I know we’re still in the raging iPad hype era and the debate between Android vs iPhone OS is nothing new, but having recently switched to a Google NexusOne smartphone over the past two weeks, I felt compelled to share my two cents on the experience. In short, the NexusOne kicks ass over my iPhone 3G except in one area: number of available applications (and that’s changing quickly as I’ll explain later).
Before I dive into the reasons why I prefer the NexusOne over my iPhone, note that my iPhone is a jailbroken, older generation 3G model. That means its 620MHz ARM chip is inherently slower than the blazing 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon chip found in the NexusOne. That said, even the latest iPhone (3GS) and its 833MHz chip is still slower than the Google phone. Jailbreaking often makes iPhones even slower.
Speed aside, however, the reasons why I’ve made NexusOne the new reigning champ of my pocket are:
- Amazing integration with Google Apps. I use pretty much everything Google has to offer (except Picasa and Orkut). The Android OS seamlessly integrates with Google to the extent that Gtalk becomes a better version of SMS text, “push” technology is simply a matter-of-fact and search is far more enhanced thanks to applications like Goggles (search based on photos) and superb speech-recognition.
- Android Apps Look Better. This surprised me but for some reason, a lot of Android apps seem sharper and more intuitive than their iPhone counterpart. Examples include the live video streaming app Qik, WordPress Mobile, FourSquare and, of course, every Google app especially Earth. You’d probably have to see it to believe it.
- Multitasking. One of the reasons I had to jailbreak my iPhone was to simply have the ability to stream Internet radio while I’m working on another application. Android already does this and does it well. Anyone who’s used a computer post-1988 knows that multitasking is prerequisite for basic computing. With a jailbroken iPhone, apps like Backgrounder allow multitasking on the Apple smartphone but they also make the devices run slower and become unpredictable. Android just works when it comes to running multiple apps.
Notification. This was another unexpected pleasant surprise. With the NexusOne, notification of new events like emails or SMS/Gtalk text shows up in a couple of places: the tool bar of the mobile video screen (which shows a list of events when the menu item is selected) and also the trackball (it flashes when a new event has happened). I found this notification to be far more handy and convenient compared to the badge used by the iPhone — particularly the Quick Reply aspect of SMS notification where you can respond to messages without quitting programs like games or email. There is a slick iPhone app that does the same thing, QuickSMS, but again you’ll have to jailbreak your phone to get it.
- Better camera. The NexusOne comes with a crisp 5 megapixel camera that includes built-in flash. While the 3GS is an improvement over the 2 megapixel of my 3G, the latest iPhone only sports a 3 megapixel camera with still no flash. Like the 3GS, the NexusPhone also records video.
- Better desktop and UI. Although it took a couple of days to get used to, the Android OS user interface in my NexusOne is far superior than the UI in my iPhone — mainly because the desktop is vastly more customizable. With the NexusOne, you post specialized widgets on each desktop (they’re like toolbar apps that offer a specific function like Search or Facebook status updates) or “alias” icons that load applications when clicked. Or you can see every single icon for every app you’ve installed with one click. What this means is that it’s easy to configure one desktop for work apps, another for social media apps and so on. With the iPhone, every single icon is there everytime which means if you have a ton of apps installed like I do, you have to fly your way through multiple desktops in order to find that buried. There’s no rhyme or reason to how they’re arranged unless you’ve put in the time to manually organize your icons. There is an iPhone app to organize our icons into folders but again, you’ll have to jailbreak your phone. And apart from the desktops, the NexusOne overall UI is sleeker and more clever than iPhone OS — probably because Google had a lot of time to study and improve weaknesses in the iPhone.
- FormFactor. This was another surprise. When photos of the NexusPhone first appeared in the wild, I thought it was homely compared to Apple’s famously elegant smartphone. After getting my hands on it, however, I increasingly grew to enjoy its thinner form factor and curvaceous simplicity. My iPhone actually feels slightly clunky compared to the NexusOne — even when both are without protective skins. Ostensibly, thinner is better when it comes to smartphones and in this metric, the NexusPhone wins again.
Overall, it’s clear Google (and the NexusOne manufacturer HTC) spent a lot of time analyzing and eventually trumping the iPhone. With a new 4G iPhone expected to debut this summer, however, it’s likely Apple will once again raise the bar in the mobile phone market. Especially if the rumored second front-facing camera is true. Imagine Skyping with that, over 3G. And while Apple’s big advantage is still the 100,000-plus iPhone/iTouch applications in its Apple store, there are now over 30,000 apps in the Android Market store. And if latest usage reports are any indication, the Android mobile operating system is quickly catching up, thanks to excellent smartphones like the NexusOne. — MG