Many people have been asking themselves the toughest question of all: iPhone 5 or Samsung Galaxy S III? The smartphone design and manufacturer is important. But oh so more critical is the operating system you choose: iOS or Android. There are so many similarities in the two operating systems that now the lawyers are getting rich — but there is a major factor to consider that you may not be thinking about as you hone in on your final decision:

Platforms matter. They really do.

When you get an iPhone, one of the first things it asks you during setup is to create an iCloud account. What, you don’t have one? You probably do and just don’t realize it. Did you ever create a .mac email address back in the day? If so, you have an iCloud account. If not, what is iCloud you ask? Well, iCloud is Apple’s attempt at a mostly free cloud storage service. Kinda like Dropbox for all your Apple-related content. iCloud is really fantastic if you have multiple Apple devices. With iCloud you can sync your email, contacts, calendar, and even more important, your apps and iTunes media across all your iOS devices and Macs. You never really leave home without access to those trashy reality shows you bought on iTunes.

When you setup your new Galaxy S III one of the first questions it throws out at you is what is your Gmail address? LIke iPhone, Android revolves heavily around Google’s services. And of course, Google helped invent the cloud and what it’s become over the years. So once you type your Gmail address, you will be able to sync all your Google services, including email, contacts, calendar, and Google Drive and Play. Similar to iPhone, you can sync all your media purchased or rented through the Play marketplace.

The gotcha: This is where platform matters. If you mix and match, a la having Mac computers at home, a Windows laptop at work and an Android device like the Galaxy, you’re potentially gonna miss out on what a closed platform brings you. You can’t listen to or watch your iTunes media on an Android device. You can use third-party apps to access your Play media on iPhone, but it’s not a stellar experience. The Gmail app on iPhone is a much different experience than it is on Android. And of course, do we really need to talk about maps on both platforms? It’s a different experience.

As each company reaches for more marketshare, they are closing their ecosystems even more. To be successful, they’re going to need to offer experiences that compel customers to want to commit to one ecosystem. A truly “open” platform is no longer possible. You’re going to have to choose and deal with the consequences. The experience when you’re on one or the other is optimal — it diminishes a bit when you mix and match.

At the end of that day, you may consider important features such as screen size, battery life, ease of use, and more. However, you also need to think about the platform and what it means for you and how you use your device. If you like access to your data and your content across multiple devices, you may need to make a platform decision before you make a smartphone choice.

About the Author:

Brandon Carson

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Visit Brandon's page at http://www.brandonwcarson.com

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