iPhone vs Android and Why I am back on Android

In the past two years, I have used every major phone OS except for Windows Mobile and every major carrier.

Two years ago I had a Blackberry.  When I first received it, I thought I had truly arrived heck, someone in the organization thought I was important enough to need to be in touch 24/7!  Wow!  J  My Blackberry service was through Sprint and also Verizon.  Zero issues.  Seriously, I found both services to be pretty comparable (this was in the DC metro area).

One and a half years ago, I got my first Android phone, which was on Verizon.  I loved it.  Part of my excitement stemmed from the fact that it simply seemed modern in comparison to Blackberry.  I could do so much more.  However, I’m a tech nerd at heart and I love modifying the tools I use.  When I receive a new phone, I find all the best apps and test them all.   I start modifying the phone to my liking.

What were some of the top things about Android:

  1. Widgets: the fun little boxes of information that are constantly updating
  2. Apps: these were pretty good and the selection seemed fine (granted, testing out comparative apps on iOS was not a perfect 1:1 since I could only do it on the iPod Touch I owned).  However, coming from Blackberry, Android was a revelation.
    1. Cheap apps: Android apps are much more likely to be free/lower cost than their iPhone brethren.
  3. Phone and carrier options: the wide array of phones at any and every price is great.
  4. Software: The Android OS, while far from perfect (and sometimes pretty buggy) feels modern.  Iterations are rapid (even if the carriers do not always send them out).  Andy Rubin and crew looked at the iPhone and its weaknesses and thought they could do it better.  In many ways, they did.
    1. Swype: Simple the fastest way to sw”type” on a smartphone.  Fast and easy and I think I make fewer errors than even using the iPhones pretty smart typing capability.
  5. Mods: Even as the hardware on my phone aged, with software mods and tweaks, I could keep my phone fresh and new feeling.
  6. Connection to Google, the Cloud, and contact management: I am a big user of Google products (namely Gmail, Greader, maps, and Picasa).  On Android, since it is built by Google, these apps are top and extremely well done.
    1. De-dupe is nearly perfect and, at least on my former HTC Incredible, an impressive unified contact list was built with my friend’s info from gmail, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn so I could see everything they were doing.  Nice.

Android, like every piece of technology, has its drawbacks, as well:

  1. Battery: With all the widgets and multi-tasking, every Android phone drains its battery fast.  Charging during the day is a must (this is supposedly even more true if you have a 4G phone).
  2. Quality apps: fewer of them but really, with ~500k in both the iPhone and Android market, it’s easy to find a decent app for what you want.
  3. A more challenging developer market: this is more important for the people building what I like to use/test but when you have hundreds (if not thousands) of different configurations of phones, it is tough to build just one perfect and beautiful app.
  4. Security: Android is less secure than the iPhone if for no other reason than that the iTunes store is locked and closed by Apple.  Your app must be approved.  Android’s app store is open (although I believe Amazon’s Android app store does vet apps, which makes it a great alternative).
  5. Software: Because it’s newer and has had less time to mature, Android has bugs.  I had to restart my phone because it froze.
    1. Software 2: because the Android OS is open, carriers are free to install whatever bloatware they want on it and they do (note: Verizon is the worst offender).  You cannot easily delete this bloatware.

Seven months ago, when my old company was acquired, the acquiring company forced all users [who received a phone paid for by the company] to either move to an iPhone or Blackberry.  Given the lack of innovation from RIM in about 24 months, I did not see that as a viable option.  Hence, to the iPhone I went.

Top things I love about my iPhone 4:

  1. Hardware: this is simply the most beautiful piece of phone hardware (any hardware?) on the market today.  I love looking at it.  I love how it feels in my hand. It screams quality, craftsmanship, and a love of design over anything else.  It is pretty much perfect (until the iPhone 5 launches, at least!).
    1. Screen: up until about five months ago, no Android manufacturer could come close to matching the quality of the iPhone 4’s retina display.  It looks great and I quickly became spoiled.  Colors are bright and vibrant.  Pixels are basically nonexistent.
    2. Apps: the newest and best apps are still released on the iPhone.  If you want them, then you need an iPhone.  Simple.  Note that this is beginning to change and may be flipped in 12-24 months due to the simply much larger market represented by Android.
      1. Due to a few reasons: 1. A lot of the app developers are in silicon valley.  This place loves Apple. 2. Easier development environment – one screen (sort of two now with the iPad).  3. Higher payment rates – i.e. iPhone users are much more likely to pay for the app.
      2. Software: in nearly every situation, the iPhone OS simply works.  No questions.  It just does.  Of course, when it breaks or freezes (rare), you don’t know why but you likely didn’t lose anything so it is not a huge deal.
      3. Battery: 95% of the time, I can get through an entire day of use.  This includes a few hours of calls plus moderate email/internet browsing and probably a little GPS map use.

Top things I dislike about my iPhone 4:

  1. Hardware: it feels slow and that slowdown is noticeable (maybe a software issue).  The iPhone4’s processor is now outdated (although, granted, the iPhone 4S has rectified this issue but since I only have a regular iPhone 4, that is what I am comparing).
  2. Software: the iPhone OS simply seems and looks old.  In many ways it is the same OS that Steve Jobs launchedat MacWorld 2007.  Sure, notifications and a version of multitasking were launched.  Both were catchups to Android.  Oh, and I can put my apps in folders! Wee… (sarcasm ensues).  The iPhone OS is functional, secure, and stable.  It works.  However, it is no longer modern.
    1. As a side note: the iOS software sometimes does things I simply cannot figure out like when it beeps like I have new mail or some other notification (despite all sounds for all notifications being turned off) but when nothing worth notifying me about has occurred.  Still not sure what is going on.
  3. Contact management and the Cloud: Apple has iCloud.  It is supposed to backup everything on your iOS devices.  Great idea.  However, in Apple’s drive towards simplicity, this tool doesn’t in fact work well.  With both my iPhone and iPad backing up to the Cloud, iCoud is out of space.  This is much more challenging to manage than it should be.
    1. Contact management is worse: on Android, de-dupe is nearly flawless and connecting y contacts to Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter is easy.  It’s called a unified contact list.   The iPhone doesn’t do this.  It is probably a control thing.  Instead, you have to go through an imperfect workaround to get your friend’s photos in your contact list and these photos do not seem to update regularly without your manual involvement.  I also had contacts on my old computer plus a few other places.  Apple decided to suck all of them into my phone without any de-dupe.  Now I have about 4-5 different contacts for the same people.  There is NO way to de-dupe (although yes, you can link accounts but over a few thousand contacts, this isn’t really an option), which leads me to…
  4. iTunes: Apple, with iCloud, now lets you bypass iTunes, which is a blessing.  However, it is still one of the main ways to get your music, photos, and backups completed/updated, etc.  This is a major problem when you have two different iOS devices (like an iPad and iPhone).  iTunes copies apps that were installed and downloaded for one device onto the other, which means wasted time deleting those apps where they are not wanted.  #Inefficient.
        1. iTunes is also bloated and slow.  Move it all to the Cloud (like Spotify + Netlifx) and you will have solved the problem.  I don’t want this on my computer and your updates and new terms of service (TOS) are annoying.
        2. Closed system: Apple locks you in.  They don’t let you make changes.  You are behind their firewall and you have to go with the choices they make.  This actually is both a positive and negative thing.  Some people love it due to the inherent security and simplicity of this approach.  Others hate or at least dislike it.  Since I am in the latter camp, I’m putting this one here.
        3. AT&T: I’ve never had major dropped call issues with AT&T (rare but it does occur and it never really happened on Verizon or Sprint).  However, I do find their network to be super slow (despite their advertising campaigns stating otherwise).  When you need to start driving somewhere but also need a map of where to go and nothing shows up for minutes, that is a problem.

Since I am starting my own company, I needed a new phone.  Which to choose, iPhone (4S since I was buying new) or Android??  In the end, the choice was simple – Android but that was driven primarily because I choose T-Mobile as my carrier.  TMobile had the best deal around by a lot and they do not carry the iPhone.  However, if I had a choice, it would have been much more challenging.

All the best Android phones are HUGE (i.e. screens that are massive).  I have an iPad and a laptop.  I don’t need a mini iPad in my pocket.  I prefer the smaller iPhone screen.  The iPhone 4S is also much faster than the original 4 (the one I currently have) plus has probably the best camera (plus photo software) on any mobile smart phone.  That is compelling.

Android has a lot of variety and software that I prefer. It also has 4G speeds, which, I actually don’t care that much about – I just want the data plan to work when I need it.  A little slower but greater reliability is fine by me plus, 4G eats battery.

So what should you choose – that depends on a) carrier choice, b) whether screen size matters, c) whether price matters (although this is less so with some type of iPhone being available at just about every price point), d) whether apps matter (this goes both ways…quality (iPhone) vs price (Android) since selection is mostly similar unless you need the best and newest).  Good luck choosing – choice is wonderful to have so enjoy it!

Side note: I think Windows Mobile 7 is the best OS out on the market.  It looks the best and it is the best combination of the iPhone and Android.  It is the most modern.  However, it lacks app and or the killer phone hardware (although the Nokia 900 might change that).  If apps don’t matter too much to you but working on MS office does, then go Windows mobile. 🙂

p.s. Which Android phone did I buy?  Samsung Galaxy SII on T-Mobile.

p.p.s. sorry for the formatting issues.  Wrote this post originally on world while flying.  Too late in the night to deal with HTML.

Blackberry vs Android

Android vs Blackberry

I used a Blackberry exclusively for two and a half years. It was my phone, my mobile office, and my mobile connection to the web.

As a person who loves mobile tech and pushing to see what it can do, I tried to push my blackberry (tour btw). Within the confines of its small app store and underpowered browser, it did well. As an email platform, it was terrific and its keyboard, to no one’s shock is the best out there. Auto text is still one of the best and simplest tools in the market. Why no one has copied it is beyond me but i miss it. Blackberry messenger is a great little app – so long as your friends also have blackberries (it is also a sticky social app). My old company required that, if we wanted mobile access to our email, we had to use a blackberry (and it was the only mobile system they would pay for their employees to use).

Despite all of the above, I couldn’t wait to start my new job where i could have a new mobile platform. Clearwell, in true silicon valley fashion (I.e. Where keeping your employees happy is considered a virtue and recruiting tool), said i could chose any phone or platform i wanted. Clearwell has a corporate account with verizon although i could have chosen any carrier (but then would have had to submit my bills each month).

On verizon, there are two smartphone operating systems – android and blackberry (and supposedly coming in 2011, iOs from apple). Unfortunately for rim (maker of blackberry), their os is brilliant at a few things (ie email) but cannot fully compete in any other smartphone manner (such as breadth of apps, interesting hardware, and functionality). Hence, my choice was easy – buy an android phone.

I chose the Droid 2, which has now been switched out for the Droid 2 Global (and I tested the Droid Pro – a potential “blackberry killer”) but stuck with the Droid 2 Global. After two months on android, generally I could not be happier. There are some major issues (such as battery life) but I can do so much more. I slightly miss blackberry messenger but threaded text messages do nearly the same thing. Touch screens are the future (or maybe now the present?). Rim, you should be embarrassed that it took you so long to launch the Blackberry Torch (on AT&T). Why was Palm the first one in the “modern” times to pul this off with the Pre (and Motorola following shortly thereafter with the Droid Pro)? What have you been developing with all those nearly free corporate dollars you pull in? Did you fail to see, years ago, how much people loved their treos (I.e. Touch screen plus keyboard  = great combo albeit one whose strength is fading.  Handspring figured this out before touchscreens were even in vogue)?

Anyways, rim, you are in a predicament. I think you know it. I hope you fix it. A quote from my very non-tech friend sums it up simply: “all of my bbm (blackberry messenger) friends are disappearing. I need a new phone. Should I buy one of those android things?” how do you think I answered?

P.s. Rim, your new tablet looks pretty sweet but the iPad is already well ensconced in corporate America. There is still a huge, untapped consumer market but they are no longer buying your phones so why would they buy your tablet?
P.p.s. Sorry for pouring more fuel on this fire. You guys have a great platform in some ways and i truly do hope that you can fix the issues before it is too late. Competition is good.

Holiday smartphone guide: Motorola Droid vs. Blackberry Bold 2 with some iPhone and Pre thrown into the mix

My good friend S, who works at a major law firm, wrote me a few days ago asking an age old question: buy the Motorola Droid or go with the tried and true Blackberry platform on their new, slick BlackBerry Bold 2.  My friend had no idea the puddle he was jumping into when he asked me that question…

If you do not want to read the whole post, here is a summary (I would also check out Mobile Crunch’s phone gift guide here):

Best network (in order of quality): Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile

Best smartphone option on each: Verizon = Droid, Sprint = Pre, ATT = iPhone, T-Mobile = Bold 2

Best choice for consumers: Droid or Pre

Best choice for business (but just barely now): Blackberry on any of the networks

Best choice for cost: Pre or anything else on Sprint.

The email(s)

Below is an edited version of our email conversation.  I hope this helps anyone out there who is asking themselves – what smartphone should I buy this holiday season.

S asks: my plan is up for renewal and I am thinking seriously about moving from T-mobile to VZ to use the Droid [editor’s note: VZ and Moto, those weird ads are reaching people, nice].  I know you work in the industry and pay attention to this stuff, do you have thoughts on the matter?

Me:  I do have thoughts on the matter, in fact!  I love phones way too much and hate the fact that my co makes it difficult to use other phones [with service that they pay for at least]. [editor’s note: my company provides me with a global data plan and phone.  The only requirement: I have to use a BlackBerry].

S, to start off any decision, you have to ask yourself this question: is the service more important or is the phone?

If service is more important, than I would go with Verizon (or, to be honest, Sprint).  I know of too many people with issues/dropped calls on ATT.  I never experience any on Verizon and very few on Sprint.  I can’t speak for Tmobile but since you have it already, you can judge that service for yourself.  Note: VZ used to have an edge in DC with the metro but now all the platforms have service on all the carriers (VZ is still the only one with service in the tunnels, I believe).

If service is not as important, then it is a device decision.  You need to ask this: what is my main phone use?  If you main use is for work, then a Black Berry is still better (although only barely at this point if your company supports non-berry email devices).  If your main use is personal emails, then the sky is the limit.

This holiday season is filled with awesome devices.  To your specific question: Droid vs Bold II.  I tested the Droid this weekend.  In short, it is an awesome device but the physical keyboard is terrible.  However, the on-screen keyboard is as good, if not better, than the iPhone.  If a software keyboard does not bother you and [your law firm] supports non-BlackBerry email devices, the Droid is a great way to go.  The GPS/Google Maps is awesome.  There are a ton of apps (best non-iphone number of apps).  One bad thing: it is a bit buggy right now and not super intuitive all the time but a) Google is constantly innovating and updating their software, b) less intuitive only because there are so many options and things you can do (vs Blackberry). [editor’s note: I hate the fact that my Blackberry seems like such a controlled device.  However, I am a geek who loves to install and test out different apps.  The average user appreciates how stable and difficult to mess-up the Berry platform is for users].

The Bold II, from everything I have read, is going to be the best BlackBerry out there this holiday season.  Of course, it is still a Blackberry.  Minus their email/calendar functionality, I basically hate all things made by RIM.  I think they try to put in just the minimum to make it work and know they have a captive audience [ie lazy Corporate IT staffs].  All Blackberry’s are chronically short in memory (for use with apps), their software is extremely outdated even with a fancy new software skin, and their browser is terrible.  Finally, their app store is small.  With all of that said, the hardware [of the Bold 2] looks good, is probably rock solid (i.e. hard to break), and the software just works (of course, it can only do maybe 50% of what the Droid can do).

So what are your priorities?  Truthfully, this is a very difficult call.  I probably lean slightly towards the Droid but only slightly.  Blackberry is still probably much better for work.  [Editor’s note: while I do use my Berry a lot for work and it is an important productivity tool, I also use it for personal things.  An ideal phone should be able to do both.  The average user should ask themselves – what % of my time do I do work with my phone and what % is personal.  If it is more personal, then you have no reason to buy a Berry].

Adding the iPhone and Pre to the discussion

S replied and I brought up other options (since this holiday is filled with them):

Since you only asked about VZ/Tmob, I kept the discussion to those phones.  With that said, if you care about price, my favorite phone from a functional/looks standpoint is the Palm Pre.  It has the best hardware design out there this holiday.  Supposedly the hardware keyboard is okay (better than Droid).  Apps are weak but probably not too far behind Berry.  I happen to think Sprint’s network is really good (a lot of ppl have left so they have extra capacity).  My friend who is a lawyer for Sprint absolutely loves his Pre.  He writes a lot of emails on his phone so he obviously doesn’t mind it from a corporate perspective.

If you do not mind a non-keyboard phone on a terrible network [i.e. AT&T] but with an app for everything, then the iPhone is still king of the hill.  I happen to think that Apps are a bit overrated once you hit a certain number but that is a discussion for another time.  The iPhone is a beautiful piece of hardware with great underlying software.  Of course, it is also owned by nearly everyone.  Think different!  (check out this iPhone vs droid battle, here)

Editor’s side note on Apple and iPhone apps: If the phone can do 95% of the same things as the other phone but has better key metrics (such as the network, hardware, and core software) then will a larger app catalogue really make the difference (since every app store will have all the major programs)?  Ex: Apple computer software (i.e. Leopard) vs. Windows.  Windows likely has millions more apps than Apple yet many people still prefer to buy a Mac.

S’s response (we are taking this offline and going to lunch to continue the discussion):

The long email is definitely appreciated.  I also spend way too much time thinking about phones (probably spent 10 hours in the last few weeks reading up now that I am out of contract).  And what you are saying jives with what I’m generally reading/thinking.  My thought right now is that I’m going to wait for the December 11 software update for the Droid to see whether they fix the fact that you can’t search Exchange Sync emails (and hopefully a few of the other bugs I’m reading about).  Unfortunately, not being able to do that is a non-starter for me since it’s so important for work.  If they do fix that, I’m leaning towards the Droid.  The Google Navigator looks awesome and I generally think Android is a more fun platform if not more functional from a work perspective.  I may also wait to see what this new HTC Android phone due out in December ends up being.  I really wanted to get something new as soon as I went out of contract, but it seems like giving it another month to let the holiday roll outs play out is a good idea.

 

Blackberry 8830 versus iPhone (and most other smartphones)

My company gave me a Blackberry 8830 (thank you!).  Despite my pleas, my company is Blackberry only.  However, I thought that since the Blackberry 8830 was a smartphone (and a popular one at that), I would be able to customize it to my heart’s content.  I was wrong.  

As a gadget loving tinkerer, I enjoy finding great new programs for my electronic  toys (i.e. phone and computer).  By great, I almost always mean easy to use, useful, and, most important, free.  Sadly for all the developers out there, I have found almost no reason to purchase most pieces of software.  A legal, free alternative is usually viable and available.  If there is no alternative, I pay but it is rare that I actually need said software enough to buy it.  I just do without.  

Back to the berry — I started finding great programs for my phone.  Many seemed useful and fun.  Of course, the options for the Blackberry 8830 are not as easily found or as good as those for the iPhone.  Despite this fact, I was able to find many things that interested me.  I downloaded them.

I quickly ran into a problem that many Blackberry owners have found — lack of memory = messed up Blackberry.  I soon ran out of memory.  Suddenly, most of my messages, past call history, and other important items were deleted.  My berry took forever to open up programs.  I did not get it.  I added a memory card.  At least in the 8830, memory cards do not actually help in the memory department unless you only want to store photos or music.  All programs are stored on the internal memory.  

What did this mean?  Simple — my smartphone is a lot less smart than the competitors (i.e. iphone).   Besides the normal bberry programs, I have Gmail, Google Maps, Viigo, Beyond411, Wall Street Journal program, and an icon for the New York Times and WashingtonPost.  Anything more and my memory would run out.  

I can somewhat forgive RIM for shipping my phone with such a minimal amount of memory.  However, it is unforgivable on the newer Berrys (such as the Bold and new Curve).  On the new phones, memory cards can store programs but this is still ridiculous.  Memory is very cheap.  For the same price as an 8GB iPhone, you can purchase a Bold.  From a memory and program option perspective, the choice is clear (iPhone).  Obviously, some people love BlackBerrys but if you want programs that make your phone truly smart – an iPhone or any phone with real internal memory is the winner.

The Google Phone (aka Android) not such a new idea

On Monday, Google notified the world (the part that cares) about their Google Phone plans. This was a hyped announcement. The hype was nearly iPhonesque. However, it landed with a loud dud.

Instead of a groundbreaking phone (let’s leave Apple to those sort of things), we get Android. Android is an open mobile platform. There have already been a bunch of interesting conversations about Android and what it means. Read two of the more interesting posts (here) and (here).  Microsoft is a bit scared but not quaking in their boots.  Nokia has open-source symbian and a huge portion of the smartphone market.  Motorola is trying to create their own open-source linux mobile OS.  Apple has the iPhone and a very closed, but safe and secure little world.

So what does Google bring to the market?  Android is maybe more open than the other systems.  However, does the average consumer really care what system their phone runs unless they are already tied to a proprietary system?  The people who are comfortable in an MS environment and easy compatibility with Office (and that is a huge number), go with Windows Mobile.  Blackberry offers crackberry addicts their daily fix and some people swear by the environment and email functionality.  I love Google applications.  Gmail is my main email.  Google Reader is the best rss reader.  Google maps is my default mapping service.  Good thing I already have all of those applications already installed on my phone!! Point is, why would anyone care about having a Gphone?

As Google knows well, the best price for anything is ZERO.  However, phone hardware costs money and I am sure that Microsoft, RIM, and Nokia are going to fight tooth and nail to make sure phones running their software are comparably priced to any gPhone.  Yet those phones will also sport features and abilities any gPhone may lack.  When I buy a gPhone, I can install most of the Google Apps on it.  Phone price, design, and hardware features are important.  I buy a phone based upon those three categories.  I have yet to read anything about how Google will win on any of those fronts.

Everyone knows what Google is doing here and they all know the stakes.  No company will cede any turf (although this might push them to change their platforms and grow).  I wish Google a lot of luck.  They have changed the way many of us think about a lot of things (search, email, and maps come to mind).  I hope they do the same for the staid mobile market.