Paranoid Android

As you will already know, I’ve wanted an iPhone ever since they were first announced. I’m a massive Apple fan, but I’ve never managed to take the iPhone plunge – and the main reason is that the cost has always been an insurmountable obstacle. I’ve had mobile phones for the last ten years, and I’ve never – NEVER – paid more than £15 a month for them. I’ve had Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson handsets, so I’m not particularly brand-loyal. I just can’t bring myself to spend £30 a month (or more) on what is, essentially, just a phone.

However, I was starting to come round to the (fairly obvious) idea that if I wanted the Jesusphone, I’d just have to suck it up and pay the money – there’s really no way round it. I was doing the sums to see how the different plans and upfront handset costs compared in terms of total cost over the life of the contract. The way things stand at present is that all three UK carriers (O2, Vodafone and Orange) offer their cheapest total package for £30 a month, on an 18-month contract. The handset cost for all three is £99, bringing the total to £639. For that princely sum, O2 offer you 100 minutes and unlimited texts, Vodafone give you 75 minutes and 250 texts, and Orange can let you have 150 minutes and 250 texts. Depending on how you like to use your phone (if you’re a texter or a talker) then the choice is really between O2 and Orange (Vodafone don’t seem very competitive in this price bracket).

If, however, you’re looking at the smallest possible monthly outlay, then you need to be looking at O2, as they are the only ones who offer a £25 per month deal. But this is over 24 months, and the handset cost goes up to £149, bringing the total cost of ownership to a massive £749. Doesn’t really seem cost effective to scrimp on that extra fiver a month does it?!

All of these calculations are based on getting the 8GB iPhone 3G, not the 3GS. Clearly if you want the better phone, then you’re looking at between another £100-150 on top. You might think that you could do without the 3GS and live with the 3G, but bearing in mind the announcement about iPhoneOS 4.0 this week, and the fact that the 3G won’t support a lot of the new features, then that more basic phone suddenly doesn’t look like so much of a bargain.

So – you have a lot of decisions to make: how much you want your monthly outlay to be, whether you’re getting the necessary amount of minutes and texts and how much you’re prepared to spend upfront on the handset. For me personally, the £30 18-month contract on O2 would be the sufficient for me, as I don’t make many voice calls but I do text a lot. However, knowing what we now do about OS4.0, I’d have to get the 3GS and not the 3G – so total cost £738. Of course, there’s a new iPhone in the pipeline due to surface in about June or July, so it would probably be prudent to wait until then. Perhaps the 3GS price will become the entry level model and the price will drop, or perhaps the new handset will have some great new design or features that make it a must-have. So what’s a potential iPhone purchaser to do, bearing in mind all these factors?

Let me tell you my current thinking – don’t get an iPhone at all. Get an Android phone instead.

The new HTC Desire is a phone that matches the iPhone on a lot of levels, and in some ways surpasses it. It may not be made by the mighty Apple, but having done the research it seems just as good if not better. For a start the screen on the Desire is a 3.7″ 800×480 pixel AMOLED. Compare that to the iPhone’s 3.5″ 480×320 TFT. The Desire’s camera is 5MP as opposed to the iPhone’s 3MP. The Desire is packing a faster processor and more RAM than the iPhone. Other than that, they both have accelerometers, digital compasses and assisted GPS and are both the same size and weight. Hmm, iPhone – you’re suddenly not looking so clever.

Software-wise, the Android operating system is open-source, customisable and supports true application multitasking out of the box.

However, where the iPhone is, of course, a winner is in regards to its App Store. Yes, there’s an Android Market, but at the moment it’s really not in the same league as Apple’s. But, as it currently stands, all my regularly used apps – WordPress, Evernote, Shazam, eBay, Last.fm, Spotify, Facebook – are already available on Android, with the only exception – Dropbox – being on its way in the coming weeks. What you lose in apps, you make up for in Google integration. As a heavy user of Google’s products – gMail, calendar, contacts, reader, Picasa, Youtube, maps – this is a definite bonus. And with the Android Market expected to increase massively over the next 12 months, I can see the gap between the two offerings becoming much narrower.

And that brings me on to the price – what’s all this talk of Android? Why bother? All things being equal, just get the bloody iPhone. But things are most certainly NOT equal.

If I want my 100 voice minutes, unlimited texts and unlimited internet (as offered by O2) then T-Mobile have quite the tempting offer. The upfront handset cost for the HTC Desire is £164, and then the monthly tariff is either £15 over 18 months, or £10 a month over 24. Total cost over 18 months £434, or £404 over 24 months.

Let me reiterate: 100 minutes, unlimited texts, unlimited internet, 18-month contract. Total cost of ownership for an iPhone 3GS on O2 = £738. HTC Desire on T-Mobile = £434. £164 for the handset upfront as opposed to £249. £15 a month instead of £30. A saving of £304 in total.

As the youth of today like to say – NO BRAINER. Android here I come.

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