Musings on androids and i-devices
So, I’ve been using an android phone (HTC desire) for the best part of two months now after a fair bit of research and although I could have gone iPhone, I made a considered decision to sell my part of my soul to Google (Apple have had a good share of it up until now).
I have owned and used veraciously an iPod touch for nearly a year and was very used to the apple app eco-system and by and large love the way the iPhone OS works. Well, it does just work doesn’t it? Had I not already owned an iPod touch I would’ve almost certainly snapped up the iPhone – if for nothing else than to se what the fuss is all about. That said, were I not so curious about the competition and feel a sense of duty to be informed about such things, then iPhone would also be an obvious and enjoyable choice.
I’m going to try and not get too focused into the little differences between the platforms, but will point out the differences that seem to matter to me using both on a near daily basis, and while by no means exhaustive, I may cone back to this post and add things as I come across them further down the line.
‘Open’ vs ‘closed’
There has been a fair bit of internet chatter lately about the closed nature of Apple’s i-world in terms of Flash, app rejection and lack of freedom for users. Yes, Apple are locked and tight,and while many are bemoaning the lack of Flash on i-things, Apple has it’s. Reasons and those largely come down to user-experience. The reason apple products appear to work so wonderfully and seamlessly compared to say the windows world is because Apple wants to make sure everyone using an iPhone has largely the same experience and to not get frustrated to notice that their phone has crashed. Of course, iPhones crash from time to time, but they do it fairly seamlessly and one can blame the app rather than the phone. If flash were struggling in the safari browser or videos were stuttering then people may associate this with the phones shortcomings and apple don’t want to risk that.
Flash has a hard time Running smoothly on my old 1.5 ghz PowerBook, how can anyone expect results on a 500 mhz- 1 ghz phone? Sure, it might ‘work’, but it’s not going to be great. Flash (lite) works on my android device, and by and large it handles it well in small doses – I can’t imagine desperately wanting to play flash games on it, I’m blind to adverts and I play most video content either in the YouTube app or with the inbuilt media streamer.
Controlling the app store also means that Apple guarentees to a certain degree that all users are getting a similar experience. I may not agree with the censorship that Apple has shown in the past in principle, but it makes sense in the Apple world.
The android market in comparison though feels more like The wild west at times (although google still have the right to pull anything malicious or illegal), and will probably leave many users confused as to why they can’t find certain apps on their version of the market or why just browsing or searching the market uses up loads of internal memory. such things are not helpful to users – which brings me onto my next point:
Memory not Memory
When you buy an 8 gig iphone, you get just that. With android you have the option of installing an sd card of any size you wish -I picked up an 8 gig one with mine. However, that 8 gig is only used to store media and app-related data, NOT apps themselves. I’m rather complacent with the ipod, downloading any old app that comes my way. My android only has a couple hundred megs to spare in which to install apps meaning that all to soon you can be faced with a low memory warning and the phone gets funky. Its possible to back up any apps to the sd card for use further down the line and if you’root’ your device its possible to install apps into the sd card also, but the average consumer shouldn’t have to be concerned with such matters. The new frozen yoghurt flavor of android (2.2) addresses this issue somewhat with the ability for developers to allow apps to be installed to sd card, so hopefully any app updates from here on in will do that.
There’s an app for that
The mini applications, or ‘apps’ that arrived with the first iPhone have now become an incredibly commonplace reference point when discussing phones. These ‘apps’ have arguably always been on mobile phones – clicking an ‘SMS’ icon , or ‘address book’ on apretty much any mobile since 1997 is doing the same thing, but by opening out the possibilities of what an app may constitute so wildly, the iPhone did something quite special. The iPhone isn’t about having a phone – it’s a device that can pretty much do whatever a developer wants, and that opens up some amazing potential.
The influx of games and entertainment apps has been massive and has turned the iphone/ipod into a gaming platform in it’s own right – something that started with the Symbian phones, but now has gone off in many different directions at once.
I think the iPhone and Android have a different philosophy regarding apps, even if Android isn’t aware of it. The first hurdle being lack of space to download and store hundereds of the little buggers on a whim, which is very easy with the iPhone. This means when using an Android device on a daily basis, I imagine people with begin streamlining fairly quickly the most important and useful apps that they carry around with them. This might mean weeding out the best possible note taking client, or Twitter app and deleting that Bejeweled clone, simply because soduko gets the brain moving a bit more. Indeed my Android device has very much become a ‘work/organisational’ tool rather than an entertainment tool. Of course, I still have iplayer and a Megadrive emulator on it, but for me the ipod touch does a better job at catering for my casual game, experimental toy and other frivolous needs – the amount and quality of games far surpasses those on Android at the moment, and the biggest issue for me is space on my phone. I’m happy to see this seperation and it means I’m not carrying around the kitchen sink wherever I go. It also means there’s a fair amount of cross over between the two – for instance when I’m home – I can check my email on either Android or iPod, stream or update Spotify playlists, check facebook or Twitter and so on. but I know if I want to get into a game – the iPod touch is the go-to device. After all – I’m not going to get a phone call interrupting my play! The logical conclusion of this argument would mean this set up would lend itself very well to an ipad / Android phone combo.
The funny thing is, the more I use Android, the more I feel it works better for me as a phone – it feels more serious and expandable. The iPod is a fantastic entertainment device. Yup – I don’t have an iPhone, so can’t really comment, but isn’t it just an ipod that makes calls?
I must say, with the release of the iPhone4 – I’m a wee bit envious of it’s camera capabilities. The video looks absolutely superb and the ability to edit video on the device is a bonus. there isn’t a dedicated editing tool on Android YET (except Quik) but give it time. That said, the HTC Desire takes as good snaps as my old Sony Erricson, and much better video and is fine for quick youtube snips – just not quite the raw creative potential that the iPhone allows.
It Just works
The mantra of the Apple crew. You know you can just get into something on an Apple product without the Operating system getting in the way, and by and large the iPhone does that well. it’s faceless – no obtrusive buttons or branding – the experience is 100% from the apps. It just works too. It talks to iTunes without a hitch you can sync it effortlessly between your Windows or Mac machine – you don’t need to know how it works or why, it just will. It’s future computing – an appliance anyone can intuitively. perfect.
Android is not these things. It does not sync with ease to a Macintosh, it’s drag and drop files, it’s downloading apps and installing them, it’s creating new folders on the SD card to allow it to do something, it’s a mini computer and it feels like it. Personally I wouldn’t trust a lot of people with an Android – it would confuse them, but that said, I think if you approach it ‘as a phone’ and consume what’s on the plate it would be fine. Although not a proper geek-hacker, I do like to push things, try stuff out, tinker and see how it works probably more than your average iphone buyer in the street. I get excitied rooting about in the file structure in a perverse way that reminds me of using a PC for the first time in the 90’s – Android does allow you to break it, and no two people will get the same Android experience due to what they want out of the phone and what hardware & what version of Android it’s running. Everyone gets the same iphone experience (unless it’s jailbroken of course) , and that’s just fine.
Apple have done a great job making people who wouldn’t have ever wanted an apple computer, who until now have been windows to the bone suddenly lust after a product that carries the apple philosophy deep in it’s core, which is pretty damn impressive. The iPhone certainly did raise the bar in terms of how and why we interact with mobile devices and has set the standard by which all other ‘phones’ are now marked against. This often leads to the question which is better – iPhone or (in this case) Android. I don’t think either one is the best. They are, despite their similarities and competition actually quite different in the way they ‘think’.