Choosing kid’s first phone came with serious consequences

As parents, we’re all charged with the awesome responsibility of guiding and directing our younglings on the right path to becoming well-rounded adults and productive members of society. Making sure they eat a balanced diet, sending them to the right schools, and engaging them in extra-curricular activities that promote a healthy body and mind are critically important.

When my daughter was born nearly 13 years ago, I never thought that choosing her technology platform would become one of those potentially life-altering decisions.

A different time for phones

During those halcyon days 13 years ago, the smartphone platforms we know today were in the same sort of infancy as my newborn daughter. The first snapshots from minutes after her birth were taken on a shiny new iPhone 3GS. That was nearly a year before the software was even called “iOS” and only a year after Apple had unveiled the App Store.

baby girl holding 2007 iphone to her mouth.
My daughter was a (very) early adopter Jesse Hollington

The idea of platform lock-in just wasn’t a thing in those days. Sure, I was used to my iPhone, but if you had suddenly ripped it out of my hand and given me an HTC Incredible instead, I wouldn’t have lost much sleep over it. FaceTime and iMessage didn’t yet exist, and iCloud was still called MobileMe. The App Store had only about 100,000 apps, the vast majority of which fell into the category of silly novelties like iBeer.

Fast forward to 2022, and I’ve realized that as my daughter has entered those awkward years twixt 12 and 20, my decision on her smartphone purchase will have lasting repercussions in a way it never did before. Let’s face it, as much as both Apple and Google want to make it easy to switch teams, both platforms have enough “stickiness” to discourage folks from crossing over to the other side. Some of these issues are technical, such as investments in apps or a more expanded hardware and software ecosystem, while others are purely social.

Your choice of ecosystem

These days, a person’s choice of smartphone influences their other hardware and software decisions perhaps more than any other single factor.

iPhone owners are more likely to gravitate toward a MacBook, HomePod mini, or even an Apple TV set-top box. Apple also makes it trivially easy for iPhone users to store photos, contacts, and calendars in iCloud, and when it comes to messaging, Apple’s iMessage and FaceTime tools work seamlessly. Similarly, those adopting Android handsets will find themselves more comfortable in the warm embrace of Google’s services, such as Gmail, Drive, Photos, and more.

pixel 6 pro and iphone 13 pro in hand.
Andy Boxall/

After that, it’s not long before kids will start searching out and downloading the latest apps for their new smartphones. Luckily, games and apps are much more platform-agnostic. As long as your device is up to the task, it doesn’t matter whether you’re playing Genshin Impact on an iPhone or an Android smartphone, and the same is true of social networks. The experience may be slightly different on Android and iOS, but the basic functionality remains the same.

But problems still exist with apps. While Google offers most of its apps on the iPhone, those tools are as native to most Android phones as iCloud is to the iPhone, making for a much better experience. You also won’t find any way to access services like iCloud Photos or iMessages on an Android handset. Knowing which direction to take is hard, especially when it may in turn influence many future technology purchases.

Peer pressure

This brings up the next point when dealing with kids and smartphones. While parents should have the final say, the preferred platform of your