Another Perspective on Android vs. iOS

Since I’ve spent the last few weeks using a Nexus One and an iPhone, I figured I would take the time to write up my perspective on the two devices and platforms. I have more to say about the Nexus One and Android than iOS and the iPhone 4, but figured it might be helpful for some of you who are thinking about jumping to an Android device.

Over the last few weeks I went from an iPhone 3GS to a Nexus One to an iPhone 4. People, most especially my wife-to-be @lolahess, thought I was nuts. Not because I was switching from an iPhone, but because I was a little obsessed about it. I literally could not make a decision. I picked up a slightly used Nexus One on Craigslist, but couldn’t switch completely over to it. I needed to spend some time using the device. I had been lusting after a Nexus One since they came out. It runs on an open platform, it has a beautiful AMOLED screen (definitely better than the iPhones 3GS, at least indoors – more on that below), it comes unlocked, I could finally leave AT&T and I didn’t have to sign another contract, I could tether the 3G connection and not have to worry about paying anything extra and I could carry around an extra battery. One of the other awesome things about the Nexus One that’s appealing is the fact that because it uses the stock Android OS, the latest and greatest OS updates come long before being issued for the other Android phones. And as any early adopting geek knows, having things before everyone else is fun.

Android devices like the Droid Incredible and EVO 4G use HTC’s flavor of Android and the Sense UI, which blows. It also means that you may or may not get the latest version of Android. You’re at the mercy of the manufacturer. This creates fragmentation, which is a bad thing. The biggest drawback of having a fragmented platform is that it presents a challenge to developers. They have to develop for various manufacturers and versions of the OS. It’s a big reason why there’s not a lot of apps on the BlackBerry platform. Anyways, the bottom line is that because the Nexus One is Google’s Android phone, it gets the updates quickly and one doesn’t have to worry about waiting for the handset manufacturer or carrier for the updates. The good people at T-Mobile were happy to sell me a SIM card and after reading up on some configuration tips, I installed Android 2.2 (Froyo) and I was ready to go. One of the main reasons I wanted to give Android a shot was my entire life is in Google apps. I use Gmail for personal email, Topspin used Google Apps, I use Google Voice as my central voicemail inbox and like the fact that everything configured simply by me inputting my Gmail username and password on the Nexus One. Once I did that, it synced everything and I was ready to start installing apps.

People give Android a tough time for the lack of apps, but all of the important apps I had on my iPhone were available for Android except for Instapaper. And I found a decent alternative I could live with to replace that. The lack of games was a bummer, but I’m not much of a gamer so the freedom of using the Nexus One without a contract outweighed the lack of games. Being a super technical geek type, I loved all of the extensive bells and whistles on the Android OS. The best thing about Android is the alert system. It beats the shit out of iPhone’s alerts. Overall Android is an awesome platform and I would be totally happy to use an Android device every day. Well, except for two big issues. One is a hardware issue and one is a software issue.

The Nexus One is a really nice device, except for one thing. Well, two things. It was nearly impossible to read the screen in sunlight, which is kind of a big deal. I had read about this before I got the Nexus One, but holy shit was it awful. Quite literally you simply cannot read anything on the screen in the Santa Monica sunlight. Somewhat of a deal breaker. Apparently the Super AMOLED screens that the newer Android devices have is better. The other thing is that from a design standpoint, the trackball ruins the looks of the device. Certainly something I could live with, but when you compare it with the iPhone, most especially the iPhone 4, it’s somewhat of an eyesore. I realize I’m being super picky here, but it’s something I notice, especially having used an iPhone for the last year. One other thing, and it’s an Android issue as opposed to a Nexus One issue – there’s no easy way to get music and podcasts on the device. The only two applications that sort of work are DoubleTwist and Instinctiv, both of which are in the early stages of development. I actually really liked Instictiv, but DoubleTwist is absolutely unusable. It constantly crashed on my Mac. Once I was able to get music on the Nexus One, the Android app was great and was comparable to the iPod functionality of the iPhone. Ultimately, this was a deal breaker for me. I’m sure something will change before the end of the year, but I have no desire to carry around an additional device for music and podcasts in the mean time.

My sister bought me an iPhone 4 for my birthday, which I’ve really been enjoying, but I have to admit I miss the Android experience a little bit. There’s just a little more geek appeal and it’s new. The advances in iOS are pretty great and the iPhone 4 is stunning. The screen alone makes it worth the upgrade. It pained me to have to renew my AT&T contract for another 2 years, but for now it’s my only choice. I told myself that I would never buy another subsidized mobile phone again, but I did. And I’m not proud of that, but until I have another choice for the iPhone 4, I’m sticking with my subsidized phone on AT&T. 

For mobile users looking for the best app phone, iPhone is king. There’s no denying that it’s a better and easier experience than you can get with an Android device today. If you just want a device that works, you can’t go wrong with an iPhone. If you like to tinker and it’s important to be on an “open” platform then Android is a better choice. iOS clearly is the more mature of the platforms and no one does user experience better than Apple.

As a slight aside, I bought my original Nexus One on Craigslist for $450, installed Froyo and then ended up selling it for $500. I figured I could do it again, so I bought another one and ended up getting it from the same guy, which was kinda funny. He said he had a supplier friend in San Diego that go them for super cheap. Seemed totally sketchy, but I bought a second Nexus One from him to flip again. It ended up being a little more difficult the second time around. I put my iPhone 3GS on Craigslist and sold in a few days for $300 and ended up selling the Nexus One the same night (tonight) for $480. Not bad.

Let me know if you have any questions.