A question I often get is: Which is better for mediographers or mobile journalists: an Android or iOS device? In fact, it’s something that I find myself continuing to reevaluate almost every month, especially since the traditional smartphone applications and carrier provider issues still weigh into the overall decision when we discuss smartphones, as opposed to tablets. Ahead you’ll find the answers as of December 2016, and it has nothing to do with which one has better camera quality: That’s a tie. This article includes a 3×12 comparison chart which you may find suitable for framing.
The inevitable smartphone factors
Of course, when we talk about a smartphone nowadays, carrier options can matter, and there are many other available applications (apps) and features, although two very valuable ones are currently censored by Apple.
Carrier issues—the only US-centric element in this article
If you live somewhere outside the US, please accept my promise that this subsection (and the corresponding portion of the comparison chart you’ll see ahead) is the only one that is US-centric. The rest is all applicable globally.
As indicated in two past articles (Review: Project Fi, son of Google Voice and Use your iPhone with Project Fi from Google and save $$ per month: Two different methods and their consequences), Project Fi from Google is my current favorite mobile telephone and mobile Internet provider in the US, due to multiple unique features not available from any other US provider. Even though I wrote an entire article showing two ways to make an iPhone work with Project Fi, those methods will make the iPhone work with Project Fi as well as it would work solely with T-Mobile, and would not include the extra advantages that are unique to Project Fi (one of which is seamless switching among 3 US mobile networks plus WiFi, even in mid call), let alone the fact that I am able to get more complete services for 1/3 of the price of a new post-pay service with T-Mobile. That is one of two reasons why —to date— I am using a pure Google Android phone, rather than an iPhone.
Apple’s censorship of complete WiFI capability
Apple is underestimating the WiFi capabilities of its own WiFi hardware in two ways:
- Even though the iPhone’s hardware supports 5 GHz (in addition to the old, overcrowded 4.2 GHZ band) since the iPhone 5 (four hardware versions ago), when creating a personal hotspot, the iOS operating system (illustrated above) still doesn’t allow for selecting any 5 GHz band channel. It only creates a personal hotspot with the extremely overcrowded 2.4 GHz band. I would think that after four hardware versions, the operating system would catch up to the hardware capabilities. (Yes, I know that the iPhone can connect to a 5 GHz access point, but it still can’t create a personal hotspot at 5 GHz.)On the other hand, the latest pure Google phones starting with Android 6 (Marshmallow) and in Android 7 (Nougat) offer band selection (2.4 or 5 GHz) when activating a hotspot (illustrated above). I cannot imagine why Apple continues to leave this option missing in iOS. (I actually would like both Android and iOS to offer selection of a specific channel number, as is available with most dedicated WiFI routers and access point devices.)
- One of my favorite tools on my Android phone is WiFi Analyzer, a free tool to see exactly what WiFI channels are in use by neighboring devices (see illustration below) on either the 2.4 or 5 GHz bands, in order to set up any new access point on a unique unused channel. The Internet is full of people complaining about how Apple prevents app developers from creating such a tool for iOS. In fact, Apple’s free AirPort Utility app for years has teased this feature, adding it, and taking it away again. Given Apple’s recent discontinuation of WiFI routers, I don’t know if that app will get any more updates, but I hope will stop preventing third-party develops from creating such apps.
Even Teradek’s well explained video:
omits mentioning any specific tool for iOS, and only mentions Mac and Windows tools, in addition to a Fluke tester that costs over US$1,800. I know that the Fluke tester is better since it covers non-802.11ac frequencies, but the tool in a smartphone is still extremely valuable. Apple, why do you censor this? I suspect that the Teradek video avoids mentioning any of the capable iOS apps because they require jailbreaking to circumvent Apple’s censorship. (I don’t recommend jailbreaking, since it means being behind with vital iOS updates.)
If desired, click here to download the above comparison chart as a PDF.
Photo and video quality
Although there are strengths and weaknesses between the latest pure Google Android phones (Nexus 5x, Nexus 6, Nexus 6p, Pixel, Pixel XL) and the latest iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, I am going to simplify it and say it’s a tie. Both are capable of recording 4K UHD at 100 megabits per second using FiLMiC Pro, and setting desired framerate.
Audio recording capabilities
All of the covered phones can record mono 48 kHz from a mono digital microphone, as indicated in my recent Mobile journalism and mediography update & buyer’s guide: 2016.12.
The latest iOS devices have a slight edge in confidence monitoring from a directly attached digital mono microphone, since it can offer near latency free confidence monitoring. However, the best experience is still provided by hardware based confidence monitoring, either from the digital microphone, or from the hardware interface.
The two best examples are the RØDE i-XLR for a single XLR source (review pending)
and the iRig Pro Duo (review pending), which accepts up to two channels from balanced or unbalanced sources, for stereo or dual mono recording. The iRig Pro Duo works equally well with Android or iOS. As of the publication time of this article, there is no Android support for i-XLR.
To my knowledge, iOS still has the exclusivity on direct-attached stereo digital mics. I reviewed the iRig Mic Field from IK Multimedia and the i-XY-L from RØDE, both stereo digital mics made for direct connection via Lightning port. Both are visible above. Here is the combined review, which also covers when stereo is appropriate in field recordings, and when it’s not. If you need stereo recording with Android, you’ll need to connect an analog stereo mic via an interface like the iRig Pro Duo (covered above) or two directional mics aimed properly.
Live, wireless multicam streaming
Of course, multiple Android and iOS devices can broadcast using Hangouts On Air, although to my knowledge, the transitions between live cameras are limited to cuts, and you are limited to using YouTube as your CDN (Content Distribution Network). The two options listed above are much more open in terms of available CDNs and transitions. All allow for playing back pre-recorded video during a live show.
Both Android and iOS are constantly getting better for general smartphone use and for mediographers or mobile journalists. I hope you have a much better understanding of the capabilities and limitations of each platform after reading this article. Stay on my mailing list to be notified of upcoming articles and reviews.
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