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Android Vs. iPhone Drama: Episode 14

Ok, well this probably isn't episode 14, but if Star Wars can start with episode IV, then I can take some of my own liberties too :)

This post is all about what I've found out by completely switching from iPhone 4 to an Android smartphone over the last few months.  I just completed a "one day" experiment to go back to iPhone and see how it compares now that I am used to the Android OS.  Lots of juicy goodness to follow!

The quick facts (my qualification for writing this blog post):
  • I was a Palm Treo guy long before any of this silliness (I don't suppose this really matters, but its interesting nonetheless)
  • I went to an iPhone about a year after they came out
  • I've used the original 2G, 3G, 3GS and iPhone 4
  • I have used Galaxy S and Optimus T Android devices, both using Android 2.2
The drama began when I got an iPhone 4 that was a lemon.  The previous iPhones I used (2G, 3G and 3GS) were all pretty good to me.  My only broad complaint about ALL iPhones is the weak antenna (compared to other phones).

The problem I had with the iPhone 4 is that it continually thought I had a headset plugged in (which I didn't), and as a result, turned the speaker on the handset off (because naturally, if you are using a headset, which I wasn't, there would be no need to hear audio from the phone itself).   Me being a tinker, I tried to fix it myself with all the cure-all tutorials and snake oil remedies, plugging in and out the headset 5,000 times to reset it, etc. I've tried them all.  Of course when you go to an Apple store and ask for support, they treat you like you caused the problem and never really help you.  At least that has been my experience.

After a day when the iPhone let me down on a really important phone call, I finally decided it was time to switch to Android, so I just went to the store, got my upgrade and switched overnight.  The iPhone went on ebay that night.

First observations:  An Android phone is "actually" a "smart" phone -- I entered my email address and password, and it setup EVERYTHING.  I didn't have to pick/choose where my contacts, email, calendar, notes, etc. all sync'd it just did it for me.  Pretty darn nice.  The niceness kind of ended shortly thereafter though...

Here are MY most important differences with the iPhone (any version), and the few Android phones I've used.  Note that these are the things that jumped out to ME.  I'm not trying to start any flaming wars, and I recognize that these may not necessarily be the same differences and opinions as what YOU might observe -- however my google-fu skills has shown me that many people have similar feelings, and that has contributed to my overall opinion.

1. Setup of the phone:  Winner: Android

Android setup was a breeze, it just worked, no problem.  The iPhone isn't necessarily *difficult* to setup, but it certainly doesn't compare to the ease of Android.

2. Ease of use for basic apps: Winner: iPhone

The basic apps in my opinion are the Phone application, email, contacts, text messaging and calendar.  iPhone has such a polished offering here, its hard to argue for Android unless you use 3rd party apps.  That annoying little "menu" button Android hides all the stuff that should be more obvious.  Again, not WRONG, just different, and in my opinion, not as easy to use.  Kudos to Android however for the Address book, which just auto sync's with your gmail account, and even shows photos of those with a Google account.

3. App selection: Winner: iPhone

I was continually disappointed at the a) lack of cool apps, and b) difficulty in finding apps in Android.  The annoyance of trying to find apps alone called out this match, but even when you look at the Facebook app for Android, which is pretty decent, it has the same annoyances that the Android OS has in general, such as that stupid "menu" button and somehow the "back" button sometimes closes my app altogether in a non-predictable way.  The Apple App Store isn't perfect (I hate that some categories limit you to how many apps you can see in a category, when I want to browse them all), but it is certainly easier to use, and the selection and quality of apps is way better than Android Market.

4. Mobile web browser: Winner: iPhone

Yes its true that mobile safari still doesn't support Flash (and thats a big annoyance to me!), but when you look at everything else, mobile Safari still performed better for me.  There were more cases in my experience where slow web pages simply didn't render on Android, where they would partially render early on with iPhone.  Also, the pinch/pull to zoom (which in my opinion is absolutely critical to any web browsing experience on a mobile device), just flat out is terrible on Android.  After tons of fiddling around, I finally figured out that after I zoom in (pull), I had to give Android a few moments to "catch up" before I touch the screen to scroll or whatever.  If you do tap too soon, Android somehow thinks that you want to undo the zoom maneuver, and scales it back again.  When I was in a hurry to look up something and it happened 3x in a row, I got super annoyed, so this one goes to iPhone, who never annoys me that way.

5. Software keyboard: Winner: iPhone

The Android soft keyboard isn't bad -- and I got used to the tactile feedback vibration pretty quick.  The big difference is that on *most* android phones, the touchscreen just isn't quite sensitive enough.  I ended up having to press harder on the screen to register my taps.  The key buttons are just a little too small as well, and I found myself much more accurate at typing in the iPhone.  Auto-correct on iPhone can be a blessing and a curse, so that neither helps nor hurts iPhone's ranking on this one.  When moving your cursor, iPhone's nifty zoom-to-place-your-cursor is brilliant, and is so much more refined than the "tap and hope to heck that you get close" approach for Android. Yes I got used to the Android one, but once I went back to the iPhone, there was no contest.

6. Audio/Video playback: Winner: iPhone

I knew I was giving up something special when I went to Android, because the iPod app on iPhone was so very good.  I remember when I first got an iPhone and being so thrilled that it was my phone, PDA (remember that acronym?) and a digital audio player all in one device.  Lots of people want to say "yes Android does that too" but it just isn't as polished/refined or user friendly as Apple's iPod software.

7. Antenna strength: Winner: Android

This is a big one.  If I had to weigh priority of different items, this might be a top criteria, only because a smartphone is just a toy unless it has a GOOD and RELIABLE phone.  The iPhone 4 let me down with that silly 'headset' problem, which I never resolved, and of course the wonderful death-grip fiasco made the iPhone 4 problematic.  Anyway, across the board, all the Android devices I've used have had MUCH better antenna/reception, even when swapping/testing with the same carrier in the same service area.

8. Voice quality: Winner: Android

This is almost as important as service reception.  Overall, all the Android phones I tested and used had much better voice quality than the iPhone.  That was on ATT and T-Mobile via a jailbroken phone as well, the voice quality just doesn't compare.  FWIW I have not tried the Verizon iPhone.

9. An evil henchman: Winner: Android

Just to clarify, the winner is the one that DOES NOT have an evil henchman.  Yes, we all like to make fun of Steve Jobs, who ironically is a stupendous genius for what he has accomplished with Apple.  It turns out that he is also a monumental jerk, flat out lying to his own customers and people in the industry.  So, it is possible that Android has some evil henchmen behind it somewhere, but there certainly is no comparison to the negative publicity that showers Steve Jobs when he tries to manipulate the industry like his own private little and farm.

In conclusion:

  • If you are looking for a smartphone that is an excellent PHONE that also does Internet, web, calendar, etc. and you have some technical know-how, then ANDROID is for you.
  • If you are the rest of the world, and use a phone just to talk to friends and family, then you will care a whole lot more about the cool and easy to use stuff on an iPhone, so IPHONE is for you.
What about me?  Well, I admit the one day experiment turned into a big switch for me.  I expected that I wouldn't be to enticed by iPhone having left it for such powerful reasons and convictions, but alas I have given in.  My vote is to take lesser signal and voice quality to gain the rest of what I consider the better platform, the iPhone.  I will have to wrestle with the fact that I take so much displeasure in Apple's public conduct and treatment of people.  Interesting enough, I'm not interested in getting an iPhone 4 again, instead I will roll with a good 3GS, as it simply causes me less stress day-to-day.

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