The Korea Herald


[Digital Simplicity] The smartphone not taken: Apple iOS vs. Android system

By Yang Sung-jin

Published : July 10, 2020 - 17:01

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Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” is deeply profound and almost prophetic even when we read just the first two lines: “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, / And sorry I could not travel both.”

Let’s not dig deeper into the entire poem since it will take days, if not months, to talk about various literary interpretations and related ideas. Instead, I will focus on the difficulty in choosing between the two choices, and hopefully a workable solution that can minimize future regrets.

I’m not talking about a career path that I should have taken (instead of what I’m doing now, such as writing a column under deadline) or life-changing decisions that appeared good enough but eventually went awry.

The choice is concerned about which smartphone Korean users should choose between two competing systems, namely Apple’s iOS-based iPhone and Google’s Android-powered smartphones manufactured by Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics.

The Korean smartphone market is dominated by Samsung with 57 percent share as of the fourth quarter of last year, followed by Apple with 28 percent and LG with 15 percent.

Mainstream smartphone users in Korea, in other words, prefer smartphones based on the Android operating system and customized by local manufacturers with a vast network of customer service centers.

I had been using the iPhone as a longtime fan of Apple devices ranging from the MacBook to iMac to iPad. But I began to notice some good features in Android phones used by my friends and colleagues.

And my iPhone 6S Plus began to ignore such simple instructions as “Please open an email app right now so that I can send a formal complaint to Apple Customer Service about the incredibly slow system after this update.”

The iPhone and iOS operating systems were not bad. To be honest, I enjoy using some productivity apps available only on Apple’s stubbornly closed digital ecosystem.

As the hardware of the iPhone ran its course, which in my case means at least three years, I reached a point where action should be taken about the phone “not taken.”

So that’s how I ended up with Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10+ smartphone. The most exciting user experience I got with this phone was the freedom of setting a default system font that I like. Samsung runs its own app store, which sells a wide range of fonts. Some fonts are free, and other high-quality fonts with unique designs can be bought for a relatively small fee.

This is a big difference that helped justify my bold decision to splash out more than $1,200 to grab the most expensive Note 10+ model. Some might question my reasoning for switching from the iPhone to Galaxy Note for such a trivial issue, but it’s suffocating for me to see the dull default font of the iPhone day in and day out.

I wanted to change the font for my phone system and all the apps whenever I want to change the mood. As I read more e-books on my handsets, the ability to change fonts is crucial in terms of motivation for reading as well as user experience. On this matter, Apple’s iPhone, with its rigid restrictions on font selection, is lagging behind its Android-based competitors.

Another important aspect is multitasking. Apple recently announced it would support better picture-in-picture functionality for the iPhone in the forthcoming iOS update -- as if that’s a real breakthrough. But the feature has long been available for Samsung and other Android phone users.

More importantly, Apple’s picture-in-picture is still vastly inferior to the seamless split screen function of Samsung’s Note 10+, otherwise known as multiwindow mode for multitasking.

But Android-based phones, including the top-of-the-line Note 10+, are not without their weaknesses, one of which is the dearth of high-quality productivity apps that might appeal to tech-savvy users.

For some reason, Apple manages to retain talented developers in its ecosystem. Moreover, its hardware and software still hold an advantage in overall design and aesthetically refined interfaces.

As my Note 10+ is slowly getting outdated thanks to the rapid cycle of new product announcements, I find myself searching news articles about the next-generation iPhone to be released later this year: the phone that is not taken -- yet.

By Yang Sung-jin (

Yang Sung-jin is the multimedia editor of The Korea Herald. -- Ed.