UseableArt : Information + Design

Experiments on Hiatus: Android vs. iPhone

Well, true believers, it’s been quite a while… Thanks for your collective patience! Been on hiatus while dealing with the vicissitudes of life and divorce in the Big Apple. Big fun 😉


While on hiatus I have had the pleasure (and I do mean that) of experimenting with a T-Mobile G1, built on Google’s Android cell phone user interface, and compare it to my vaunted iPhone. For all those in doubt, I most certainly put all preconceived notions aside in order to make what I initially thought would be a parallel shift to another device. Wrong. Oh so very, very wrong. It turns out that sometimes preconceived notions are born for a reason, and this is one such circumstance. Point by point, here is the comparison as I see it:

USB Drive Capability:

Old iPods used to feature this function, and the Android’s ability to hook up directly to your computer as a USB device is handy indeed. Not quite as elegant as syncing, perhaps, and a huge headache for corporate, organizational, and institutional security types, but a damn sight more functional. Advantage: Android.

Keyboard:

No doubt, even though a soft keyboard is due for Android any day now, that the hardware keyboard is more easily navigable and functional than the “I’m all thumbs” iPhone keyboard. Advantage: Android.

Screen Size:
G1 screen is smaller than the iPhone, and allows only three screens-full of apps, instead of the iPhone’s nine. Advantage: iPhone.

Charging Mechanisms:
Standard mini-USB style charging for the Android device edges out the iPhone’s connector for usability and interchangeability. Advantage: Android.

Third-Party Applications:
Cool apps for Android, but much cooler ones (not to mention MANY more of them) are available for the iPhone. Apple’s App Store is much more robust than Google’s vehicle, as is the updating process. Advantage: iPhone.

Music and Video Management:
Forget about storage capacity; you’ll be lucky if you can fit your favorite tracks onto the G1’s base 1GB storage card. But the whole management and playback apparatus suffers under Android as well. Advantage: iPhone.

User Interface:
Android is good and somewhat polished, but as one would expect Apple’s historically meticulous attention to UI design puts them well out in front here. Mixed with strange omissions from the first iteration of Android (i.e. when I create a calendar entry certain options are available to me that are completely absent when modifying the same entry), the winner here is clear. Advantage: iPhone.

Ring Tones:
Android really stomps on the iPhone here. Ever out to make a buck, Apple’s charging users to convert iTunes Store tracks into ring tones for a fee has angered many. In Android, simply open up a song in the admittedly under-powered player, make a menu selection, et voila… Your favorite tracks are queued up as ring tones, free of charge. Advantage: Android.

Battery Life:
We’ve all heard about the battery life on the iPhone. Pretty bad. Well, with Android it is worse. Much, much worse. Advantage: iPhone.

Customization:

We’ve already discussed ring tones, but Google’s interface edges out the iPhone here in more ways than just one. Take the whole wallpaper thing, for example. With the iPhone it may be the first thing you see… But not the last. Approach even the surface of the UI and the wallpaper disappears, revealing admittedly clean and elegant rows of application icons against black. With Android, your wallpaper is constantly in the background as you work, as one would expect on a desktop or laptop PC. Advantage: Android.

Web Browsing:
With each company using its own native browser format for their own product (Google’s Chrome vs. Apple’s Safari), it seems to come down to the amount of time they have enjoyed their market share, as well as the opportunity to be refined by their developers. With Chrome being the new kid on the browser block, the Web browsing experience on the iPhone edges out Android. Advantage: iPhone.

Form Factor:
With the G1 its pretty good. Not perfect, but good. Solid build gives way to the tell-tale creak of springs, and the slight impression of flimsiness, as the screen is flipped up to access the keyboard. Apple’s device is rock-solid. Literally. No moving parts other than the few necessary buttons they have built into the case, the immediate impression is of a much more solid device, which is hard to achieve given the fact that HTC (developer of the G1) is famous for their attention to detail and build quality. Advantage: iPhone.

Accessories:

For the G1? Yawn… Apparently this device did not excite the imagination the way that the iPhone did. As for iPhone accessories, there are almost too many to wrap the mind around. Which in this case is a good thing. I’d rather be overwhelmed by choice and selection than underwhelmed by walking into a T-Mobile store and seeing… 2 case styles for the G1. Advantage: iPhone.

Games:
For the G1 they pretty much suck. Saw a free version of Pac-Man that was true to the arcade original, even published directly by Namco. However while it has more than its fair share of losers, the iPhone has more good games available for it already than you can shake a stick at. And with all the developer money flooding this arena, this looks like it will only improve, even as Google does its best to encourage developers to catch-up. But when you have three ex-Blizzard employees quitting their jobs to create an iPhone/iPod Touch game development company, complete with millions in seed money from Apple… This one seems like it will only continue to tip in Apple’s direction. Advantage: iPhone.

Maps:
We all love maps, especially when our little GPS-enabled devices can plot our positions on them, show us where we are going and have been, even where our friends are. And we all know that Google Maps dominate the market. Why then, does the iPhone have greater functionality, including a better mapping UI as well as a fully-featured version of Google Earth? The G1 doesn’t even have a version of Google Earth, and its built on Google’s own OS! Advantage: iPhone.

Headphones:
There seemed to be no end to the amount of crap dished out to the original iPhone because of its proprietary, recessed headphone jack that only allowed iPhone-capable headsets to be plugged in. With this problem corrected, we have the best of both worlds: the ability to charge through that clunky plug, and listen to your music through a separate headphone jack at the same time. Take careful note of the single USB port at the bottom of the G1, and the total lack of a headphone jack. Stupid? Yes. Why? Because you can either charge your device (of which it is so often in need) OR listen to music, and ne’er the twain shall meet. The only advantage for the G1 here is that you can use any headphones you like and still have the mic attachment/headphone adapter ready to receive voice commands. But still… Advantage: iPhone.

Storage Capacity:
Yes, the iPhone is more expensive, but this is one of the main reasons. Your G1 comes with a paltry 1GB of removable/replaceable card storage. Sure, the removable/replaceable part is cool, but 1GB?!? The iPhone, going the opposite route, has cemented the storage into the device. But when you are talking about 8GB, 16GB, and more… Well, interchangeability starts to matter less and less. Advantage: iPhone.

Stability:
The Android interface is full of amazing potential, if a bit buggy. This is excusable in version 1.0 of any device (remember iPhone 1.0? Problem free? I think not). However, the Apple interface has already realized much of that potential, and worked out most of the usability and general stability bugs. Advantage: iPhone.

Overall Advantage:
iPhone (13 out of 18)

In the end it would seem that Android is brilliant, even polished when compared to the rest of the competition (Windows Mobile, Nokia’s UI, etc.). It is most definitely the “best of the rest”, and will certainly only add more polish as time wears on. But for now, the iPhone remains the clear winner, and remains way out in front even of Android with regard to usability, applications, functionality, and a host of other factors. I look forward to seeing where Google takes Android, and who else picks it up. For now, and for the foreseeable future, I’d stick with your iPhone if I were you… Enjoy 😉

DataInk Homepage | AndrewWallerstein.com

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This entry was published on May 9, 2009 at 10:15 pm and is filed under android, apple computer, iphone, ipod touch. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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