Before Apple emerged nine years ago with their iconic iPhone, it was the wireless carriers who had all of the power. It was the carriers who determined which device manufacturers they would work with and which features would be included, or not on their supported devices. Each carrier had proprietary "Bloatware" that the carriers required to be added. Motorola's MotoBlur in particular would drive me crazy.
A funny thing happened. IBM designed the first SmartPhone, the "Simon". Unfortunately, this device was way before it's time. It was enormous, had awful battery life and was before high speed internet capabilities. A few years later Blackberry and PALM came out with the first of what we now refer to as "SmartPhones". Both of these brands became very popular. Blackberry for its Qwerty keyboard and encrypted and very secure e-mail platform. PALM had the brilliant scheduling application. contact management and easy an interface.
NOKIA and Motorola had been the biggest manufacturers of traditional cellphones. Motorola's "StarTAC" was revolutionary for it's small flip design. NOKIA then introduced the best SmartPhone that nobody knew about. The NOKIA E-61 was made out of Aluminum and did everything a BlackBerry would do because it actually had BlackBerry technology built-in. It also had state-of-the-art features like wifi dialing, SIP trunking, Speech to text technology and a lot more. Unfortunately, Cingular wireless did not want to offer many of these features to their subscribers and never supported this model, nor did any other US carrier. Instead, Cingular required NOKIA to remove the cool stuff and then offered the resulting stripped down version of the E-61, known as the E-62.
The NOKIA E61 was awesome in almost every respect. It was durable. It came in a gorgeous anodized aluminum casing and had a great qwerty keypad. It utilized the Symbian operating system which was a good one. What doomed this model was the confusing navigation menu and the fact that Cingular, AT&T, Sprint and Verizon were not very interested in this device. NOKIA came out with some subsequent models that boasted great cameras but never got anywhere with these models in the US, as with their traditional models
Google's Android and Apple's iPhone then gradually took over the market. Apple did what NOKIA and Motorola could not do. They showed the carriers that it was not all about FREE phones. The public was willing to pay full pop for great devices. AT&T saw this and signed a five year exclusive agreement with Apple. This agreement caused AT&T's network to fail from over congestion in many major markets. People would buy iPhones and begrudgingly sign up for AT&T's service as there were no other options, if you wanted an iPhone. After five years, Apple wisely brought their iPhone to Verizon, then Sprint and finally, even T-Mobile. Without their previous exclusive, there was a mass exodus from AT&T to Verizon and later, the other carriers.
Meanwhile in the Android camp, Sprint was the first carrier to introduce 4G in the US. They did it in partnership with Clearwire and the offering was called 4G WiMAX. Yes, the speeds were greater than any 3G options at the time. Unfortunately, while Sprint launched WiMAX, all of the other carriers chose a newer, soon to be launched 4G standard appropriately known as 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE). This is today's de-facto global data standard as 2G EDGE was last decade's de-facto data standard. Sprint's huge selling device was the HTC "EVO". While amazingly featured, the problem with this device was mediocre battery management.
While Google's Android platform was good, it presented many problems. Unlike Apple, there were over a dozen device manufacturers. Each carrier requested their own proprietary interface (Bloatware) that often could not be removed and slowed down performance. This made it even tougher when there were software issues that needed to be addressed.
Apple's Guaranteed Software Upgrades... Unfortunately, not all of the manufacturers push out software updates in a timely fashion. Several do and others don't. The other problem was many of the older Android models were not even supported with these upgrades. Compare that to Apple who just provided iOS 10 support to models like the 5, and 5c which are 4 years old. That meant a longer life cycle for Apple iPhones than comparable Android models.
Best Hardware and Software Support... Anyone who has purchased a Samsung NOTE 7 can tell you about why having thousands of retail stores globally can be a major asset to consumers. The original Note 7 models are exploding. The new, improved safe version is still exploding, and folks who bought these devices are left with just the carriers to deal with these problem. If Samsung had a store network like Apple, this would have been an easy exchange scenario. Apple's iOS 10 runs smoother and more reliably because Apple iPhones are exclusively made by Apple for their iOS.
Applications are better, safer, and less of a threat. Face the facts, Apple has the lionshare of business and if you are an Ap developer, they are your primary market as that is where the real money is. Apple is stricter with their Ap development tools and rules which help protect their users from malware, viruses, and other bad experiences. At one point, it is thought that over 80% of the flashlight aps in the Android Play Store were infected with Malware, or requested personal information that should never have been required for a flashlight application.
Before, the biggest differences between Apple and Android were you got a much bigger screen, faster processor, bigger memory capacity, and more camera megapixels per dollar with Android. Now that Apple has caught up on screen size, power, waterproofing and other features, it's more about cost these days. Yes, it is still possible to pay top dollar for some of the Samsung and Google products, there are many Chinese and Korean made devices that are good quality but a fraction of the price of the "big boys".
That being said, if you really hate Apple and want an Android, Google's new Pixel model is the safest bet. That's because, Google pushes out software updates for themselves much faster than any of the other equipment manufacturers. This model does look extremely impressive spec-wise, and Verizon has already signed on to officially offer it. I'm guessing that it will also be offered to consumers as an unlocked option for the other networks.
Apple is still in the drivers seat and is slowly catching up to all of the razzle dazzle features that Google has debuted. It appears that the iPhone 8 expected to launch on September of 2017 will be the 10th anniversary game changing wonder phone that we have all been waiting for. In the interim, grab yourself an interim solution and wait this one out. There has never been a better time to grab an iPhone 6, or 6s with the newest iOS10 at a great price.
Joel Saltzman has over twenty years of wireless industry experience. He is currently CEO and Chief Wireless Analyst for Dr Wireless.