Photographers might argue over Canon vs. Nikon, but with mobile technology playing an increasing role in photography it's Apple vs. Google that is becoming the more relevant debate. I've personally thought for a while that Google's Android system is better than Apple's iOS. Earlier versions were poor but it is now slick, beautifully designed, stable and flexible. There are though some apps that are still only available on iOS, and the camera on the iPhone is still generally accepted to be as good if not better than the best from Samsung and HTC. So where should a photographer invest at upgrade time?
(Apologies to Microsoft and Blackberry fans, I haven't as yet tried either system so won't attempt to comment on them).
I've been using a Nexus 4 (manufactured by LG) for nearly 2 years and it has been generally very good. It's responsive, a nice size and has an excellent screen. But it's camera is average at best. My wife has an old iPhone 4S that she doesn't use so I decided to give it a try to see how they compare.
Is it a fair comparison? I updated the Nexus 4 to the latest version of Android (Lollipop) and the 4S to iOS 8, so they are both running the very latest software. The iPhone is older, but it was a more expensive purchase. Against the cost argument though, Apple hardware seems to retain it's value much better than most.
This is what I thought I'd miss most from Android:
- Google Now
- Swipe keyboard
- The notification light on the front of the phone. It's convenient to be able to glance at the phone to see if you've received any new notifications.
- Dedicated back button
They are all good features, especially Google Now which has become increasingly impressive. But I can't say that I've missed them much, and I can add Google Now and new keyboards to the iPhone anyway.
One thing that I do miss that I wasn't expecting though is Google Keep. A simple and fast notes app that syncs between all devices and is accessible in a browser. I had assumed that there would be plenty of beautifully designed alternatives on iOS but apparently not. I don't want to pay for offline notes (Evernote) and OneNote seems too large and slow for my needs. Vesper looks nice but with no desktop option. So to my surprise I've started using the simplistic built-in Notes app, although I'm also about to give Day One a try.
Google have done a great job with Lollipop and their 'material design' style. It's simple, consistent and looks great. So why am I now using an iPhone?
The camera is the main reason. With the Nexus I would take occasional 'behind the scenes' shots, but very few photos that I'd really want to keep. The iPhone shots are a clear step up in quality. The hardware just feels so well put together too. Admittedly I've never used a flagship HTC One or Sony phone so they may well be comparable. I like the Notifications Center in iOS 8 and I'm enjoying the Hipstamatic camera app in particular too.
It will be interesting to see what Android app developers can do now that Google have apparently enabled access to the RAW files in Android, and whether Nokia can create a great Android phone. But for now the old iPhone will do me fine.