Android vs. iPhone

2010-07-12

THM supposes it had to happen, the inevitable iPhone against Android post. While THM has owned an android for approximately a year now, he couldn’t resist the lure of an iPhone and went out and bought one the moment they were available on the Vodafone network in the UK. He posted about the purchase and initial thoughts on the same day, and at the time said that the iPhone was better. Is this still the case?

The iPhone is certainly faster than the HTC Magic when using the Android 1.6 Operating System. However, Android has come a long way since the release of “Donut” and is now sitting at version 2.2 “FroYo”. THM has, since the post “iPWNed”, updated the version on his Magic to the Cyanogen Mod unofficial release of the Android firmware. The version is equivalent to Android 2.1, and from the splash screen at boot up you know that it’s going to look pretty. The boot up Android logo on the stock Google firmware is just a boring textual “Android” with a glow scrolling from right to left occasionally. On the Cyanogen mod this has been usurped with the green android in the centre of the screen and what can only be described as a particle fountain on either side causing swirls of particles to envelop the android. It needs to be seen to understand what THM sees in it. The smoothness of this animation is impressive and shows the hard work of both the Cyanogen Mod team and the core Android developers at improving the speed of the entire system.

That makes them equal..

So if speed isn’t an advantage either way, then the iPhone must be better at applications. When you look at the Apple AppStore and compare the number of applications with that available on the Google Android App Store you would be forgiven for thinking that Apple has the edge here. This may not be the case, though, as Android apps are written using the Java programming language and, although the API is different, this means that existing mobile developers should be able to create custom front-ends on pre-existent applications; or use their already ingrained Java skill set to create new applications specifically for Android. When developing for the iPhone, you have to learn an entirely new language to most developers just to be allowed to submit your applications to the AppStore. (Apple’s Developer License Agreement requires that applications be originally written in Objective-C, C++ or JavaScript as executed by the WebKit Engine.) Not many new software engineers are already proficient in Objective-C which means that the target audience of developers for the iPhone is already reduced to those people that are willing to learn a new language.

In essence what this usually means is that it is new programmers that have never written a piece of software in their lives who want to cash in on the mobile market with applications like the fart simulator for $.99. This can hardly be worthy of world attention, can it?! To get an idea of the kind of people that are developing for the iPhone, just download a random application that isn’t developed by a mainstream agency and check the spellings on words like “your” and “you’re”.

Douches ‘R’ iPhone Devs

THM came across the Douche Detector (at least that’s what he thinks it was called) which “scanned” the owner or victim’s thumbprint and gaily reported that “your(sic) a douche”. That’s all it did! the Developer was getting $.99 a pop for downloads of this application and yet he wasn’t capable of even checking, or didn’t want to, his own use of the English language in one of the very few textual elements of the application?! This is just an example, but there are many more. If this is the intellectual level of App Developers for the iPhone, then THM thinks that maybe it would be better to go elsewhere. Someplace where intellectualism is encouraged.

And it’s with Android that this place is found. Android is an Open-Source software which means that users are encouraged to find out how it works, and to help others wherever possible without requiring monetary reimbursement. – Though it is perfectly acceptable to request a small sum to cover costs of developing a product yourself, such as an application which you list on the Android Store for which you have to pay a $50 entrance-fee. (A point of note is that Apple require double this at $99 per year.)

Without getting into the details, there is an entire world of Open Source developers, helpers and documenters that all create a vibrant “community” which will usually bend over backwards to help someone to understand virtually everything. It is this spirit that lead to, and maintains, the most comprehensive repository of human knowledge ever created: Wikipedia. Virtually everything in Open Source-land is free to use, free to change and free of cost usually requesting donations to further development, providing paid support to corporate users or being advertising funded. It is this idealism that pervades the Android operating system allowing for the same system to be used, changed, and melded with everything from phones to tables to televisions without requiring any permission from Google who invented it.

I’m confused

THM thinks this post has kind of lost it’s track, but it is this reason, the openness, the community, that will allow Android to ultimately beat the iPhone and iPad. Android phones are just the start, and we will begin to see the Operating System appearing on many more devices in the future.

THM recently read this post which says the same: the diversity of android devices is what will win out. Whereas with the iPhone it’s a one-size fits all approach that the user has to enter into choosing either this year’s model vs. last year’s model or nothing; with Android if you don’t like a particular device you are free to choose a completely different one with different features even from a different manufacturer. There is even an effort underway to bring Android onto the PC with the Android-x86 Project.

So THM changed his mind and now prefers Android then?

Well, yes and no. He adores the openness of the platform and the future promise of the Google App Store along with third-party stores which are available which aren’t shunned like those for the iPhone are. The main problem THM has with Apple is that they consistently seem to be denying any form of choice (as evidenced by the blocking of Adobe’s Flash platform from the iPhone). However, THM also notes the current inconsistencies between the size of the Apple AppStore vs the Android Store(s – Google and otherwise). Apple has also partially addressed the problem of multi-tasking, which THM acknowledges but thinks doesn’t go far enough when comparing with the Android system. At present there is not much, according to THM, to choose between the two systems with each having merits, but Android is fast eroding iOS’s perceived superiority while cementing it’s own superior features.

For the future he thinks that Android is the one to bet upon especially as market share continues to increase, along with the range and form factor of devices running the system. With so many companies jumping aboard the Android boat the speed and types of progress will only improve, especially when compared with that of the iOS devices which can only go as fast as a single company can manage. So for now, iPhone may be the choice, but for the future go with Android.

What THM Uses

Currently, he uses both. This is complicated, but having two numbers means that he has to continually swap between his iPhone, which has all his music on and, his Android HTC Magic which connects him with his life in the cloud. These are the two areas he struggles with: music is without doubt done better on the iPhone, but connecting with Google’s cloud is fairly obviously better on the Google initiated system of Android.

And going forward in the future?

THM wants to get a fully hardware accelerated version of Android running on both his desktop and laptop, complete with productivity applications such as a developer’s editor with syntax highlighting and a full-on office suite, even if it’s just for the “Geek Cred” of doing so.