When it comes to picking a smartphone, there are dozens, likely even hundreds, of factors to consider. What size display do you want or need? How much memory is necessary for all of your media consuming needs? Then there is physical size, weight, color, button and port placement, call quality, speaker quality, durability and a laundry list of other factors that most wireless customers will consider before finally pulling the trigger on a single device.
For some, one of the biggest factors that cannot be ignored is software.
In today's market, there are only a handful of major mobile platforms to choose from. The two most notable, as most of you already know, are Apple's iOS and Google's Android OS. Then comes Research In Motion with BlackBerry OS and Microsoft with Windows Phone. HP's webOS bombed twice before becoming open sourced, and it has yet to make a re-entry into the market.
Of course, each of these platforms have their own set of high and low points, and I've come to love the unique characteristics of each. Unsurprisingly, those things aren't exactly hard to figure out either.
I love the email and messaging experience on BlackBerry, especially the universal inbox. While I'm not 100 percent sold on Metro UI, I love that Microsoft is taking a new approach to the mobile interface. It's fresh and can be a pleasure to use. And I love the fact that iOS rarely ever falters. It may be dull and aging, but it works well and is more reliable than any other mobile platform.
When it comes to Android, however, picking a single, favorite characteristic isn't so easy. Android has many facets and, while performance may not always be its best suit (I'm speaking pre-Jelly Bean, of course), it is one of the most advanced and customizable mobile operating systems out there. Unlike iOS, BlackBerry and Windows Phone, all of which always look the same, Android comes in many shapes and sizes. And each manufacturer who gets their hands on the for-free platform can tweak it until their heart is content.
It's easy to rattle off a long list of things I can do with my Android phone that I can't with an iPhone or Windows Phone device: side-load apps, flash a custom user-built version of software, pair a PS3 controller to it and play games, automate tasks based on dozens of triggers, manipulate my CPU speeds, toggle settings from the home screen and notification shade, etc. But it's terribly difficult to single out my favorite feature.
The thought hit me last night when I was laying in bed, trying to doze off after watching another mind-blowing episode of Breaking Bad. "What is my single most favorite feature of Android?" Unlike most mobile-related preference questions, the answer didn't immediately come to me. And even to this moment, I'm having difficulty narrowing it down to a single, core feature. But I have narrowed it down to two:
Sharing options – When you take a picture on an Android phone, you can immediately share that capture with any application on your device that is capable of receiving a photo. Currently, there are 15 photo sharing options when I attempt to share a picture. In contrast, when I take a picture on my iPhone, I can only share the picture by email, Messages, Twitter or Facebook (I can also copy, print, assign to a contact or set as a wallpaper). Other platforms are catching on (like the charms bar in Windows 8, which might make its way down to Windows Phone 8), but nothing quite stacks up to the interoperability of sharing options in Android.
The ability to completely change the interface – There is also the option to completely alter the interface of the device. If you like the look of Windows Phone or iOS better, you can mimic those particular interfaces with Android customizations. But out of the box, many Android devices come customized. My HTC One X and Galaxy Nexus look very different, even though they are still running their original interfaces. There are themes, ROMs, ROMs with themes and launcher replacements that allow you to completely change your phone's interface, top to bottom, with little to no effort.
The way I narrowed it down was by thinking about what I would miss most if I quit carrying an Android phone with me every day, and thinking back to what I actually missed when I did just that. If I quit carrying an iPhone, I would miss its stability and the camera. (Oh, and I would miss Tweetbot.) I don't particularly miss Windows Phone, but I miss the messaging, email and universal inbox of BlackBerry. And from time to time, I miss those brilliant keyboards.
With Android, there's a lot I would miss. But the two things I would miss most are the interoperability of applications and the ability to seamlessly share content between apps and networks and the ability to fix any gripes with the interface that I may have.
Now it's your turn, folks. What is your favorite feature of Android? Try to keep your answer to one feature. But if you can't narrow it down, I understand. And if you're not an Android fan, don't feel left out. Give us your favorite feature of your platform of choice!