Let me first preface this post by stating that I have always been a “PC Guy.” I worked for Microsoft Corporation for several years and was part of the Windows 98 and Windows 2000 team. I have never been a fan of Apple, and in fact even refused to see the last Die Hard movie because I can’t stand the “I’m a Mac” guy. With that out of the way:
I got an HTC Evo a little over a year ago when they first came out, That was considered to be an Android super phone up until recently when new models came out. I never could get the hang of the touch screen typing, so a couple of months ago I ditched the Evo and got a Motorola XPRT. So I have a little over a year of using devices from Motorola and HTC. Additionally, my wife has an EVO, and one of my best friends and team members uses a Droid X. I’m thus familiar with some of the best Android phones from major manufacturers and across both Sprint and Verizon.
About two months ago, I needed to outfit my team with dedicated work mobile phones so they can always be on call. (Mass torts never sleep.) My office manager took advantage of the $49 iPhone 3G special AT&T has. She surprised me by getting me one, too. I initially rolled my eyes and scoffed because of my preconceived prejudices of the iPhone. Less than a month later I gave my iPhone 3G to a new hire and upgraded myself to an iPhone 4. And even though I’m going to have to pay the full device fee, once it’s out I’m going to ditch my personal XPRT and get the iPhone 5 from Sprint. (Yes, it’s coming to Sprint.) What convinced me to switch camps? Several things:
Build Quality: Every Android device is made primarily out of plastic. Some plastic feels cheaper than others, but they all feel cheap when compared to the aluminum and glass iPhone 4. Although the high-end Androids and the iPhone both cost over $400 bucks, only the iPhone feels like it costs that much. The iPhone 4 always feels nice in my hand, and feels SOLID. The EVO and the XPRT feel downright cheap next to the iPhone.
Then there’s the iPhone’s 30-pin connector. I got an iPod touch a couple years ago and bemoaned the proprietary connector. Two years later, the cable still snaps in and out perfectly. Same thing with my iPhone 4 – the cable isn’t loose and doesn’t require any wiggling. After six months with my EVO and about three with the XPRT, the USB port is a little fiddly. It still works, but sometimes I have to jiggle the cord to make the connection. Whether this is because of the cheap plastic bezel of the Android devices being prone to deformation, or whether it is because the 30-pin connector is more secure, I don’t know. But I know the advantage is to the Apple devices.
Phone Stability: My EVO would randomly reboot about once a month for no reason. My XPRT reboots itself randomly two or three times a week. My wife’s EVO reboots about once a week, and my friend’s Droid X reboots once or twice a week. Sometimes they phones are just sitting on a desk and reboot. Other times they’re being used to make a voice call or surf the web. Whatever the reason, these phones just aren’t stable. And it hasn’t changed with firmware updates to the phones. In the two months or so that I’ve been using an iPhone, it’s never rebooted itself. I thought it crashed the other day because Google maps wouldn’t respond anymore. Turns out the trouble was that I was in the middle of nowhere and had no data connectivity. So my iPhone’s no-crash streak continues.
App Stability: Speaking of Google maps…. it’s not even usable on my XPRT. Every single time without fail that I try and use it, it will hang and lock the phone for between 30 seconds and two minutes. It works at first, but a few minutes into the trip, and BANG – it’s locked up. I can’t even power cycle it without pulling the battery. Or, I can wait a few minutes and it comes back to its senses like nothing happened.
I kid you not – my XPRT JUST REBOOTED ITSELF THIS VERY MINUTE. Sitting on the desk next to me, it just rebooted.
App Utility: When I open a Word doc, a PDF, or an Excel spreadsheet on my iPhone, it looks great and works fine. When I try to open those docs on an Android device, I first have to choose which app to open it with, and then deal with the fact that the formatting doesn’t look as good as on the iPhone. As cliché as it is, the Apple product “just works” whereas the Android devices make me do a little work to get it right.
Accessories: Go shopping for a case for any Android device you want. The go shopping for a case for the iPhone. Not only will the iPhone have ten times as many case options, they will be better made and fit the device better. I went through two cases for my EVO, and neither of them fit particularly well… including the case made by HTC itself. I can’t even find a case for the XPRT. My iPhone 4 case fits perfectly and manages to both weigh less and feel more solid than the HTC case. Not only are there more cases, but there are tons of cool devices you can connect to your iPhone. Half the hotels I stay in these days have an iPhone dock that both charges my phone and lets me rock out while I’m working on my laptop. Pretty much every new car worth buying has a USB port and iPod connectivity. Yes, I know most of those can control an Android device, too. But there are far more iPhone compatible accessories than Android accessories. For example, I just saw a meat thermometer for your iPhone. Manufacturers these days will try and connect anything electronic to an iPhone. Is it always useful? No. (See: iPhone-compatible meat thermometer.) But it gives me more options than Android.
Ease of Use: As a former techie, I always rolled my eyes when people talked about how much easier to use Apple devices are. I never had a problem figuring out the PC, after all. But I’m no longer a techie who makes his living with technology. I’m a busy lawyer whose most precious resource is time. Things are quicker to use and easier to figure out on the iPhone than on the Androids. If I save just one minute per workday, that works out to over four hours per year. That’s an extra half a day of productivity. (Or fun!)
Touch Keyboard: This is a truly a “your-mileage-may-vary” situation. I could never type with any accuracy on the stock EVO keyboard. Swype was great for a while, but then they made some changes to it in December 2010 that rendered it half as useful as it once was. (Every time I Swyped “that” it gave my “tyte,” for example.) Nor was I proficient with the standard Android keyboard, or the keyboard on the Droid X. That’s why I bought the XPRT – for a physical keyboard. I still prefer the physical keyboard to the iPhone, but the iPhone’s touch-typing algorithm and its auto-correct means I can type far, far faster on it than on any Android device I’ve ever tried. (And that includes another friend’s Galaxy S phone.) I’d love a physical keyboard on an iPhone, but if I can’t have that, Apple’s touchscreen typing is the best I’ve found.
OS Releases; Buying an Android phone is a crapshoot with respect to new versions of Android. You never know if the carrier is going to release a version of the new OS for your phone, and if they do, you don’t know how long it will take. This is just a case of Google lacking the spine to make the carriers do it. With Apple, on the other hand, IOS 5 will be compatible with the over two-year-old iPhone 3GS. Whereas Google is content to let carriers screw customers who bought flagship devices, Apple isn’t content to screw its customers that way.
Battery life: The iPhone gets three times the battery life of my EVO. I’ve lost 50% of my EVO life in less than four hours before. I’ve got twelve hours without charging my iPhone and seen the battery still in the 70’s. My XPRT is close to the iPhone in battery life, but it should be better since it (a) has a huge battery and (b) has a smaller screen. Android devices are battery hogs, plain and simple.
Downsides: OK, it’s not all sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows with the iPhone. I always have and always will hate iTunes. I want to just plug my phone in and copy music over directly, like I can with my Android devices. That’s my number-one complaint. I’m also not comfortable with the fact that I can’t install an app on my iPhone unless it’s Apple-approved… but then again, I’ve never seen an app that wasn’t Apple-approved that I’d want to install anyway. While I’m philosophically opposed to dictatorships, Apple is a pretty benevolent dictator and I’m enjoying the benefits. I also use a lot of Google applications, and with the exceptions of Google maps, they all work a little better on Android than on the iPhone. Android’s implementation of Widgets and Shortcuts is much nicer. (I love having a quick-dial button for my friends and family members I call most often.)
Conclusion: Android really let me down. I love the “little robot” mascot, and I’m a big fan of Google in general. But Apple clearly has the better product at this point. Maybe Google’s new purchase of Motorola will lead to some new phones that are well built (that means metal, not plastic) and stable. Or if not both well-built AND stable, at least one. Android is younger than IOS, so it still has some catching up to do. We’ll see if they can…