iOS vs Android in Japan

My first smartphone was an iPhone 3GS. At the time, few Japanese people around me were using iPhones, even smartphones. I remember the early versions of Android seemed years behind iOS. Two years later, I upgraded to a phone I dearly loved, the iPhone 4S. Not long after the iPhone 4S release, it seemed like Android was catching up and iOS was slowing down. It didn’t matter though, my 4S met all my demands and worked seamlessly. Then carriers in Japan also started offering a better variety of other phones, e.g., Samsung and LG. I was using the 4S but becoming curious about Androids’ specs and bigger displays.

There were many more iPhones around me now, especially the iPhone 5. Months before the end of my two year 4S contract, I was checking the news for the iPhone 5S daily. I was hoping for a five inch 1080p display, which was common on Androids at the time, even Sharp and Sony devices were offering these specs. Then I saw the 5S news. Apple disappointed me. I began looking elsewhere. The Note 3 and the G2 were my main interests after deciding to part ways with iPhones. I tested the Note 3 and G2 for hours at my local Docomo shop on several occasions. I was lured in by the Note 3’s big display, removable components, small bezels, thin and light design, and S pen functionality.

I was happy at the beginning and am still satisfied a year and a half later, but my problems are with Touch Wiz and the carriers in Japan. First, Touch Wiz is bloated and hasn’t been updated more than once since I got my Note 3 almost two years ago. Newer versions of Touch Wiz seem lighter, faster, less intrusive, and more useful. I’m not expecting any updates from Docomo anytime soon though.

Second, Android updates are rare. When I got my phone, it was running on Android 4.2. Now it’s running on 4.4.2. iOS updates happen across the board, regardless of your device, at regular intervals. When I was an iPhone user, the Japanese updates were always in sync with the American ones. I remember being excited when I saw tech gurus on YouTube discussing the updates. I knew the updates were coming soon for the general public, too. Android, on the other hand, while it’s updated more frequently, you never know if you’ll get these updates. While Android has continued to improve over the last year and a half, I haven’t experienced any major updates. They’re probably not coming to my device either. Whether these updates get to you is dependent on your local carrier. This is the problem with Android devices in Japan. Android updates are dependent on its developers and the local Japanese carriers. iOS updates are dependent on Apple only.

This fall, I’m going to upgrade my device. It’ll be two years with my Note 3. I’m still following Samsung’s and LG’s devices, but iPhones, with their bigger displays since the iPhone 6 update, wonderful OIS cameras, ever improving OS, fast processors, and lack of bloatware … are definitely back on my radar. It’s unfortunate the carriers in Japan are playing a bigger role than necessary against Android. Apple may have won me back.


One thought on “iOS vs Android in Japan

  1. This is true of many carriers all over the world, not just Japan. Most saw Android as a way to have a smartphone that could do everything the iPhone could do, while being able to load up their bloatware and other features that only “gala-kei” could handle.

    Thankfully, some of the carriers are relenting– Docomo allows outside phones on their network (I currently have a OnePlus One that works wonderfully here) and Yahoo Mobile (AKA E-Mobile) has the Moto Nexus 6 that is Google’s flagship and thus able to get updated to the latest version of Android straight from Mountain View.


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