ppi (pixels per inch) on the smaller 5.8 inch phone. That's a higher resolution that most 23 inch desktop monitors! 570 ppi sounds pretty impressive, right? Makes the Apple iPhone's 326 ppi seem pretty inferior, yes? Except that the human eye, even with perfect vision, cannot resolve (see) individual pixels at densities above roughly 300 ppi at hand-held distances of 12 to 18 inches. That means the iPhone 7's 326 ppi display is just as sharp as the Galaxy S8 display even though it is has less than 1/4 the number of pixels! Those extra pixels on the Galaxy are thus wasted. So why does Samsung do this? Because marketing.
But it's worse than simply having more pixels than necessary. It takes a lot of horsepower to drive a high res screen. The more pixels a display has, the more CPU power it takes to drive it. So a super high res screen needlessly wastes processing power which means battery power -- which is at a premium on a smartphone.
The point and shoot camera megapixel race of the aughts never really died -- it just moved to smartphones. This, too, is a hyped-up spec. Any decent smartphone camera today has sufficient resolution so comparing megapixels is totally pointless. And, actually, higher megapixels can mean more visual "noise" in the picture because fewer photons (particles of light) are hitting each photosite (one pixel in the camera). So you have the irony of a super high-res sensor that's marketed as "better" producing lower quality photos.
Useful (rear) camera specs include an optical zoom (a rarity due to cost), optical image stabilization, and a faster aperture (greater ability to capture light; useful in low-light situations).
The front camera is usually not as high-end since it's mainly used for up-close selfies.
Most flagship phones today have comparable processors. No flagship-level phone is markedly better or worse than any other. The very latest phones tend to have the fastest processors, of course, but the improvements between sequentially adjacent models is more evolutionary than revolutionary. And there's other factors that slow down a phone having nothing to do with the processor. e.g. High traffic on the nearby cell tower.
A bazaar of apps
Both iOS and Android platforms have their respective app stores where you can browse millions of apps. Both app stores are curated with the intention of reducing the likelihood of malware getting in. But Apple does a much better job in this regard. Nearly all smartphone malware is designed for Android. That's because 1) Android is a larger target (more phones run Android than iOS) but also 2) because it's easier to infect Android phones.
Android users should carefully consider the following points before download an app:
Is the app truly useful or just some impulsive desire?
Is it from a known and trusted developer? You may need to Google that first.
Is the app free? Free apps may be more likely to contain malware since there's no payment to dissuade download.
The vast majority of apps on both app stores should be safe, even the free ones. But of the two, the Google Play Store is more likely to contain unsafe apps, however small that likelihood may be. It's not a good idea to obliviously download app after app -- use some discretion.
Android's huge update problem
This is the biggie! There is a HUGE problem updating phones in the Android ecosystem, including critical security-related updates. This problem is sufficient reason all by itself to not buy an Android device. It's such an important topic that I wrote a separate article discussing it. CLICK HERE
What to do with the old phone?
When the time comes to upgrade to a new phone then what to do with the old one? If you have young kids which are used to playing with your phone at restaurants, etc. then here's a chance for you to have a second phone (with no cellular service and no monthly cost) to dedicate to your kid for playing puzzles and games, etc, to keep them entertained -- and quiet. Kids should not be playing with their parents "real" phone. MORE HERE
You can also sell it on sites like swappa.com or gazelle.com. And that's another reason to favor the iPhone -- they hold their value much better than comparable Android models. If you like to get a new phone every year or two and sell the old one, you'll recoup more money with the iPhone and it'll sell faster.
For example, as of this writing, the iPhone 7 is selling on Swappa for roughly twice the amount as the Samsung Galaxy S7. These were both released in 2016 and each is one model year old.
On Swappa, sales are person-to-person and you set the price. Swappa is just the facilitator. If someone likes your price then they may buy it. On Gazelle, you are selling directly to Gazelle (not the buyer) who then resells on their site. Gazelle makes an offer and you can accept it or not. Each of these services have their pros and cons. For what it's worth, I use Swappa because I make more money.
What to buy
Very few people are phone geeks. To most people, the phone is a tool to get a job done -- be that real work, playing a game, watching a video, whatever. They don't particularly care about the arcana of smartphones and aren't interested in dissecting all its various functions. For those folks, I the recommend the iPhone -- both for its own significant merits discussed above and in light of Android's update problem.
Here we'll discuss Apple's current lineup, the iPhone 8 and X.
iPhone 8 and 8 Plus
Size: Like the iPhone 7 that came before, the iPhone 8 comes in two sizes: The 8 has a 4.7 inch screen and the 8 Plus has a 5.5 inch screen. The 8 Plus is really big and often needs both hands to operate. I don't recommend unless you watch a lot of video or frequently show pictures to people. The Plus adds $100.
Storage: You can choose 64 GB or 256 GB. If you shoot a lot of video or pictures, or download a lot of apps (especially games) then choose the 256 GB model. Otherwise 64 GB is sufficient. The 256 GB option adds $150.
Colors: Space Gray, Silver, and Gold. Color has no effect on cost.
iPhone X 8 Plus 8
Apple also released a newly designed iPhone that's nearly all screen, called the "iPhone X" (said as "iPhone 10"). It comes in one physical size and costs a cool grand for the 64 GB version and $1150 for the 256 GB version. The X, with its narrow bezels,
is only slightly larger than the regular 8 but the screen is actually larger than the 8 Plus.
The screen is OLED and supports HDR. If you're a photo or video geek, HDR is a pretty cool feature. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. Without getting in the nitty details, HDR means darker darks, lighter lights, and a wider luminosity for colors. This is also the next big thing for TV sets and more important than 4K, in my opinion.