David Goldman is a managing editor for CNN Business, overseeing coverage of markets, companies, strategy and business leaders. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own.
Since 2007, Apple has made the best, most popular smartphone on the planet. The company is expected to launch the new-and-improved iPhone 12 this week, and you can be assured it’ll come with the Apple-approved “it just works” experience Steve Jobs fought for.
In many ways, the iPhone is like a Toyota (TM) Camry, a machine that offers familiarity and reliability over fun, productivity, speed, performance, innovation and futuristic features.That’s not a bad thing. The Camry is a good car, and Toyota sells boatloads of them every year to people who just want to get from point A to point B, without having to worry about what this button does or what driving mode they should switch to or whether their car is going to melt down while they’re stuck in rush hour traffic. The iPhone 12 will be no different. It will probably have some snazzier features — perhaps better cameras, 5G connectivity and a high-refresh-rate screen. Even with a light redesign, some different colors and a snappier processor, it’s still going to have that familiar iPhone look and feel, complete with the same iOS software experience we’ve grown accustomed to for 13 years.What Android gets right that the iPhone gets so wrongBut there’s more to a phone than playing it safe. Funny enough, Apple (AAPL) had that same message in 1984 when it demonstrated how the upstart Mac would show the dominant PC business what it was missing. Read MoreWith phones that run the competing Android operating system, you’ve got far more options. You want a Ferrari? You can get a Samsung Note20 Ultra 5G, a $1,300 phone that has the top-of-the-line everything — a quad-HD screen with a super-high-refresh rate, up to 512 GB of storage with a truly insane 12 GB of RAM, a 108 megapixel camera and an onboard pen.Are you more in a position to buy a Honda Fit because money is tight? No prob. You can buy an entry-level Moto G for $169 that has trimmed-down features, but has all the essentials on a budget. Maybe you want a convertible? Try out a Microsoft (MSFT) Surface Duo, a Z Fold or Razr, which all fold in half. And if you’re into flashy looks, there are some seriously cool-looking phones, including the OnePlus 8 in the “interstellar glow” color, which produces a stunning rainbow effect when you hold it in the light.Seriously, there’s an Android for everything. The Asus ROG Phone 3 is the ultimate gaming machine, complete with RGB color-changing lights (it wouldn’t be gaming hardware without them) and a 144 Hz display. For photographers, the Sony Xperia 1 II has pro camera controls, and the Google (GOOGL) Pixel 5 looks like it will maintain the best-camera crown that earlier Pixel models earned.The BlackBerry is coming backAndroid phone makers even design the equivalent of concept cars, such as when Amazon put a no-glasses-required 3D screen on the Fire Phone or when Huawei put a freaking scale in the Mate S’ screen. LG’s WING phone has two screens right on top of one another, and the top screen turns 90 degrees to give you a second screen. Wild.And this may come as a shock to some Americans, but many people prefer Android’s software experience to iOS (IDC forecasts about 85% of smartphones across the globe run Android this year). Sure, there’s no FaceTime or iMessage on Android. But Google Messages has gained iMessage-like features, and Google’s video chat app, Google Duo, is no slouch.Google Assistant is far more capable than Siri. The way Android handles notifications leaves iOS in the dust. And Android is significantly more customizable than iOS, allowing you to tailor your phone to your personality and needs. It’s true — Apple makes different versions of the iPhone, just like Toyota makes various Camry trims. You can get the “everything standard” iPhone 11 for $699 — a reasonable price, just like the Camry LE. You can get a tricked-out Pro version, like the Camry XSE, for $999. Or, if you want something used, for about $399 you can pick up an iPhone SE– kind of like buying a 2018 Camry with low mileage. But the iPhone is designed for everyone. You can find an Android phone that feels like it was designed for you.