Debunking the Sheep: Part 1

As you can imagine, the writers here on TalkAndroid spend a lot of time on the internet combing through articles, news releases, and fanboy wars that would make Stalin run in fear. One thing I’ve always found that I want to do is reply to a lot of misinformed Apple supporters who spit a message of hate despite knowing very little. These people are often called “iSheep” or “Sheep” (with their Android counterparts being the “fandroids”). These people know very little about the other ecosystem yet preach to the world why the other one is terrible. Both camps have them, both are equally annoying. Well, starting now I’m going to be posting a few replies that I’ve wanted to say while browsing the web (and getting into a debate with these people is pointless, so I often won’t post). Today’s mythical claim?

“iTunes gives users a better experience and has the benefit of being able to restore your data if your phone is wiped (or stolen). My friend wiped my data once, and I surprised him to show that I could just resync my iPhone! That’s one of a million reason Android is so behind iOS: iTunes!!! All of your music and videos are stored on your computer in the best music program out there. Can you sync Android with iTunes? Heck no. That’s why I’ll never touch it.”

I know, you read the last sentence and nearly burst into tears laughing. But stay with me. I hear this a lot from iPhone supporters: iTunes is great. It backs up all of your data, it is the easiest way to manage your media, and having all of your phone connected to your computer makes your world easy. While each person has his preference, I have some serious issues with these claims.

“benefit of being able to restore your data if your phone is wiped”

Anyone who’s ever rooted their phone knows that this is NOT an iPhone advantage/monopoly. In fact, I’d say iOS is at a HUGE disadvantage here. Why? Whenever I (or any other flashaholic) flashes a new ROM on their phone it usually means wiping all your data to get a “clean install” (nothing interfering with your new interface). There have been weeks where I’ve wiped my user data several times in a day. You know what then? You Nandroid restore. And unlike an iTunes restore, you get more than just your media and apps back. You get all of your settings back. That means you don’t have to set ANYTHING; your phone is exactly how you left it. Also, the Android integration with Google is a godsend. If your phone is stolen, the moment you replace it you sign into Google and EVERYTHING is back. Mail, Contacts, Apps, Calendars, Documents, etc. There are also apps like My Backup that will backup all your info to a cloud based server. And the best part? You don’t need to be stuck to your computer to do it. That’s why I love Android so much. Restoring data or syncing data with my iPod seems like pulling teeth now. I hook it up to my computer and wait forever for it to sync or restore my data. On Android? I sign in with my Google account. With my iPod, I can go shower, do homework, watch a movie, write a play, and come back later and hope it’s done syncing. With my Evo, I can make phone calls while syncing. And somehow syncing data from 4G is faster than syncing while wired to my computer. Which brings me to my next point…

“stored on your computer”

From a company that is suggesting that computers are a way of the past, the iPhone is heavily reliant on one. And not just a computer, one computer. If you want to manage your “files” (aka, music) you need to connect your iPhone to one of five computers you’ve registered to share your iTunes account with. Want a cloud based music service? Too bad. Need to set something up on your phone but you’re away from your computer? Too bad. This is where Android (in my eyes) really shines. If you HAVE to use a computer (and I can’t think of a time where I HAD to…I just wanted to because it’s easier) you can use any computer you want. If you have your USB cable on you can manage your files on any computer you want. Don’t have it on you? No problem. Everything on your phone can be done with wireless. Whether it be dropbox, doubletwist, whatever, you can manage your files without having to plug it in. This is especially true for your phones many Google features. I love being able to login to my Google account in class, add an assignment to my Google Calendar, and have the alarm on my phone go off when I’ve forgotten about it later that day. I’ve done it many different computers, in many different locations. All you need is your Google password and you’re set.

“…the best music program out there.”

Again, opinions very, but I really don’t think iTunes is that great of a music application. Do I use it? Yeah. I have a Macbook Pro and an iPod that I use for music…I don’t have any alternatives (and when you’ve invested 4k plus of music in iTunes switching just doesn’t seem as appealing). iTunes has ridiculous policies and a strict iOS only stamp on it. Transferring music to other computers is a pain, you are stuck with the format they give you, and godforbid you don’t have a Mac and iTunes is buggier than Internet Explorer (okay not as bad…but close). I think the fact that you have options on Android is what makes is better. Pick any music organization program you want and you can sync it with your phone.

“Can you sync Android with iTunes? Heck no.”

Doubletwist. Checkmate.

Closing thoughts

While some people love iTunes to death (mostly because it IS better than a lot of alternatives and has essentially a monopoly on the mp3 world), there are people that don’t. Just the fact that you can CHOOSE on Android is why I think it’s ridiculous to say that the iPhone is head and shoulders above Android in terms of media. The ONLY thing the iPhone can say is that it packs an amazing amount of storage out of the box. Other than that, the experience can be exactly the same. Add that to the fact that your world revolves around iTunes and a computer and that’s reason enough for me to say no thanks. Long live freedom.

» See more articles by Andrew Greenfield


  • JPB

    Everyone loves iTunes right up to the moment that their PC goes belly up for good. Then they find just how “portable” their stuff really is.

  • http://talkandroid.com Adam Johnson

    I hated iTunes out the box, when i had an iphone…it was always just to slow..and i had a very well equipped pc.

    Great article Andrew!

  • Blaise Pascal

    I have an iPhone…..and a Linux box. The functional requirement that all my music and podcast subscriptions be stored on my computer at work (as opposed to at home) is a big factor in my decision to go Android when my current contract expires.

  • noah

    I’m an “iSheep” (never heard this term before, honestly), but I’ve had 3 Android phones, plus my dad has another. I still have an Android phone because the network I’m on is half the price of any network with an iPhone. But I don’t recommend Android to people, and I just bought my dad an iPad. He actually uses an Android phone now, which is my fault. He has had it for ages, but I saw him a few days ago and discovered that he doesn’t know how to download apps, doesn’t know how to put an address in the web browser, etc, etc. Basic stuff. For starters, he’s stuck on 1.5 or 1.6 and his combination of carrier and/or manufacturer just don’t give a shit about upgrading him. So when he wants to put an address in the address bar, he has to hit “Menu”. I’m sorry, but this is not intuitive, as people are used to looking on the screen for some visual cue about what to do next. Even I found the experience tedious when I had to help him with it over the weekend. This is just the unfortunate reality that the platform is in for the time being.

    As for iTunes, I never had a problem with it on PC or Mac. I even used it on PC without an iPod/iPad or iPhone. The interface just seemed pleasing to me. I know most of my friends did the same. I realized one of my friends uses WInamp the other day, and I was pretty shocked. Some people complain about the filesize, but that has to do with it building in cocoa or something like that. Big deal.

    There is a lot wrong with this article when it comes to iTunes. For one, transferring your music is not a pain. I switched Macs and restored my library and files very easily from my external HDD Time Machine backup. This is a totally effortless way to back up your library. You can also activate Home Sharing to share your library between devices. I even have my iTunes account on 2 iPads, one of which is in another city.

    It mentions that signing in with Google gives you everything back on your device in terms of mail, calendars, etc. It’s the same on iOS. You add your Gmail account and it syncs all that. Personally, I still just use the Google mobile web apps. I just haven’t gotten around to seeing how well I like the local apps, but I know they work. Also, if you’re going to compare making a nandroid backup to simply syncing with iTunes (which happens while you charge), at least mention that doing a nandroid requires a bit more effort. Does the device have to be rooted to do that? I can’t recall.

    In another paragraph you mention that you have to connect your iOS device to **one computer**. Then in the next sentence you say you can sync it with up to 5. Are you just researching as you go along here?

    Anyway, I’m sure you like Android. I sure did when I got mine. But it’s just not worth spoiling your journalistic integrity over to make a hit piece about the competition. Personally, I hope Android can pull it together and be a device anyone can use. I hope it gets more apps, I hope it is successful for Google for a long time. I don’t get my jollies from bashing one side or the other any more. And I feel much more in tune with the industry, with the trends in design, etc, from having an open mind, so give it a try.

  • Michael

    Great points!

    One correction though, when you restore an iPhone from iTunes you do get every setting back as well, it even resptres your last pages browsed in Safari as well as States of Apps you has opened when the back up was performed.

    I think both iPhones and Adroid phones have pluses and minuses, it really just comes down to personal preference in the end.

  • Jesse

    Seriously, Andrew? I thought this was supposed to be an unbiased look at the iSheep claim. Sure, the claim is exaggerated, and iTunes stinks. And I agree that there are some disadvantages to being tied to one computer. But now it’s time to debunk you.

    “Anyone who’s ever rooted their phone knows that this is NOT an iPhone advantage/monopoly.”

    That’s like saying anyone who’s jailbroken an iPhone knows feature X isn’t an Android advantage/monopoly. It’s apples and oranges.

    “And unlike an iTunes restore, you get more than just your media and apps back. You get all of your settings back. That means you don’t have to set ANYTHING; your phone is exactly how you left it.”

    Have you ever done a restore on an iPhone? Apparently not, because I’ve done it a bunch, and it restores your phone with all the data. My games are exactly where I left off, as is everything else (with the exception of having to re-enter a few passwords here and there).

    “Also, the Android integration with Google is a godsend.”

    Newsflash: Android hasn’t cornered the market on Google integration. iPhone users can sync their Gmail, Calendar, Contacts, etc. (I sync them all — huge Google fan here.)

    “And somehow syncing data from 4G is faster than syncing while wired to my computer.”

    Really? I mean, REALLY? I admit that wireless syncing on iPhone would be a great feature, but please don’t pretend as if you can re-sync 32GB of data over 4G faster than I can when plugged in. If you truly believe that, I’d like to place a bet for a large sum of money against you.

  • ari-free

    If you buy an iphone then all those apps you bought will only work on an iphone. Your next phone MUST be from Apple. But if you buy lots of android apps on a Samsung android phone and HTC comes out with something better, you can buy the HTC and you don’t lose any of your apps.
    That’s a freedom that iSheep will never understand.

  • http://none Jonny

    I have been using an iPhone for 3 years and I do cellular technical support.. both are great. People need to stop picking sides. Gotta catch em all!

  • Kai

    I’m a diehard fandroid myself – I would rather swallow (and subsequently pass) razorblades before I’d own an iPhone/iPad (however I do own an iPod Nano).
    That said, I think that they’re ideally suited to certain types of people. Not just quasi-luddites who find too many options overwhelming, but also for people who know exactly what they want from a device and don’t really have any desire to go beyond that (That’s not an insult – there are loads of techheads like that, and yay for them if they’ve found their perfect device in an iphone..)
    I personally don’t like iDevices (iPods excluded), but admit (under protest :) that they do have some benefits over Android.

    I see this is part 1 – I’m hoping that part 2 will be a little less one sided (or as unbiased as an Android blog can be :)

  • JeffMD

    Not an iSheep.. I have both and…well ok I like my ipod touch more then my android 2.2 phone. ^^ Pretty much everyone above me covered what I was gonna say.

    The biggest problem with the article is “Anyone who’s ever rooted their phone”.

    Unfortunately this is where android sucks. Phones need their own rootkits, some phones may not even have a program to root it if its not that popular. And the majority of the programs are complex compared to the much cleaner and almost one click counterpart on apples side. And you can have an ipad, iphone, or ipod and they all use the same program.

    Jailbreaking and rooting also carry their destructive chances and considering how open android is already, I don’t see a whole lot of reason to root it unless for some reason your carrier was blocking vital features like hotspot.

  • Lex

    classic fandroid

  • http://www.androidishere.com/ Prashanth K S

    Interesting article, and I am an Android fan… not a phandroid, but just a fan. I also want to own an iPhone and a Mac. You can say I am a wannabe sheep.

    But I love my Android phone, and switching to the Apple bandwagon would give me so many headaches that I just don’t want to venture there.

    For starters, I hate the restriction of iTunes. I think it is the shittiest piece of software and if that is a sampler of the great usability that Mac fanboys drone about, then I don’t want to venture close to a mac.

    I have a Linux PC, and my iPod is virtually useless on it. I have a Windows partition set up only so that I can use my iPod.

    Coming to rooting the Android, no I don’t think that should have come up in your article. Being within the legal and warranty framework, Android does very well in itself to back up your data and keep it safe.

    In fact, I have actually had the annoyance once when I wanted to do a factory reset on my phone, and the damn thing just kept syncing all the apps back, when I signed in to Google. :)

  • NerdArmy

    As a former iphone user, now an Android convert, I fail to see how this is anything other than flame bait.
    Sure, its frustrating to see that people have misconceptions about Android, but this doesn’t help.
    Calling people sheep because they disagree with you is a bad start.

    In my view the lack of a decent itunes alternative is a massive problem for Android. Remember most people already have itunes installed anyway, so not being able to easily sync it with a new Android phone is a real pain.
    doubletwist is ok as an idea, but in my experience it takes HOURS to import a large library, then fails to copy artwork and tags for about half of the songs.
    You also mention cloud based music services – which, in reality, no one care about.
    Most SD Cards have 8GB capacity – if you want more you buy a 16 or 32 – there’s no sense in uploading it to a cloud service, then streaming it back.

    You also mention the need to wipe a device, rather than restore – this is fine, but you can do that in itunes too. The fact is, as android user we have to rely on part solutions to achieve the same thing.

    itunes may be bad, but look at the garbage you get with Android – KIES is over 300meg on Windows, and its doesn’t even work.