(Pun fully intended)
I keep hearing all this fuss about Android and how it’s gaining ground on iPhone and how it has surpasses iPhone sales and how it’s the saviour of all things in smartphones and blah, blah, blah…The problem is that when pundits are comparing iPhone and Android, they are not comparing like things. It is the same as comparing ALL Apple computers with the Ubuntu operating system; it’s not the same thing.
What IS a fair comparison would be solely comparing the operating system, like comparing Mac OSX and Windows 7. There are pros and cons about both operating systems, but the point is that a comparison can only be made when like things are compared. The analogy between iPhone and specific phones that run Android operating systems would be more adequate, but you rarely hear about that. This is because there is no other phone that comes close to iPhone in sales or usability.
The argument between Android and iPhone would make more sense if it was between the Droid and iPhone. If people were buying more Droids than iPhones, that would be something worth argument. But in fact, no phone is currently outselling iPhone, so we can argue all we want about operating systems, but the average consumer doesn’t care. Most people just want a phone to work and look nice doing it. So, rather go on and on how about Android is so much better and gaining so much ground on iPhone, let’s compare the actual phones, iPhone 4 and Droid Incredible, to see how the phones compare to the base consumer and put to rest some of this unwarranted iPhone-bashing.
|iPhone 4 and Droid Incredible
|OS: iPhone OS4
||OS: Android 2.1
|Screen: 3.5in 960×640 resolution
||Screen: 3.7in 480×800 resolution
||Storage: 8GB, up to 32GB microSD card
|Front Camera: Yes
||Front Camera: No
|Rear Camera: 5MP 1.75 micro, flash
||Rear Camera: 8MP with autofocus, dual flash
|FM Radio: No
||FM Radio: Yes
|Weight: 4.8 ounces
||Weight: 4.6 ounces
|Removable battery: No
||Removable battery: Yes
|Adobe Flash: Never
||Adobe Flash: Flash Lite
|Apps: Over 215,000 apps
||Apps: Over 70,000
(Sources: Droid-Life.com and iphone-droid.com)
Before I get into any comparison, I must say this before anything else: I can’t stand Apple and I hate Macs. I say this lest anyone think that I am one of who I refer to as the Apple-loyal who will buy anything that comes from Apple. For me, a Mac is stifling in ways that make doing anything on a computer a chore not worth doing and, while something that is supposedly simple and easy to use has a market, the Mac reeks of asinine and mindless computing that allows people to become victims of their own mediocrity. As a company, Apple defy every part of capitalism that intrinsically allow them to hold one of the most desired stocks of the past decade…but they still make some great products.
I’ll say this also: I have no intentions in perusing the differences between Android and iPhone OS4. This is because an average user would have no idea which is which unless someone told them and the goal here is stress that one must compare specific phones and their abilities rather than an entire phone versus just an operating system.
AT&T vs. Verizon
Our family were long-time users of Verizon (I have had a cell since age 14 and at age 25, I’ve still got the same number), yet we are all now on AT&T. This is solely because of the iPhone; if there were no iPhone, we would still be with Verizon, but I imagine the world would be a sadder place. That said, we had only been with Verizon throughout its numerous name changes (anyone remember Cellular One?) and its rise to become the largest carrier in the US, so I cannot say that we tried AT&T’s service and then went with Verizon because we had had enough. We stayed with Verizon because we had always had Verizon and I imagine that many long-time Verizon users are in the same position; the service was so good, there did not seem a reason to switch. Those who had made the switch, many times, did so out of anger (because any company can make you angry enough to up and leave) or price (because Verizon is bloody expensive) and many of those went back to Verizon in the end because in basic cell phone service, they really are the best.
All this not withstanding, the service received with AT&T and iPhone has not been that different from my Samsung Whatever and Verizon. Very few, if any, calls are dropped and places where I am unable to pick up a signal on iPhone are the same places I was unable to pick up a signal on my Verizon phone. My point is simple: both AT&T and Verizon are large enough to provide similar coverage.
One major topic the media loves to touch upon is AT&T’s “failing” network in large metro areas (your New Yorks and San Franciscos), but I digress…there are far more iPhones floating around a single network than there are Droids, Evos, Blackberrys, etc., each on different carriers. iPhone users are also typical in using more data than their counterparts on Verizon or Sprint, so it makes me wonder if anyone has done any true analysis has been made to see if Verizon would have any more success handling the same level of traffic if they, and they alone, had iPhone. The problem is that unless Apple decide to move completely from AT&T, no one can tell if another carrier could do better than AT&T, which is why I imagine Apple are not keen on switching any time soon. It is simply unfair to say that AT&T’s service is garbage when no other carrier has had to handle the bandwidth that iPhone users gobble monthly and, let’s not forget that if AT&T were at the low the level the media is proclaiming, two years after the first iPhones debuted, AT&T would have seen a major drop in customers as people decided, “No phone is worth this service!” People haven’t, which is worth noting; the iPhone is worth putting up with any perceived or imagined tiers of service.
Lastly, I will throw in this often overlooked, but somewhat important piece of the pie. The Verizon network will not allow you to use voice and data simultaneously. This means, if you are lost in a thunderstorm, you run off the side of the road and need to call the police or just AAA to come help you, when it comes to answering the question, “Where are you?” it is going to take the presence of mind to look up where you are prior to making that call because there is no way the Droid will let you remain on that call and take a look at Google Maps. Bringing the situation a little closer to home, you and a friend across town are trying to meet up for a movie, but need to find movie times. Using a Droid, you will have to end the call, find the movie theatre and times and then call again. Using an iPhone, means you can put your friend on speaker as you peruse the different theatres, films and times and coordinate everything on the same call.
Before I am called far too Apple-biased by neglecting the fact that voice and data can be used simultaneously on the Droid with a WiFi connection, let’s examine the rationale of WiFi vs. 3G. WiFi is not new; the technology has been around at least for 10 years and for 7 years on a large scale. For some reasons, however, having a phone with access to the Internet solely via a WiFi connection was not enough to spark a smartphone industry. This is because, despite the cry that WiFi is everywhere, it isn’t. Yes, if I go to Panera, I can use their free WiFi as I eat my lunch, but I still have to switch to and log into it. Going back to the lost in a thunderstorm example, if one is out in the middle of nowhere, can you honestly rely on finding an accessible WiFi signal, and by accessible, I mean not just a signal, but signal that will not require a password? It took 3G, that is a data connection accessible from virtually anywhere, for the smartphone to take off and that is why iPhone owns the Droid in this aspect. This is not to say that this is a Droid limitation, but it is a Verizon limitation and it is also why I snicker any time I hear someone say the phrase, “Well, I hear iPhone is coming to Verizon soon.” I am certain that Verizon will correct/amend this issue in their network in the future, but it does leave me to wonder if Verizon, too, will feel the same snags as AT&T in the network.
Size, resolution and weight
Smartphones, by and large, are roughly the same size and shape, with small differences measuring in parts of an ounce or in millimeters. The thing is, most people are simply unable to look at two items and see a difference of .2 inches or feel the difference in .2 ounces, so differences that are so small become almost insignificant anywhere, except on paper. What the eye is likely to notice, however, is a difference in screen resolution. The problem is that the iPhone and the Droid have very similar resolutions, to the point, that one would really need to study the devices to see that the iPhone has the better resolution. I mention screen size and resolution and phone weight, simply because these are factoids thrown in almost all directions, but matter relatively little when it comes down to using a phone. The iPhone has a prettier display than any other smartphone on the market, but despite this people either don’t care or don’t care enough to let something like resolution define which phone will suit them. Is my bag somehow unbearable because I’ve got an extra .2 ounces of iPhone hanging in there? Will a Droid user’s eyes somehow deteriorate faster than an iPhone user’s because of 160 square pixels of resolution difference? Not likely.
One can purchase an iPhone with 32GB of storage and that’s all it will ever have. One can purchase a Droid, for $100 less, with 8GB of storage, but can increase the storage to the same 32GB. Now, I know that I cannot readily consider myself a casual consumer, but in many instances I see many techie devices in the same light. I have digital camera and I bought some random size storage card for it a few years ago, but I haven’t upgraded that card since I bought the camera and don’t see that happening any time soon. Obviously, a camera is far different from a iPhone, so let’s look at it from another view. I recently bough a laptop after researching and shopping for weeks on end. I chose one with a large memory, but not more than I knew I was going to need for the laptop and knew full well, that should I run out of room, I had a tera drive sitting nearby to transfer select files. Close to a year later, I have yet to transfer anything to the tera drive and have not worried about increasing my laptop storage.
I give both scenarios to help paint the picture for a smartphone consumer. For most people, a smartphone will be something to carry music, videos and pictures, something to send and receive e-mail, check Facebook, watch a couple YouTube videos, surf the web anywhere in the world and play mobile games. What will create the least hassle for this smartphone user: choosing only select albums to add to said phone, moving photos or videos to a computer or hard drive to make room for more apps or…having to go out and, not only purchase, but have someone install more storage in said phone, in addition to eventually need to choose between albums, move photos and videos to a hard drive? Most people (and I declare this legitimately) have no idea how to upgrade storage on a basic PC, so to go about doing the same seems an unnecessary chore and let’s not forget that the new storage cards are not going to be given away for free. If one is stuck between multiple choices, one will nearly always choose the option that is easiest; this is not laziness or inability to understand the complicated. The desire to do what is easiest is an evolutionary ideal for all sentient life and even force in the universe!
It is also worth mentioning that even if one were to increase the Droid’s storage to the same 32GB of the iPhone, that extra 24GB can only be used for music, videos, photos, etc. No apps or app data can be stored on that extra 24GB you have available. While, at first, I am unable to imagine myself filling more than 8GB on apps, it is slightly disillusioning to know that I would not be able to have an app on my phone, not because I no longer have a page to place it, but because the phone will simply not hold anything more. Let’s not forget that filling 8GB is not outside of the realm of possibility for someone using their iPhone in the same vein of Nintendo DS or PSP. A page of 16 large games can dig very far into 8GB and, with OS4’s folder system, the 176 app limit balloons to over 2000. Suddenly, that 8GB limit becomes a stifling limit that keeps one from using their phone the way one would like, especially if someone asks the question, “What will I use more often? Going through my 5GB of pictures or playing Final Fantasy? Watching a movie I’ve seen twice before or using that giant Matthew Henry commentary each week?”
I have a 32GB iPhone 3GS and have just under 10GB left. I have had to be very specific with my music, ensuring that every song is on at least one playlist to ensure nothing is sitting around just taking up space and I have added videos sparingly. That said, I still have 1278 songs (out of a 3800 strong library), 203 photos, 124 apps (taking up a little more than 2GB), 5 movies, 45 TV shows and 273 iTunes U movies on my phone with room to spare, and I consider myself an iPhone power user. An average user may not come close to any of this, so 8GB may be just fine, but…in the guise of doing what is easiest, why buy a Droid Incredible for $299 with 8GB when one could get an iPhone 3G with the same storage for $99?
Having used iPhone 3GS for months, I can honestly say the camera is garbage. The iPhone 4, however, will bring a 5 megapixel camera with a flash and better focus, not to mention video capture tools right on the phone. Droid Incredible, however, will bring an 8 megapixel camera with dual flash and will undoubtedly be the better of the pair. Several months ago, the camera barely mattered as I could take (and can still take) great photos of me and my friends and move on with my life. Recently, however, I have started a Project 365 and taking photos is a daily task, during which the iPhone’s camera inefficiencies become glaringly obvious. That said, most camera phones have garbage cameras because it is meant to be a phone/Internet browser/mini gaming device first, and a camera in a secondary or tertiary sense.
The camera on a phone is meant to capture all of life’s little moments on the go and the average user may weigh the great camera that comes with the Droid Incredible an iPhone deal breaker if image-snapping encompasses the largest portion of his or her life. To make things a little more convoluted, iPhone has what Droid Incredible does not: a front-facing camera. Why is this necessary? Because trying to take a picture that includes the person holding the camera with the iPhone is unbearably difficult and they usually come out looking like this. A front-facing camera, and it’s potential to bring a Jetsons-style video phone to the average user, is equally a game changer back in iPhone’s direction. If taking pictures is the focus of your life, however, I would still go out and spend money on a nice Canon or Minolta and stop trying to take Pulitzer images with a phone.
I include this under the same guise that I included the resolution and weight, because if I were to miss this, I am sure I would appear even more Apple-biased than is acceptable. In a generation where MP3 players are the norm and XM Sirius is a household name, where does this leave general FM radio? Many radio stations that haven’t been gobbled up by Clear Channel have gone under as a sign of the times. It is fair to say that anyone thirty years old and younger listens to very little radio, if at all, and as the MP3 player and XM Sirius gain further penetration into older generations, the time spent with the radio will reduce further in the US.
I cannot remember the last time I turned on the radio in my car and I don’t think I even have a basic radio anywhere in my home. This is not because many listeners don’t want to listen to the same six songs over and over again or that listeners have no desire to listen to inane chatter from radio personalities or that no one wants to listen to three songs and ten minutes of commercials. Or…perhaps it is and that is why many people are flocking to Internet radio like, Pandora, or cheap subscription radio like Sirius or foregoing radio at all to making full use of MP3 players. The problem is that the radio is no longer the only method of discovering new music. Between MTV and innovations like buying songs heard through a Tap Tap Revenge game, music can be discovered in any one of a million ways and, on top of everything else, if one wants to hear baseball, football, basketball, hockey, whatever games, there are dozens of apps in the app stores of any smartphone to satiate any need.
I present all of this to say one thing: Does it really matter if a phone has a FM radio?
The iPhone has 7 hours of talk time and the Droid has 5.2 hours of talk time. Honestly, I could end the discussion there. Simply put, the iPhone battery is larger, stronger and does more things for a longer amount of time.
What is most often cried by Droid users is that iPhone fails due to its lack of a removable battery, but when one is discussing a phone with a general consumer, the subject of removable battery just makes the matter far more convoluted than necessary. Yes, one could purchase an additional battery, but then the convenience is lost. I, and many others like me, will simply refuse to carry something extra just for the sake of it, especially during those college years, when leaving the house for a night out means taking the phone, the keys and a credit card. An extra battery just defeats the purpose of simplicity that a smartphone is supposed to bring. One must also consider the real purpose of even needing a removable battery.
My last phone had a removable battery and the only time I noticed it was when I dropped the phone and I had to spend an extra five minutes finding the back case and the battery on top of putting the darn thing back in the correct way and hoping the phone was damaged beyond repair. To anyone who uses the subject of removable battery as a deal breaker for iPhone, I suggest one consider the subject of an iPhone battery pack, like the Mophie Juice Pack, like the one I’ve got. Instead of having something else to carry and lose, the juice pack adds that little extra boost for power users while encasing the phone. Even better, when one gets low enough on power, the juice pack will switch on automatically taking an iPhone with a blank screen to 75% power on its own charge and, if that was beautiful enough, the juice pack charges simultaneously with the iPhone, meaning you never need to take off your case or juice pack. Going back to the example of being lost in the thunderstorm and awaiting help, imagine the difference between flicking on greater battery life with an iPhone juice pack, versus rummaging through the car in hopes that you remembered to bring along that extra battery for the Droid.
Adobe Flash and Apps
This has been discussed to the point that I am not sure it even warrants further discussion at this point…but that won’t stop me from going there nonetheless.
Flash Lite will be available on the Incredible which is great, to some extent, but let’s not forget that this latest line of phones is the first to truly encompass Flash. The iPhone created a smartphone market in 2007, but it is not until 2010 that mobile devices see a working version of Flash. A part of me wonders why there was all this screaming about a lack of Flash for all these years when no phone had Flash until now. It was not like one could access a Flash-only site on Blackberry and not on an iPhone previously. All mobiles lacked Flash; the only difference between iPhone and the rest was that Steve Jobs has declared, rather defiantly I may add, that Flash was antiquated and unnecessary, and thus, the need for discussion.
As a designer and a coder, I find a Flash-less world absolutely deplorable; as an iPhone power user, it really is not that big a deal. As a designer, the idea that the Apple-loyal are proclaiming HTML5 as the saviour of the Internet is more than just far-reaching. HTML5 is not even final yet and we are still fighting with IE6. Until we can be rid of IE6, no one can solely embrace HTML5 and all its possibilities, so why is there all the talk about the end of Flash?
That said, the lack of Flash on iPhone is, indeed, garbage because I cannot watch Hulu or stream via Netflix or visit Flash-based sites, but for the most part I rarely notice a lack of Flash to the point that I wonder if those crying the loudest about Flash actually use it on a Droid on a scale large enough to even warrant the complaint.
Most of the sites I visit that rely heavily on Flash are designer or artist showcases. Yes, it would be absolutely grand if I could follow this webcomic while away from home, but considering that iPhone is not meant to be a full PC, or Mac, away from home, I have found ways to do without Flash while I am sans computer and most of that comes through the App Store.
I will say this since the emphatically anti-Apple side of my psyche cannot keep quiet, the lack of Flash on iPhone has nothing to do with the phone’s capabilities, but simply Apple’s resistance to customization and, God forbid, competition to the App Store. If iPhone has access to Flash, developers no longer need to develop specifically for iPhone as well as other phones or platforms. A developer only needs to adjust an app for better accessibility on iPhone and Voila! most of the work is done with no need to prostrate oneself before Apple, Inc. Apple has created the cash cow to defeat all cash cows and, like any other monopolistic company, it wants nothing to do with anything that may interrupt that flow. The only reason Micro$oft allows Windows to play nice with other browsers like Firefox is because of anti-trust laws and with Apple’s recent SDK changes and now its decision to have all ads through iAds, it running down the same road as Gates/Ballmer.
In all honesty, though, most websites are designed to viewed on a computer monitor, so the mobile experience has always been a bit lacking in one vein or another. I hate to admit it, but there are always going to be things that cannot be done on a phone, no matter how smart it is until we halve the size of a nanochip and increase its power tenfold. I do not aim to be one of those iPhone supporters who make the claim that “you don’t need” Flash to browse the web, but I have no qualms in mentioning that anyone expecting to have a complete computer away from home is really in need of a Skype + netbook combination rather than an iPhone or a time machine to teleport eight years into the future to obtain such a wonderful device.
The lack of Flash does touch every power user of an iPhone (a family member even got mad at me after I apparently “neglected” to mention the lack of Flash prior to his iPhone purchase), but Apple have done their job so perfectly that, “There’s an app for that.” is ingrained in the minds of all smartphone users, iPhone or otherwise, to the point that the term “app” no longer refers to an application (i.e.: Micro$oft Word, Mozilla Firefox), but specifically something that is added to a smartphone. When something is not specifically available through Safari, the next instinct is to find what one wants through the App Store (that same family member found an app for the same Flash site he was trying to access a week later) and, so, Flash on iPhone becomes an almost non-issue.
The wide plethora of apps in the App Store make the iPhone ideal when compared to any other smartphone on the market and this is the only time where comparing the iPhone with the Android operating system comes into play. I will admit that there are tons of apps in the App Store that are simply worthless, but there are just as many worthless for Android as well. What is so special about iPhone and the App Store is that both are owned directly by Apple. While this would normally would stifle the market, the closed system of the App Store makes what is so infuriating about a Mac, absolutely ideal for a phone.
The apps in the App Store are made for one specific phone, whereas Android apps are made for the operating system. It is akin to buying a custom made suit versus buying off the rack. Anyone can create anything that is meant to be purchased off the rack which gives a wide flavour of options, but when something is made specifically for you, nothing else can compare to it. There are no apps that are meant to take specific advantage of the Incredible’s hardware over the Evo’s hardware, but every App Store app must be specifically catered for the iPhone. It is worth mentioning, however, that with the inclusion of Flash Lite on the Droid will open all of the Flash, web-based applications to the device, making up for the more than 100,000+ app difference between the App Store and Android’s app.
No, iPhone does not have Flash, which does make doing some favorite things, such as watching streaming videos, a bit problematic, but with so many workarounds, it is not so noticeable that it bricks the iPhone. The masses are not going to flock from iPhone to the Incredible or the Evo because they can now see all those dancing Flash ads in their phone web browser; there is virtually an App Store app for every major Flash application, so one can legitimately stand with the Apple-loyal when they cry, “You don’t need Flash on iPhone!” Now, the iPad…is a subject for another article.
If I’ve seemed overly biased towards iPhone, you are right, I have. The reason behind this is not that I am part of the delusional Apple-loyal who would buy elephant dung if it had an Apple logo on it, but because many techie pundits make the unfair comparisons to iPhone without looking at the phone as a complete unit. The iPhone 4 is cosmetically beautiful and is the kind of thing that one could give to someone from a generation that used rotary phones without needing to send them to special class to teach them how to use it. Usability of the iPhone is what makes it a brilliant piece of technology and, so all of this discussion about how the Android OS surpasses iPhone is all for naught. Let’s also not forget that if Apple were to allow iPhone on Verizon as well as AT&T, there would be little to no competition left for iPhone.
I could go on for the rest of my life about the usability of iPhone or the experience of playing music or videos on iPhone or how developers for Nintendo and Sony are now considering the iPhone and iPod Touch as competition to the Nintendo DS and the PSP, but I won’t. All I can really say is that I have yet to have someone with a Droid or a Blackberry to Wow! me out of my shoes with what their phone can do, yet I daily Wow! strangers on the street with my iPhone…that was even before iPhone OS4.