Apple has a knack for introducing trendy devices that are, umm, attached to us by the hip. Mac notebooks were a huge cool points plus for the college scene for a long time and still holds its own in that arena. The iPod became the “what is that thing your listening to” for millions. And the Apple iPhone needs no introduction. It has effectively dominated the cell phone, PDA, media player, gaming, and random gadget market with a fury never seen before. The iPhone has been sitting high on its throne now for three years now without any indication that it will be retiring anytime soon. This is evident in the other cell phone manufactures very obvious battle for second place, instead of challenging the big apple directly. Comparing another mobile device to the iPhone lately has been as interesting as comparing Toyota’s latest sport car to a half of a million dollar Ferrari. Basketball’s latest star rookie to Michael Jordan. Your 10 year nephew to Beethoven. I hope you get the point by now. If not, then you have been living in a rabbit hole and Wonderland is undoubtedly much more interesting anyways.
Now don’t get me wrong. There has always been some very competent choices out there for those who refuse to ride on Apple’s bandwagon or were forced into a different decision because of life or work requirements. But none of them are quite a iPhone. Blackberry in my opinion has been the closest thing in function but sorely lacks the elegance and style of the iPhone. RIM, the makers of Blackberry have made a few attempts at wading into the iPhone’s waters only to be swallowed whole by the monster that lives there. With the Blackberry’s well entrenched niche in the corporate push email market, they really have no reason to compete with Apple directly.
Next up to bat is the loved and often hated Windows Mobile phones. You would think that if anyone had a chance at giving the iPhone a run for its money than it would be Microsoft. They have “battled” with Apple on several other fronts, resulting in better products for consumers in the end. Both are technological mega giants, highly respected, and unmatched at what they do. Microsoft delved into the PDA (personal digital assistant) market long before trying their hand at cell phones. Actually it seemed more of a natural migration as PDA’s easily gave way to the combination of smaller and faster notebook PCs and more functional mobile devices. More or less, Microsoft ported the Windows CE operating system from the PDAs to mobile phones. This eventually turned into Windows Mobile. If you’ve never dealt with Windows Mobile devices before, the best way to get a mental perception of it is jus to turn on your PC. The nametag Windows rarely deviates from its legacy. Windows on a mobile device stays true to its “it works, does everything, but is quirky” heritage. I personally have used Windows Mobile devices since Windows Mobile 5. (Currently on Windows Mobile 6.5) If you’ve watched the growth of Windows on the desktop computer for the last 20 years, than you’ll understand the same applies on their mobile platform. It progressively gets better with every release but the show stopping bugs and quirks often force you to going deep in your pockets for a software solution or just finding a completely different way of doing something. Similar to the desktop, the user interface at times feels clunky and bloated. The best advice for Windows Mobile phones I can give is the same for desktops. If you choose to use it, than update everything and try to stay with the latest hardware trends. Windows is like a fat kid a pastry party. It tends to eat up every little resource you have, leaving you to fight to retain some for other applications. Windows Mobile does have its good points though. Being the most recognizable platform makes getting use to the interface doable despite its clumsiness. Although it can’t compete with the Apple Store in the application department, there are plenty of applications to do almost anything you choose, business and personal alike. With the popularity of touch screen phones (thank you again Apple) the interface is now much more intuitive, thanks to better software design by third party publishers and the introduction of Windows Mobile 6.5. If you own a Windows phone and the iPhone bug bites you, there are even ways of completely re-skinning your phone to look like an iPhone. But like changing your theme on your home computer to emulate the Mac OS theme, your still left with the drawbacks of Windows and possibly a slower device using theme effects. The closest a Windows Mobile interface has come to being simply intuitive and fun is the HTC line of phones with their TouchFLO interface. HTC with their very usable user interface, resurrected interest in Windows Mobile phones for the general public. TouchFLO gives Windows phones the feel of fluidness that was sorely missing. It takes commonly used applications and presents them in a unified theme and feel which in a way gets rid of some of the perceived clunkiness. Maybe to little to late is Microsoft’s Windows Marketplace for Mobile. Pretty much the same thing as Apple and Blackberry’s offering but a whole lot less of it currently. One of the most important downfalls is the general need to use a stylus in certain parts of the operating system. Windows Mobile 6.5 alleviates this problem significantly but I don’t see how Microsoft hopes to compete in this market until they can make their interface a lot more touch friendly.
I have had almost no experience with the Android operating system. Android, the brain child of search engine giant Google is the newest operating system for smart phones. When it was first released, it got a whirlwind of media attention and consumer attention. Google is well known for the simple and fast web applications. So many wondered how they would do in the mobile phone market. Many also rooted for the Android to do well for many reasons. There are those who wanted a fresh new solution in mobile phone interfaces. The ones who follow Google’s ideology as an open source software supporter and use your applications as you see fit without big brother saying that’s not in the license. And those who subscribe to Google’s youthful, smart, and stylish factor much like Apple fans. Now matter the reason, Google seemed to have a lot of support in their debut but in my opinion, due to less than stellar hardware, the operating system just didn’t perform as expected. All of the ingredients were there, but ultimately wasn’t left to cook long enough. Recently, Google released Android 2.0 on more apt and suitable hardware. With the muscle to power it, Android finally got the recognition it deserved. Matter of fact people are now raving about it. Particularly the Motorola Droid currently available via Verizon Wireless. Android is a meeting of multiple minds. Corporate America, college kids, trendy metropolitans amongst others will all come to appreciate what Android has to offer.
Real World Test
Andy Ihnatko, a technology columnist for the Suntimes, gives an insightful review of the Motorola Droid from the perspective of a self admitted iPhone fanatic. In brief, after a week of using the new Android equipped phone, he says that with this phone you can finally have a comparable device to the iPhone and even possibly forget about it after exclusive use. But once he used his iPhone at the end of that week again, he states that the iPhone is still the “must have” phone but with some development, the Android would be a serious choice when the time comes to renew his contract. I think this statement summarizes his article best:
Okay? Let’s put that on record. As a user, I think the iPhone is vastly superior.
As a technology columnist who has just spent a whole week getting used to the Android and appreciating it for what it is, however, I must say this: The Droid is as good as an iPhone. -Andy Ihnatko (tech columnist, Suntimes)
Give Andy’s article “Verizon Droid almost enough to give up iPhone” yourself and make up your own mind. I believe though anyone who is a fan of smart phones though would be seriously doing themselves a disservice if they don’t at least check out what Android has to offer.