Android Phones Vs. iPhone 4 – What to buy?

Kaneda - Art for iPhone

Creative Commons License photo credit: kaneda99

I need a new phone in about 2 month and think about wheter buying the next generation iPhone or an Android phone. Despite being called “Apple Fan” by people who don’t understand that I like to buy the best choice that I can make (and this clearly was the iPhone 3G three years ago), I would like to revisit all options and arguments. Even if I must say that I have made VERY good experiences with the iPhone 3G so far, and I guess this makes me biased.

WWDC is over – nothing new or impressive

So, now the WWDC has passed, and to be true, nothing really new has been revealed. 960×640 pixels resolution is the best the market has so far, but we knew that from the leaked devices. Everything else is not that impressive … like the front cam, that essentially will only make video calls to other iPhone4’s possible – which isn’t too impressive. And sorry, but I just can’t be too happy about that iAd-“feature”. The only real features are the new multitasking, better battery life, and speedier hardware. Here you can see a small and not too informative infographic. We’ll talk more about features later.

The techie-friends talk about phones a lot

First, I got some friends with Androids, none (I see in person) with iPhones. So I often hear them (and everyone using Android) defend theirselves when they talk about their phones (even if noone attacked them). I guess its because I carry an iPhone 3G for two years now and they think I hate non-Apple stuff. Nevermind. Their most advocated decision-help they got from the internet is:

“If you like to tinker around with your phone, pick the Android, if you want something out of the box, pick the iPhone”

This of course doesn’t make sense to me. Jailbreaking the iPhone is very simple, and you have a fully customizable system with it, including Linux command line, Java, Ruby, Python, … and everything that people like the Android for – I did this instantly, and its nice and easy to use. “Rooting”, as Jailbreaking is called on Android phones, couldn’t be easier – while it shouldn’t be necessary anymore with Android 2.2 (as that is open enough so you don’t need to do this). The only problem with Jailbreaking on the iPhone is the hardware. If you install a lot of custom stuff, your phone gets slow – at least my 3G did. That could be better on an android, but well. So far, I favor the possibilities of the Android 2.2.

But I want to USE my smartphone

When asked for a certain feature or App, iPhone users usually tell you which app they prefer for that task or feature – Android users will give you the answer that its possible with their platform, but that they’re not doing it now. To be fair: this is no surprise as the Android is a pretty young system and there wasn’t so much time and competition so far. No matter what, I want usable software now. So I list the usual tasks with a smartphone that I use daily with my 3G:

  • calling people, text-messages
  • contacts
  • listening music
  • E-Mail
  • Browser
  • Camera
  • Banking-application
  • listening to radio (normal radio, don’t think of pandora and last.fm here)
  • Last.fm and Pandora ;-)
  • Google Maps (wayfinding)
  • Calender
  • ToDo-Application
  • listening to Podcasts

Some other stuff is not important everyday, but I would miss it if I didn’t have it would include:

  • making Videos
  • YouTube
  • synch/backup
  • some other sites that I like apps from like Facebook, EBay, Dict.cc, Twitter, some TV guide
  • nice handy apps like video streaming (AirVideo), USB support (AirSharing), TeamViewer and stuff like that

When I asked for the usual software to do the usual tasks, I can sum up the answers I got “its all out there, and it works, even if its not as nice as iPhone software”. This didn’t fit my question, I effectively wanted to know if there are Apps that you would really daily use to do these things – technically doable are all of these points of course. Well, I guess I could find software, but how much time would I need to invest? And what if I don’t like what’s available?

The Interwebs – What does Google tell me?

Okay, it would be stupid to not read what others are saying. I’m starting from the not so good posts and work my way to the better ones.

The first article I found tells us that Android is better than a 3G, and that 3GS is better than a 3G. It tells us something about the hardware, and whines about Flash not on iPhone, which I really never missed. It tells us that Apps on Android suck compared to AppStore quality and that the tight and well done integration of Google services is a big plus for Android.

This one from Lifehacker tells us that the iPhone’s notification overlays suck. And thats true. It also says that (after having switched from iPhone to Android) the multitasking in Android doesn’t matter much. Then I discovered how old this one is, and dismissed it.

This german post by a well know computer magazine compared the Nexus to the iPhone 3GS and finds the speed of the devices to be pretty much the same. It tells us, that its the apps that matter. It also tells me that Android does no flash too … well, I thought they could, but well, in fact, I don’t care – Flash is dying anyways. Here it is also pointed out that the flexible desktop widgets of the android rocks. I’d love those!

This article looks at the numbers and sees interest in Android phones rising. It tells us that Android and iPhone OS will have similar market shares soon, and that we can expect both not to be dead anytime, even if iPhone is still the more appreaciated platform.

This article shows the comparison from a developers standpoint. It outlines, that developing for Android is a breeze using Java and Eclipse, and that Apple’s developer tools suck a lot in comparison. For me, thats a very big point, as developers make the apps. And I want to develop for phones myself soon.

This german article tell us, that the Apple App Store is the main factor, that hinders the iPhone from being truely great. It advocates for the Android to be the platform of the future, even if its not yet the platform of the present time.

This one also says that Android kicks ass and the ass is iPhone OS 4.0 as the new features are already inside Android or not interesting to the writer.

This is a very good post, if you want to read one of the links in here, I’d recommend this one. This post lists alot of small things like that Android has a user-definable spelling correction, or that its just a USB-mass storage device when attached to a computer. I’d love that. MobileMe is expensive – which is a bad point on the iPhone too. But he also lists a lot of Pro iPhone stuff, like a lot of bugs, very graphically unlikable apps and interface elements, hard-buttons and trackballs that just have no real use, menus that often make you using more clicks than on an iPhone and that using Android means the same amount of Google-lock in than an iPhone will make you Apple-locked-in.

This also very good post directly points out the differences between iPhone OS4 and Android 2.2. It tells us that the multitasking of iPhone 4 is better, even if they let Android win this award as it had the feature much earlier. It tells us that the hardware is about equal and that the browsing experience is about equal (as long as you turn flash off in Android). Voice Control works MUCH better in Android while all sorts of media (including games) are better consumed on an iPhone. The interface looks better on iPhone. In the end, the message is not “if you like to play around on your device, pick Android, else iPhone” but this:

“Which device you’ll want to buy is something that will vary from person to person. Do you value the ability to carry around all of your music, movies and games? Then you’ll probably want that new iPhone. Do you want the ability to create a mobile hotspot, to text hands-free and play stuff at addictinggames.com on your phone? Then you’ll want that Android device.”

This one is clearly pro for the newest Sprint Evo hardware, and this is a relateted list of pro and cons list for against both OSses.

The Next iPhone Generation

We pretty much know the features that Android 2.2 will pack. 4 times speed increase due to a changed Java JIT compiler, and opening a WLAN spot which is the best way of doing tethering. We also know most of the stuff, the iPhone will do better. Lets look at the iPhone.

The step from the first iPhone to the 3G was Apple’s breakthrough. The step from 3G to 3GS was a major one too. I believe that the step to the next hardware iPhone and iPhone OS4 will have the same impact. As technologically interested person who uses Twitter and also knows how to use a feedreader, I was of course well informed about the next iPhone generation before this evening. Two models were leaked (most likely on purpose) and a lot of info about the next OS update was already released or found in the existing software of the iPad.

We will have nearly true multitasking. Not true multitasking, which has some differing points:

  • We usually don’t have to kill apps on our own on the iPhone. Android users have to use the background process killer, if they want to free up some RAM – and I heard android users do this at least once per day or usually more often.
  • We don’t have cool background apps, that can pop up when we swipe down from the top of the screen – as background apps don’t really interact with the user. This is the main point of critique from my side. I want Twitter or a Task Management software  on my command all the time. I’ll have to see how fast the hardware is, so that switching is fast. :-/
  • iPhone users will have longer battery time without multitaksing as the processor only works event driven, and not gives out cycles at all running programs all day.
  • We will have the cleaner, more user oriented software, while with time, Android Apps will catch up. But so far, the video and ebook software look great.

My Pros and Cons

Putting stuff on lists often just makes things more clearly. There’re even more points than the following ones, but I believe those following points are the main differences and most of the rest should work on both platforms. Or has just been put into the iOS4 even if it was on Android much earlier.

Pro Android 2.2:

  • 2.2’s JIT compliler might make Android 4 times faster. THATS a PRO! +++
  • real background services ++
  • better voice control +
  • no-problem WLAN hotspot +
  • more open system +
  • better development capabilities +
  • real filesystem +
  • better synching +

Contra Android 2.2:

  • buggy software —
  • software not made with usability in mind – typical “programmer”s GUIs” —
  • much more time intensive (searching apps , choosing apps, configuring system) —
  • fewer apps to choose from –
  • need to kill apps myself –
  • no system wide search –
  • some phones might have hardware / driver problems

Pro iPhone 4:

  • more mature software, better concepts, more “hittable” buttons, pretty bug free and fewer “hickups” and crashes ++++
  • bigger app choice, better app quality +++
  • works out-of-the-box +
  • already got my beloved apps +
  • better worked out hardware finish (outside phone quality) +

Contra iPhone:

  • will need to jailbreak for full potential (but thats not that bad)
  • no widgets (after thinking a bit about it this isn’t very bad either)
  • more expensive –
  • buggy voice control (if nothing was changed there) –
  • still needs iTunes —

What didn’t make it on this list: Camera stuff, hardware stuff (should be pretty equal), battery life (nobody knows yet even if I phone might have the advantage here), resolution (in that high ranges noone can see a difference between 960 and 800 pixels), call qualilty (iPhone should now be in the other phone’s quality ranges), games (don’t use them much, but here the iPhone would be ahead again), Flash (I just do not care at all) and Browsers (even if I found my Safari on the 3G to be superiour to the Browser I saw on Android 2.1, and I guess that mobile Safari 5 will add something to this, I don’t feel there’s a big difference at all).

Want a decision?

Yeah, you heard it in the tone. Looking at the list above, I see the important points clearly in the iPhone’s, even if the Android might be the big thing in one or two years. Android for me looks like early adopter stuff, and I learned that its after all just a tool and should do stuff for you. And I have my biases against Android. Seeing some glitches in the 2.1 browser and maps interface didn’t help that much. I want the smartphone of the present time, with grown up software – and not the smartphone that might be big one or two years in the future. I decided for the next iPhone. Even if the new JIT compiler make things hard. Perhaps I’ll just get an additional Droid for development … oh wait no time. Winner from my point of view in this spot of time: iPhone4. Oh, and just in case you’re wondering: no, Nokia’s Systems, Pre, Blackberry, Windows Series 7, Windows Mobile 6.5 all didn’t even come close to the toplist. I bet Windows 7 could be a competitor, but they’re far from a release.

Any comments? Other opinions? Point I clearly missed? Please tell me, I still have about one month before I need to pay the cash :-)

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, Posted Tuesday, June 8th, 2010 under Reviews.

6 comments

  1. Thanks for the pingback, mate. Glad to hear you enjoyed my article comparing the two. It’s a very subjective decision which will end up turning out differently for every person.

  2. Indeed … just read two more posts that support my decision:

    Thoughts on iPhone 4 by Kyle Baxter and Heise: Ein Android für alle Fälle (german)

    Okay, its easy to read the posts that are in favour of your own decision, but the german heise post just states the facts and lets me want an iPhone. I hope T-Online will make an upgrade-offer, I’d be in for that.

  3. Hatebreeder says:

    Leider leider, muss ich noch länger mit meinem Telefon leben.
    Ansonsten stände für mich eine ähnliche Entscheidung an.
    Wie die neuen Highend Blackberrys sind kann ich nicht sagen, aber ich habe eins vom Job aus. Es fühlt sich ehrlich gesagt an, wie aus dem letzten Jahrtausend, ok vielleicht eher 2004. Zwar gabs gerade ein Software update und vieles ist dadurch besser geworden, aber die Steuerung an sich ist einfach beschissen. Da es ein reines Diensthandy ist, passe ich es natürlich auch nicht an meine persönlichen Bedürfnisse an, sondern nur an die beruflichen. Auch hier kann ich nur sagen, vergiss es. Synchronisationen mit meinem Rechner oder gar mit nem Exchangeserver gibts nur durch extrem teure Softwar/Lizenzen. Aber das ist eigentlch das wichtigste sowohl für ein Diensthandy als auch privat. Also Fingerweg vom Blackberry.

    Nebenbei bin ich über “doable” gestolpert. Dachte erst, dass Wort jibbet net. Wieder was gelernt, wobei ich wohl immer practicable nutzen würde.. ;)

  4. Ich denke auch nicht jeder braucht ein Smartphone, werde mal morgen drüber schreiben.

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