ios and android decisions decisions


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Firstly yes this is a blog entry by me, I know you are all shocked and I apologise for being away so long. I am busy with my job [contemporaryfusion.co.uk] and also preparing a new version of this site. Hopefully including upgrades to Drupal 7, and a new design - (With the aim of having a fully responsive design to iPhone resolutions, as well as several popular android phones) I am hoping to launch that sometime between now (Early Nov ‘11) and New Year (Jan ‘12)

OK I try to keep out of flame wars between iOS and Android, simply because I like and use a lot of Apple products (But not an iPhone) and both my phones are currently Android (HTC Desire HD, and Samsung Galaxy S - original if you are interested) however I decided it was time I wrote another entry and as I am considering replacing my Desire HD (Partially due to lack of future support in the form of Ice Cream Sandwich, but mostly because I want a new phone) and I figured I would lok at iOS5 (Using the iPhone 4s as example simply for Siri comparatives) and Android’s Gingerbread (2.3).

As there are so many reviews of iOS5, and the iPhone 4S available I will only skim over the features here, and not leave a description. If you want to know more - Google is your friend[google.co.uk] iOS5 has a number of features that are well worth the upgrade (That is the OS not necessarily the iPhone 4S) including iMessage, notifications, reminders etc. I wholeheartedly suggest if you own a 3GS or above you at least look at upgrading - it makes the iPhone more useful again - especially notification being passive and not stopping everything each time you get a text or similar. It also includes iCloud - which if you are willing to accept the usual risks of data in the cloud could be an infinitely useful solution to backing up your iPhone every time you plug it in and have a wifi network connected (I believe iTunes related material will sync over 3G but your contacts, etc won’t). The reminders app is very useful if you have a poor short term memory for mundane things (Like the washing being left in the washing machine over night - again, or picking up the parcel from the local post office etc), and the geofence idea (Alerts when you leave/arrive somewhere) is cool if you have GPS turned on (Which if I was charging my phone I might), and there is deep grained twitter integration too (Although a number of people are saying this is disappointing.) Things that are missing I’d like to see (And to be honest shouldn’t be too hard t do for experienced iOS programmers) displaying and merging contacts ala Android still isn’t present, and nor is facebook integration (Again ala most non vanilla android variants) My iPad and my iPod Touch are both running iOS5 and I can’t say as I miss iOS4.

I won’t be looking too deep at Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) as only the Samsung [samsung.com/uk] Galaxy Nexus [google.co.uk] has that at present, and it is likely to be a while before we start seeing it on other phones As an aside rumour on the net varies between Jan 2012 [uswitch.com], and Q2 (See “other phones” link) for the Galaxy S2, although Samsung UK’s twitter say no official date. HTC [HTC.com/uk] on the other hand are officially saying they are “reviewing plans” I will take a detailed look at ICS in a later blog post.

Gingerbread is the most recent version of Android to be made available to people not wishing to wait till Nov 17th for a Samsung Nexus. Given the price (According to Amazon at least) is £549 [amazon.co.uk] more expensive than the entry level iPhone [apple.com/uk] one has to wonder how many will opt for the phone away from contract. Again I will look (Without a hands on review - I don’t have the cash spare!) at these features post launch. Gingerbread includes many of the features of iOS5 (Indeed it had things like notification screen prior to Gingerbread) although it does lack an iMessage/BBM style app out the box, as well as reminders. There are apps available for this such as What’s App [whatsapp.com] and Col Reminder [chrisonline.at]. What’s App is a cross platform messenger, something neither BBM or iMessage offer, and although COl Reminder is not the prettiest app in existance (Sorry Chris I know user layout is a hard thing to get right and I mean no disrespect to the functionality fo the app!) it functions well and even has a cool feature of setting a reminder for missed calls. I have yet to find GPS based reminders on Android though I am sure if there aren’t any available now, there will be soon (I’d do it myself save I don’t have the time and I haven’t programmed java in a LONG time.)

Android also has voice recognition ala Voice Control (from iPhone 3GS and 4, Not Siri ala iPhone 4S) out the box. Google’s version is about as useful as voice control allowing the basics I would expect off voice control such as dialling, google search etc (Full list found on Google’s voice actions microsite [google.com]) but is limited to English. I realise my comment there sounds a little disparaging, but it isn’t meant to be. Voice recognition programming is very hard given voice changes so easily (accents, language, dialect etc), and I fully respect both Apple’s Voice Control and Google’s Voice Actions. However I want a more complete system that can do additional things such as text to speech etc. There are other apps available adding a more “siri like” functionality such as vlingo [vlingo.com] although on Android vlingo is more advanced than on iPhone incorporating a driving panel and “safe reader” which automatically reads your texts to you. There’s also a “constant listen” function which is useful when driving (And phone is charging - it eats battery like nobodies business!) To my knowledge this isn’t available int he app store and have no plans to add it (Although Vlingo itself is available on iPhone, I am not sure if the driving panel will ever be available for the iPhone.)

So do I swap or not? This is an OS specific rambling so I will not mention hardware too much (6 sentences at last count). I put it down to the following sections I rate my phones under (As I consider each section equally relevant I list them alphabetically!):

App choice

Well app quality is without a doubt much higher in the App Store than on Android Market, due to Apple’s Terms and Conditions. That isn’t to say there aren’t quality apps on Android - there are, and many apps these days have started using cross compilers such as Titanium Studio [appcelerator.com] so quality is much the same. There is also some absolute rubbish out there too though. The numbers being bandied about as to exact number of apps in either store will always be changing, but most people seem to think iOS before Android (Although any developer who doesn’t say “have you though about other platforms” should not be on the project unless there is a very specific reason to be iOS only) Functionality doesn’t always seem to be the first priority on Android (Apple do seem to block apps which have poor or little functionality) but this is improving over time. Most of the apps I deal with are functional apps and aren’t games, but iOS as a gaming platform is gaining credence - especially now the iPhone 4S has a dual core A5 processor, making it much more capable as a platform. Android is getting there but most people don’t seem to port the “big money” games to Android. Is this because people expect Android apps to be free and not on the iPhone?

Hardware

OK I know I said I wouldn’t mention hardware too much but I do feel a few sentences are necessary. Obviously with iOS you have to have the iPhone, which is a lovely looking bit of kit. Android you can pick your poison though. HTC, Samsung, Sony, Motorola, LG etc. they all make Android phones and you can pick the kit you like. From a hardware perspective Android wins hands down. I can pick any kit I like. That isn’t to say I don’t like the iPhone kit - I do, but your choice is rather limited.

Updates and support for OS

Well iOS is stock on every iPhone (Except for rooted ones) and it means you get the experience Apple want you to have without effort. It’s blistering simple to use (And heck I have an iPod Touch and iPad anyway) Android on the other hand usually isn’t stock/vanilla - HTC have added Sense, Samsung TouchWiz etc. This of course adds weight (in terms of footprint, memory and processor) but it also means you can get a different experience on every phone. Yes you can root it for that vanilla using something like CyanogenMod (Gingerbread root firmware, no link provided so people don’t try and root a phone without knowing the risks, difficulties etc. Google it if you want, but you are doing so at your own risk, I am not responsible for anything you do to your phone!) but that usually voids your warranty. I personally quite like both HTC Sense (Especially Sense 3) and TouchWhiz, although I have a slight preference to TouchWhiz. I would say from a customisation perspective Android has a slight edge (Or more accurately the manufacturers OEM versions have the slight edge) over iOS. But iOS has the edge in that it is easy to test iOS for all iOS devices - there’s only 7 of them supported after all (iPhone 3GS, 4 and 4S, iPad, iPad 2, and 4th and 5th gen iPod Touches) With Android there are dozens of devices and ports take time (Hence the potential 6 month wait for Galaxy 2, and probably HTC Sensation too) so my want for the latest and greatest OS for my phone can only quickly be satisfied by iOS and therefore the iPhone (Unless I buy a Nexus - anyone want to lend me £600ish interest free? Thought not…)

With regards length of support, HTC have an appalling track record for updating Android on their phones. The Hero was then wasn’t then was getting Eclair (Android 2.1), but that was as far as it went 9I don’t even know if the US got the Eclair version) This was (mostly) down to the hardware in the phone, and the complexity of porting sense over. They are also not sure if they will port ICS over to their incredibly successful Desire series (Though it is from rumour unlikely). The Desire S was only recently released and it won’t get ICS? I’d be paying for a phone for 2 years that couldn’t run the latest OS! There are a huge number of articles on this about the web so I won’t rant too much about it but this annoys me so much I personally will not be buying a HTC again. Samsung are at least porting the relevant bits of ICS to their latest Galaxy S2 (Features such as NFC - Near Field Contact - will not be present. I assume thats due to the relevant hardware not being in the phone.) I applaud the effort and respect the fact it will take a long time (I am a developer, development takes time and costs money) but do feel if it is 6 months, that this is a long time to wait. Other makers of Android phones (Sony, LG etc) are slowly releasing their plans. The only thing that really remains to be seen is how quickly Motorola Mobility (Given they are now owned by Google [bbc.co.uk]) updates it’s phones post ICS.

Conclusion

OK to jump or not to jump is a big decision. I currently have 2 phones (Personal and business) so for now I could conceivably have the best of both worlds. Having said that I am mid contract on both phones and would need to buy any new phones I was after (iPhone 4/4S and Galaxy S2 or maybe wait for S3), something I don’t have the money for. When my personal contract runs out I am considering dropping my personal phone and using only the business one - it’s a way of saving £35+ a month - especially as I am looking very heavily at using Vodafone’s[vodafone.co.uk] One Net Express vodafone.co.uk and use Orange [orange.co.uk]. The iPhone doesn’t offer UMA and I doubt it will, so Vodafone it is…) If anyone knows of an O2 [O2.co.uk], T-Mobile [t-mobile.co.uk] or Three [three.co.uk] offering of a fem2Cell/UMA or similar I would be happy to look into it once my contract expires - let me know in the comments section. On reflection (An overnight one not a hurried one) I think I will wait till my contract expires (Unless I decide to throw my HTC Desire HD out the window, or eBay it!) and get an iPhone 5 (or whatever number they are on when it gets to March 2013 - iPhone 5S anyone??) I’ll make the decision about a personal contract once I get to May 2013 and my personal contract expires (Though knowing me there’ll be an Android phone I am after and will upgrade anyway!)

Thoughts on the 2 welcomed - although I am not after a flame war, I want constructive comments from those who have gone from Android to iPhone and reverse.

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