Which Phone to Pick?

Dear Ms. Smartphone: I’d like to get a smartphone for my nephew. He lives in Spain where I am visiting this summer. At first I was planning to get him a Samsung phone, and then I saw an article that kids these days prefer to have Apple phones if they can afford it. Now I’m sort of torn which phone to pick and I want the gift to be a surprise. Gabriela

Dear Gabriela: Your idea is thoughtful, but I  would hold off on choosing either phone until you talk with his parents. You didn’t say how old your nephew is but giving a phone to a child, no matter what the age, is a big deal. His parents or caretakers need to be actively involved in this decision. They need to set down rules and boundaries for using it. Otherwise the new phone may interfere with regular habits and routines.  There is potential that your nephew might spend more time on his phone, and less time on his school work, or more time on social media and less time visiting with friends and family.  It’s less about which phone to pick and more about when the child is mature enough to use it responsibly..

Bigger Decision:

There’s a second reason to consult with his parents before you choose the phone.  Whether you select the Android phone or the iPhone you will explicitly be selecting a platform for future electronic purchases and storage. With the iPhone there are many accessories, some a prerequisite for a kid, like earbuds and music. Then there’s Mac computers, Apple TV, Music, Fitness +, and watches.  They all work harmoniously but only if you stay within the same electronic ecosystem.

But back to the article you mentioned.  I think this is it and they do cite some polls from Europe. There are a couple of reasons why kids seem to prefer the iPhone. A big one is the status factor- it’s cool if you can afford one. It’s sort of like having the most expensive pair of Nike shoes or take-out from Whole Foods. In that article a 20 year old comments that with the Android phone you lose a lot of social cachet in the dating world and trustworthiness on Craigslist. That’s because text messages display with a blue background if sent from an Apple phone, but display with a dratted green background if sent from an Android device. This is more of a distinction (or distraction)  to phone users in the U.S. and Canada. In Europe and Asia, more people rely on third party chat apps, like What’s Up or WeChat  so the color of the text bubble is less significant. There’s also a trend overseas to use voice messaging instead of text.

More to think about:

There are other factors that you might consider, particularly privacy and security. Many people feel that their information is better protected on the Apple phone.  Other users will focus on the design features, like a camera lens with more pixels, or  Samsung’s unique folding screen. For some it is how the phone feels when you hold it and whether it fits well in a jeans pocket. BTW, once teens start using the phone, an average of 9 hours a day, they probably become oblivious to these distinctive features that seemed so important at the outset. (note: the 9 hour estimate, is for the U.S., and includes all electronic devices, e.g. TV and games)

That said, I believe the Open Source code for Samsung phones provides an interesting learning opportunity. The Android operating system lets users examine the back end of the  technology. That gives them more understanding and technical savvy. It might inspire a young person to write their own code and test it out. For a teen there’s a cool factor in being able to do become a producer as well as a consumer of the device. It could even inspire a future career in tech. Whichever phone type you settle on after first checking in with the parents, let’s hope your nephew will use it to stay in touch and let you know how he likes it.