In the past year, the smartphone market has become extremely diluted and it can be very hard for someone who is new to smartphones to make a decision on what their next purchase will be, albeit it isn't even easy for some of us cellphone fiends to make that decision. If you buy on contract, it is a tough call; that's two years of your life that you will be for the most part stuck with your decision, for better or for worse. Even if you buy no-contract, it can be a tough knot to swallow at typically five hundred dollars and up. There is no easy way out. Buying cellphones is increasingly more and more like buying cars, on a much smaller scale.
When it comes down to it, the two major players here in the US that have captured everyone's attention are Android and the iPhone. There's no question that RIM holds a steady second on US marketshare with BlackBerry, but many people have turned their attention elsewhere. RIM's most recent attempt to reclaim their throne with BlackBerry 6 and the Torch, though a decent attempt, has not fully delivered as RIM had hoped and they are now left choking on the dust of the ever-growing giant that is Android. My point is, everyone (who is not on AT&T) is always asking, “What phone is the most iPhone-like on (insert carrier name here)?” The obvious answer to that question is said carrier's flagship Android device. The problem with that answer is that it opens the door for about one hundred more questions. “What makes it so much like the iPhone? Is it better? Is this the 'cheap alternative'? What can it do that the iPhone can't and vice versa?”
In a nutshell, the answer is that Android and iOS are very similar. They both are based hugely on their massive application support and media. Digging beyond the skin and deep into the guts of the operating systems, they begin to differ some, but for what most of the people purchasing them are going to use them for, they will serve the exact same purpose.
Apple's iOS is and always will be based on simplicity. You pick up an iPhone for the first time and you already know how to use it. Minutes after you purchase the phone, you scavenge the App Store for the best applications and all of the ones your friends told you to download. This is where some of those differences come into play. Not only is the iPhone simple to use, but most of the applications in the App Store are visually beautiful. iOS is largely a media-driven operating system and the App Store and users have a higher expectation of graphics and visuals in their applications.
Android, however, is not there yet. It is an open source operating system and the Android Market is much more susceptible to low-quality applications and applications with horrendous graphics. From my experience with both, I've noticed that although some of the Android applications may be less graphically pleasing, a lot of the applications found on Android are packed with more functionality. Call me biased, but I love my menu key. When you take the route of simplicity, you sacrifice some functionality. A four-button interface offers a large amount of functionality in comparison with a one-button interface. Of course there are on-screen buttons, but those are limited to use as well. Most applications on the iPhone aren't going to have a dedicated on-screen space to a menu button on every page of their application. You would have to move back one page to enter the settings page, or something of that nature. With a dedicated menu key, you can access an application's settings from nearly any page within an application.
Google's Android was built with openness in mind (though carriers have tried to snuff that out as of late). One word describes the major difference between the two mobile platforms, customization. Elaborating a little more on functionality, widgets are the biggest thing I find it hard to part with when using another mobile operating system. The built-in Power Control Widget is priceless. To enable BlueTooth or Wi-Fi on the iPhone one would have to locate your Settings icon, select General, and open the respective page. With Android, simply tap the respective button on the widget you have set up on the homescreen. Once again, simplicity can ultimately hinder functionality.
These are not major differences. Like I said originally, they both perform the same actions, they just do it in different ways with different things in mind. If you tend to listen to a lot of music on your phone, Apple has made it easy for you with iTunes, but Google has workings of their own. When all is said and done, this is the advice I leave you with, if you love media rich applications that are beautiful in all of their glory, love simplicity, and want something that just plain works, get yourself an iPhone. If you like being able to setup your phone to work the way you like it, don't mind less visually pleasing applications, and can deal with overall mediocre battery life, Android is for you. Also, you're in the US and not on AT&T but want an iPhone-like experience give Android a try. In the worst case scenario, most places off a thirty-day return policy in which you can return the device you don't like and pick what will make you happy.
The market is so convoluted that even someone who reads up on every phone that is out or coming out couldn't possibly know exactly what to buy. Even if that buyer have their heart set on a device and they purchase it when it does come out, months later a similar device with slightly better specs will hit the market and leave that same person wanting again. Look for a device that will have longevity, and best suit your needs. Take, for instance the Nexus One, even at its release it didn't have the greatest specs, but is still to this day probably my favorite phone I've ever owned. It gets faster, more direct updates, has an awesome design, and most importantly, it worked for me.
You don't always need the fastest all-touchscreen phone with the largest screen available. Things like that usually lead to slight dissatisfaction with battery life or annoy you with its on-screen keyboard. Above all, what I'm saying is, no phone is perfect so don't stress yourself over it. Do your homework, read up on the device you're interested in, and make a smart purchase, which may not necessarily be the latest and greatest. You will probably be happier in the end.