Android vs. iPhone: A review

First, an introduction for those of you who don’t know me personally. I have had the iPhone for about 2 years now, and despite it’s flaws (which are numerous), I have always said it was the best smart phone I ever owned. I went to the iPhone from a Windows Mobile device (Cingular 3125), which I was pretty unhappy with for a LOT of reasons.

Anyhow, immediately after buying the iPhone I was hooked. I spent more time on it in the first few weeks downloading and messing with new apps than I did on my PC, which is a pretty big deal coming from a confessed PC-aholic. Of course, it helped tremendously that I jailbroke the phone within 2 hours of getting it home, so I got to take advantage of all of the things Apple didn’t want me to know about.

Still, within a few months, my fascination with apps was worn off and I got into a pattern of use that I have kept up with since. While I don’t stray too far from these activities, I have integrated them into my life to such an extent that the loss of any of them is unconscionable at this point. The 5 things I now absolutely can’t live without in a phone are (in order of importance):

  1. Media player functionality – Basically, I listen to music on my iPhone pretty much all of the time. Considering my commute to and from work is about four hours per day, I get a LOT of music time in just from that. But then, I listen while working out, anytime I am driving, while writing content at work, etc. Overall, I probably listen to music about 6 hours per day, on average.
  2. Email – I check and respond to email on both my personal and work accounts from my phone more than anywhere else.
  3. Web browsing – Because my workday commute involves train and shuttle, I spend a lot of time reading as well. Mostly, I read novels, but I also do a good bit of Internet research on my phone as well.
  4. Texting – Because my son is a texting fanatic, and my wife is on her way there as well, I spend more time texting than talking, despite the fact that I hate it. Sigh.
  5. Phone – While I don’t actually talk on the phone that much, I still need it to work when I do.

Anyhow, while I love the iPhone, it is also very fair to say I absolutely hate it as well, and this has held true pretty much ever since I first got it. Initially, a lot of things that are now fixed really bugged me. Seeveral of them, like the lack of a search feature, were remedied eventually by updates, while some others (like themes) were resolved via jailbreaking. Still, there are a ton of things I hate about it, including:

  • Apple’s stranglehold on the ‘experience’. I’d like to decide what’s best for me myself, thank you very much.
  • iTunes. It is probably in the running with Acrobat as the most bloated, buggy POS every coded.
  • Lack of multitasking. Really Apple? You STILL can’t make this work? WinMo has had this working AT LEAST since 2005 (and probably since 2000).
  • HARDWARE. Either the phone has too little RAM, or it uses it horribly. Similarly, either the OS is poorly coded, or the processor is too slow, because it is a long way from being zippy.
  • Safari. Holy crap, what a steaming pile of shit this thing is. I have never had a browser crash on me more. NEVER. And I remember using MOSAIC, for God’s sake.
  • Lack of Flash. This has been beat to death. Jobs is a spoiled 3 year old. Get with the program, Apple.
  • Incomplete A2DP support. Bluetooth headsets cannot skip forward or backward using controls from the headset on an iPhone.
  • Non-expandable storage.
  • Non-replaceable battery.
  • Too few buttons. I didn’t realize how much I missed real buttons until I used a G1.
  • No Blacklisting. I own iBlacklist for this function, so you can go screw yourselves, Apple/AT&T.
  • HORRIBLE stock mapping/GPS programming. The few times I have been forced to use this program, I regretted it. It couldn’t find it’s own ass with both hands and a flashlight.
  • Stupid ‘aesthetics first’ philosophy that lead to a case style that always cracks in the same general areas.
  • No tethering. Yes, there are jailbroken alternatives, but a simple free stock one would be nice.

Believe it or not, I could probably continue on for days, but this is a good start. Obviously, after 2 years of use, there is a lot of hate in my love/hate relationship with the phone, so with the iPhone 4G coming out, I thought it prudent to try the other options prior to getting the new iPhone.

In the smart phone world, there are only 5 options:

  1. iPhone
  2. Android
  3. Windows Mobile / Windows Phone
  4. Palm
  5. Blackberry

Well, of these, only 2 really warrant attention: Android and iPhone. Sure, WinMo, Palm, and Blackberry all have their specialties, but Android and iPhone are pretty far ahead of all of them. So, I decided to give the Android a try, and to that effect, I bought a venerable old rooted and unlocked T-Mobile G1 with Android 2.1 installed and a 4GB micro-SD card off of eBay for about $150. After all, no use spending good money on something to test with.

Immediately upon booting the phone, I was very impressed. The boot sequence takes a while, but the setup is flawless, and the interface is a very welcome change from the iPhone. In fact, the best word to describe the interface is ‘clean’. It’s not cluttered, cutesy, or garish like the iPhone. It looks like something designed for a professional. In fact, I never realized just how much like a kid’s toy the iPhone interface is until I spent some time on Android.

As I dug deeper into the Android, I found a lot of things I liked better. Here’s a short list:

  • Email. Gmail and Exchange email are both slightly better on the Android. The addition of the menu button/function makes navigating easier, though I do prefer the iPhone’s search bar at the top (on Android, you must open the menu and select ‘Search’). Still, email rendering is much cleaner on the Android, and I prefer the Android’s interface.
  • Browsing. The G1 is a little starved for memory and power running OS 2.1, so there have been some browser quirks, but browsing is still surprisingly fast, even on EDGE. Also, the ability to choose options in the browser (text size, default zoom, User agent, text encoding, block images, disable javascript/plugins, and more) is like a breath of fresh air compared to the ‘one size fits all’ approach of the iPhone. Also, the browser fits the text to the zoom level VERY well, reducing the amount of scrolling you have to do to almost none. Finally, the little trackball becomes very handy for doing really precise work on web pages, like clicking on links that are too small for a finger or too close to other links. On the iPhone, it’s a zoom in/out, click 47 times type of cuss-fest to get this done.
  • Typing. I LOVE the keyboards on the G1, both the onscreen and pullout. The onscreen is, in my opinion, much easier to use than the iPhone’s, and the lack of auto-correct keeps my blood pressure low.
  • Navigation. The stock GPS app is freaking awesome. Generally great directions (compared to the iPhone’s horrible ones), it auto-advances (unlike the iPhone), and gives you voice turn-by-turn (again, iPhone is missing this). I don’t see a way to avoid part of a route, or generate an alternate route, but hopefully that is coming (it is still in Beta).
  • General Interface. I can’t say enough about this, from the ability to pull the top status bar and get detailed notifications of what’s happening on your phone, to the pull up bar at the bottom with every app installed on the phone available from one place, this interface kicks the total crap out of the iPhone.
  • Open-ness. First, let me state, I am NOT an open source fanboy. I generally hate open source apps, they are usually buggy, hard to use, and lacking in support. But in this case, with Google guiding the development of the OS, it is brilliant. The fact that you can go to the Market and download an app that will tell you EVERYTHING about your phone, from the current RAM stats to the MSISDN, is completely awesome. If I want to put apps that can potentially destroy my phone on my phone, I can do that with Android. If I want to put apps that leverage my provider’s network in new and unique ways, I can do that with Android. If I want to download torrents, take some video, or view what Apple might call “morally objectionable material”, I can do that with Android. In the long run, I really hope Google wins this war. We don’t need to artificially confine ourselves, that stifles innovation and creativity. Apple gestapo, be gone!

Now, let’s take a look at some of the things I don’t like:

  • The stock music player completely blows. See a later blog for how I resolved that.
  • No stock sync ability with iTunes or anything else. You would think that Google would, at the very least, create an app to sync with Songbird, but nope. Personally, I think this is the biggest failing of the OS, and something that would probably greatly increase Android adoption if fixed.
  • Low number of apps in the market, and most are lower quality.
  • Back button gets annoying at times. Being able to swipe to go back (ala iPhone) would be nice.

Overall, as you can probably tell, I am WAY over in the Android camp. In fact, I just ordered a Nexus One from Google, which they shipped FedEx overnight FOR FREE, on a Saturday! Talk about customer service!

Anyhow, I will be selling my iPhone on eBay very soon, so keep an eye out if you are still in the market for one after reading this!

, , , , , ,

  1. No comments yet.
(will not be published)