iPhone vs. Android devices

Recently we’ve had an interesting debate among some friends about which is the better platform. The debate of course came at the expense of my buddy Mitchell McKenna‘s Facebook wall… but nonetheless some interesting points were brought up. Mitch, I’m sorry we hijacked your thread. However, after David’s comment I just had to voice it all out. =p
To summarize and bring everyone else up to speed:
For Android (Droid X in particular):

  1. Voice Commands across multiple apps. You can literally talk to the phone to accomplish complex tasks.
  2. True multi-tasking in the background. The app is kept alive in the background as a process, while the iOS suspends the app and stops it from running.
  3. Flash support. iPhone has absolutely no support or future plans to support for Flash.
  4. No need of a media player like iTunes. iPhone is completely depended on iTunes. You need iTunes to activate and install apps on the phone. Many people think iTunes is slow and quite buggy at times.
  5. No curated App Store. You can run anything you want on the Android platform. There is not watchdog to dictate what you can run on your device.
  6. Native Google Apps support, Google Voice, Google Navigation. Many Google client apps are not available on the iPhone. For one, Apple would not allow some of them in the App Store for whatever reason. Also, Google never published an iPhone app for it.
  7. Better battery life than iPhone 4? Someone will have to do some extensive testing to confirm this one.

For iPhone 4, iOS 4:

  1. Apple’s multi-tasking API allows for a much more efficient structure of doing background processes. Multiple apps share the same common background process, which gives more battery life and better performance. At the end, it accomplishes the exact same thing. You have to keep an app running on Android to receive offline line instant messages, iPhone uses Push Notification API while the app quit.
  2. Flash support is quite immature on any mobile platform. I have been trying to run it ever since the Windows Mobile days on a XScale processor running at 624MHZ. It was slow and generally unusable. Even worse, it eats battery! It’s rare that you can’t find an alternative to a popular Flash game in the App Store. For videos? HTML 5 + Apple Quicktime X work wonders. I streamed Apple’s last media event LIVE on my iPhone! It worked both on iPhone 3G and iPhone 4.
  3. iTunes is thankfully the most useful and popular media player in the world. I admit its performance is lacking in some areas, but I’m sure a company that is worth more than the mighty Microsoft will eventually release something faster. Having said that, there is a reason why people use iTunes. If you care about the quality of your music, and your library isn’t full of MP3 rips you got from P2P… iTunes really works well. iTunes uses 256k ACC format which is several times the compression ratio than MP3, and the quality is just night and day. Get a pair of descent speaker or headphones and you will hear the difference.
  4. Curated App Store is not always a bad thing. It’s a watchdog to make sure bad stuff doesn’t end up on your phone. The Android app market is perhaps too open for the same reason we ended up installing anti-viruses and firewalls on our PCs. While the review process is not perfect, but I feel a lot safer that Apple at least does look at every app that gets into the store. It’s all about quality and standards!
  5. GV Mobile was just approved by Apple to the App Store. So go download it if you use Google Voice. There is MapQuest Mobile on iPhone that will give you what Google Nav has. Google just chose not to release a Nav app on the iPhone… Not really Apple’s fault. It’s dirty competition which both sides did play.
  6. Are voice commands that useful? Would you be speaking out loud to your phone when you on the bus? Walking down the street? or even when you are at home? Sure you may be able to do a lot of cool things with voice control… but I still feel more reassured to use my fingers. Voice commands are subject to interpretation… fingers are still much more accurate and trouble-free.
  7. Battery life is awesome on the iPhone 4. People just need to know how to use their phones! The reason why Engadget and Walt Mossberg both nearly got 38hr of battery life on the iPhone 4 was because they knew how to work it! Read some of my findings here to get a longer lasting iPhone. I don’t have a Droid X to test it with, but I’m heavy user. I have 4 Exchange accounts, and 10+ apps with Push Notification enabled. I’m always on 3G and I listen to music and stream podcast occasionally. Ever since I got the iPhone 4, I have never found a single situation where I wanted to use the phone and the battery is out. The iPhone is always on, and I charge it every one or two days. I will be writing more on iPhone battery life management later on, I think there are a lot user out there who don’t know how to use the battery, and Apple really did not do a very good job of conveying that knowledge to users.
  8. The Retina Display on the phone is amazing! It’s the sharpest display I have ever seen in my life. It’s super bright and super crisp! It also offers A LOT more pixels than any Android phones! For the Droid X, it’s 409,920 vs. 614,400 pixels! That’s a big difference.
  9. People say well, so for you iPhone users to do what Android does you have to jailbreak and void the warranty on your device… Well if you go around and speak to iPhone users… they’ll ask you… what do I need that requires jailbreaking? While it may be apparent to geeks, the truth is that most people already got what they need directly from Apple! The phrase “there’s a app for that!” didn’t just come from nowhere.
  10. This last point is against Android as a whole. There are how many different versions of the Android OS now? The most current versions can’t even run on older devices. However you can still put iOS 4.1 on a two year old iPhone 3G, and Apple had fixed all the performance issues. If you go take a look at numbers published by Google. You will realize that because there are so many different versions of Android and so many different devices… the market-share of each OS release is extremely inconsistent. This can be quite problematic for developers. Furthermore, from what I can tell… you cannot run OS 2.2 Froyo on older devices. The carriers still dictate what OS is available on your phone! That’s something iPhone stood against on day 1.

I’ll let it end there for now, and this is a rather hot topic so please voice any opinion you may have. However, I’d like to say that at the end of the day… it all boils down to personal preference. You will also choose what works best for yourself. While we may disagree, that doesn’t we have to be rude about it. Like what Steve Jobs said during the D8 Conference - “Just because we are competing with them (Google) doesn’t mean we have to be rude about it.”
I think the point of this debate is bring good ideas out in the open, so we can learn from other users’ perspectives and go back to the manufacturers with an updated list of demands. =p

  • Jba

    hello,

    nice comparison of the android vs iphone4 platforms!

    I noticed you mentioned some comments on how to increase the battery life on ur iPhone4? Did u actually post those anywhere or is that for a future day?

    regards,
    John

  • http://www.frankleng.me Frank Leng

    hi Jba,
    the article I posted is http://frankleng.me/2010/08/27/iphone-4-review-and-thoughts/

    I found that the battery needs some burn-in, and you need to do multiple complete discharge and recharge cycles for it to reach its maximum capacity. That is true for ALL lithium-ion batteries. There are other tips I posted, but I will be posting a much more extensive article on how to improve your battery life, esp if you have a jailbroken device.

    did you jailbreak your phone btw?

  • http://www.frankleng.me Frank Leng
  • bittespuhlen

    Have you ever owned an android or used one for an extended period of time? If not how can you make some of the accusations above? Just wondering…

  • http://www.frankleng.me Frank Leng

    Hi. no I have not used an Android device for long. I had a Nexus One for about a week or so. A friend who worked at Google lent it to me for review.

    The assumptions and accusations if you want to call it that are general issues with the Android platform. The general open vs. closed platforms. Open platforms are more quickly adaptable by the industry, but it is vulnerable to fragmentation and potential security problems.
    Even Google is realizing the issues and they are rethinking their strategy of allowing the carriers and mobile manufacturers to toy around with Android 3. In fact, all future modifications to the source code of the OS must be approved by Google.

    I like the openness of Android, but I am also not very confident about leaving some of the things I take for granted in iOS at the mercy of the developers.

    If there is anything I wrote that you do not agree with, please do mention it.

    thanx

  • bittespuhlen

    I am a big fan of apple and have been for years and will continue to be. However I don’t think you gave Android a fare shot and failed to mention some of the other qualities. It just seems a little one-sided to me.

    I disagree with number 2. Before owning an android phone I whole heartedly agreed that flash was clunky on mobile devices but this has definitely not been the case on my droid. Do we need to move to html5 yes by all means but does this mean we throw out a technology that is still be used by so many web designers even in the smallest ways. There are still thousands of sites created entirely out of flash and if I want to see them why should someone stop me? I think Apple threw out Flash way too early just as they have done with other technologies.

    I disagree with number 4 as well. You say its “quality and standards” I say it’s all about the money and market. They want control. You insinuate that open source leads to viruses???? This has not been true with Firefox and is not true with androids. My phone has not been subject to any viruses. I think that is a poor assumption at best.

    I also think there were some good attributes available on android that you left out. 1. Cheaper carriers. Sprint still offers more for a lot less than Att or Verizon. 2. 4G there is not an iPhone with 4G capabilities but there are several androids with such. (If you don’t think this is important you have not experienced that service yet.) 3. Interface: The android lets you customize your interface a whole lot more than iPhone. Including widgets, switches and more. For instance if I need to see the weather I just unlock my phone and there it is displayed on my home screen. If I need to turn on GPS/wifi/4g/bluetooth/etc all I need to do is press the switch and it’s on no need to dig around in settings. At a glance I can see my calendar. Etc. etc.

    In conclusion, I love Apple and I love the iPhone I just don’t think you gave both an equal shot. Your review was very one sided and you shot down every quality you listed about the Android. I think both are equally good there are just positives and negatives about both.

  • http://www.frankleng.me Frank Leng

    It’s hard to say who’s right or wrong here, but let me clarify a few things before we get into that.

    The comment about Flash was fair. I agree that more options wins over the lack of option. but from what I could tell from using the Nexus One… Flash on mobile is just not worth the pain. Performance was horrible, video quality was lacking… and battery life was greatly affected. Even on my laptop I find this to be true. Is HTML 5 the answer? I do not know. because even the implementation of HTML 5 on a mobile browser is questionable. What is the trend is the creation of native apps that can effective replace the Flash widget, whatever it might be. As you might have noticed, popular Flash games are made into iPhone apps, same can be said for Flash apps and websites. I have heard from numerous Flash developers that they are in fact transitioning their work into standard HTML and AJAX. I really don’t miss having Flash, and I think Apple was right to encourage the demise of this aging technology that Adobe have tried to perfect since the Windows Mobile 2002 days. (about 6-7 years ago)

    Secondly, Open platform is not the same as Open Source. There is nothing wrong with opening the source of an app. but opening a mobile platform without any sort of curation can be dangerous. For example, developers are now putting analytics into their app that track usage info that include the type of device, user location and other private info. These info are collected in the background often without the knowledge of the user and they are beamed directly to the cloud. This by definition is a “trojan horse” virus! It steals your private info without your knowledge and sends it to a company/person who might profit from it.
    Even Apple’s approval process cannot fully prevent clever developers from doing this… How can Android users not worry???
    Apple is actually taking great pains to impose control on the iOS platform, who is to say that Google’s lack of control was not due to the lack of resources and excuse from liability?

    4G is fast, but it’s not available in Canada yet. Even if I get an Android phone… the service isn’t there to make use of it. Currently the biggest problem with 4G phones is again battery life. 4G radios and chipsets are still in its infant stage and there are a lot of optimization needed to get it mainstream. We barely even solved the 3G issues yet, I think jumping to 4G may be pushing it a little too hard. I still enjoy WiFi for the speed and battery life. (even WiFi chipsets took about 5 years to mature)

    You are correct about the last point. iPhone is in fact lacking many of the customization features that Android has. Words on the street is that Apple will introduce certain customizations in iOS 5.
    Currently, I’m getting some of those customization through jailbroken apps. Even those are probably way behind what Android can do. I really hope Apple is working on this one. We shall see.

    Having said all that, discussion like this is great! help to bring a lot of experience and opinions to light. Thanx for commenting!

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