iPhone vs Android platforms & apps

I’ve been playing with my HTC Hero the last few days. I installed a lot of popular Android apps (about 80 of them), and tried to see how they feel compared to my iPhone’s.

Basically, the iPhone apps are more mature/stable. Developers seem to be spending less time testing for their Android ports, and more for their iPhone’s. However, on the other hand, Android has more free apps than the iPhone. If you can have a bit of patience with them, you will save money. Basically, it depends if your time is worth money or not.

The iPhone is not perfect though. Here are my three major gripes with the iPhone. All these features are supported on Android (#3 is done via 3rd party apps):

1. Background apps. From Twitter, to IM and VoIP apps (that are simply impractical to use with just PUSH), background apps are a must have. If anything, create an Android-like security system and services’ server that keeps control of misbehaving services.

2. Let the device operate as a USB-based device so we can drop files in there. Then, make some sort of file access/management accessible to third party apps. For example, what if I want to just copy a few random-format VGA videos on my iPhone, and there’s an app like VLC that can read these files while the iPhone video viewer can’t? I don’t want to transcode to h.264/AAC, I just want to play them as is via an app that can understand these formats. And that’s just a multimedia example. The same kind of example can exist for office or other documents too. And recently, I became aware that the first real video editor for the iPhone, ReelDirector, has no way to add music to the videos because Apple doesn’t offer access to the iPod music, or to a storage facility like the one suggested above.

3. AVRCP/PAN/LAP/Obex Bluetooth support. I need to be able to send a picture, or other kind of whatever-format file (see #4) to someone else’s phone (not DRM’ed files of course). Even dumbphones have support for these Bluetooth profiles.

4. Some kinds of apps are missing exactly because of #1 and #2. If Apple listens and fixes these two issues, we will see *useful* utilities and complex apps entering the AppStore, as opposed to yet another game or unit converter.

5. Just under the search box, I’d like to see a list-view with various app/phone notifications. Something between Android’s and Palm Pre’s, but with Apple’s touch. Again, for that we’d need #1, since PUSH won’t cut it in all cases. Originally I thought that a widget system for that empty space under the search box would be nice, but I think that a well-designed notification list view, makes more sense in that limited space.

On the other hand, the Android ecosystem is missing more stuff:

1. Not as good of overall usability/ergonomics as in the iPhone. Apps are more stable, beautiful, and with more features on the iPhone. On Android they feel like patchworks. Especially games, which is a shock!

2. I’d like a media player that makes sense and is a joy to use. The current media player sucks goats compared to the iPod Touch usability. Oh well, at least it can read all album art (Nokia phones, and even Sandisk players can’t).

3. AppleTV/iTunes Remote (TunesRemote on Android doesn’t work with my AppleTV, which is our main audio server in our home — we don’t use our AppleTV for video).

4. Skype via Wifi. Currently, Android’s Skype only works via GSM on the Android, because it was released around a time where not all VoIP-assisting APIs were completed on Android. Version 1.6 of Android does have the necessary APIs completed, but and I don’t see Skype getting fixed, since the company even removed their Android web page! Here’s hope they will wake up and add WiFi support.

5. Google Voice currently doesn’t work via VoIP/WiFi. Therefore, it’s completely useless for me right now since I need it to call my mom in Greece, and I only have a PayAsYouGo AT&T account.

6. No video editor is possible for Android (even if it doesn’t have iPhone’s file-system limitations) because not all needed media APIs exist (AFAIK). Plus, I’ve yet to see a single Android phone that shoots better video than the iPhone 3Gs anyway.

7. While there’s a task killer available, I want to also control apps to not automatically load on the background when the phone starts. Surely, that’s something that the app itself should offer me in its settings as a preference, however, very few implement it. So I’m now faced with apps that eat my RAM and I don’t want to be loaded (but I do want installed, e.g. Google Finance). That extra utility should be Google’s job, as it was Microsoft’s when they wrote msconfig.exe to carry out the function. If Apple adds the ability of background apps, they should implement this too (along a task killer).

And some things that both platforms need to implement. Who knew! They have something in common!

1. Get their shitz together with audio/video on multi-IM/VoIP. How more should we wait for A/V chats via WiFi? It’s 2010 already God damn it. I’m not even asking overloading 3G towers, I just want it via WiFi!

2. Adobe Flash 10.1. With GPU acceleration please. Android’s getting it according to Adobe, but until I see Vimeo working with it at 30 fps (VGA, non-HD videos), it has to stay in this list.

3. UPnP support. Both as a server and a client.


Kragil wrote on December 14th, 2009 at 5:15 AM PST:

Your husband should be able to answer the API question.(Are Google engineers not allowed to talk to their wives about their job?)

I think a lot of Androids shortcoming are just the later start. Android will get the APIs and more mature apps. Does not help now, but there is hope. Apple will not really change their media and access policy. That is the big difference.

And I saw a Droid video which was good looking (for a phone). Is the iPhone really that much better?

Tamas wrote on December 14th, 2009 at 7:59 PM PST:

The iPhone can actually be used as a storage facility, kind of like a wireless USB drive, with the Air Sharing app. It’s not free, and it isn’t USB, but is as easy as drag and drop. It also lets you browse and view your documents (including Office, and even syntax highlighted source code).

This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on December 14th, 2009 at 9:29 PM PST:

Tamas, no, sorry, this is not what’s needed. This app can only copy files in its own sandbox, which means that only that app can read these files. Because of this, many kinds of apps can’t work on the iPhone, or if they are, they’ll be crippled in terms of functionality, like ReelDirector, which can’t add third party audio files in its videos editing environment!

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