Phones

Head to Head: iPhone vs. Android

Carrier Nonsense

Wireless carriers use all kinds of dirty tricks to squeeze extra pennies out of their customers, and Verizon is shooting par for that course. Although I have to give Apple props for tying its carriers' hands with respect to lame add-on software and services, I don't think Verizon's crappy optional (and completely unnecessary) software offerings are particularly germane to the Android-versus-iPhone debate.

Case in point: I agree with Tom's assessment of V Cast Media Manager, which exists primarily as a tool for Verizon to make a few extra bucks off of ridiculous additional services for nearly every phone in its lineup. Unlike Tom, however, I would never have thought to use it. In fact, other than Tom, I don't know anybody who has ever used it beyond the purposes of testing it for an actual software review.

Because Android is designed to stand on its own, you have very little reason to ever pair it with desktop software. When I got my first Droid a couple of years ago, I just dragged all my music to the Music folder via USB, and went on my merry way. But if you really want to use a desktop app to manage music and videos on your Android phone, I'd humbly suggest Windows Media Player, which can recognize the device and automatically keep your libraries in sync much the same way iTunes does with the iPhone. It ain't rocket science.

Likewise, Verizon Visual Voicemail is an overpriced add-on service, a pale imitation of the free Google Voice service. Why Tom (or anyone else) would even consider subscribing to Verizon's Visual Voicemail when there's a free app for the free Google Voice service available for free download in the Android Market is a complete mystery to me. Did I mention that Google Voice is free?

Tom goes on to rant about other pointless Verizon upsells, but addressing them in turn is hardly worthwhile. Verizon doesn't strike me as being any worse than other carriers in terms of nickeling-and-diming customers with stupid add-on services, and that's not what we're here to talk about anyway.

Security

Whether smartphone security really matters at the present time is largely a topic of debate. Both iOS and Android have some vulnerabilities; but as far as I'm aware, neither has fallen prey to any particularly damaging attacks. Tom's suggestion that Apple has "taller castle walls" appears to be nothing more than an assumption at this point.

Choices, Choices

Tom argues that Android is "sloppy." I hear variations on this claim a lot, but I'm unconvinced. I've spent my fair share of time in iOS on the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch, and I have to agree that Apple has gone to great lengths to give the menus a touch of flair and consistency. But there's more to an interface than shiny chrome and faux-lighting effects.

When I look at my Droid X's screen, I get instant access to useful information. My to-do list is readily visible in a widget on the main screen, so I can see what needs my attention next; another widget I keep on the home screen lets me instantly capture notes, pictures, or voice recordings to Evernote.

App notifications appear in the top menu bar, and I can swipe it down to go straight to the most pressing notification. By contrast, while iOS will give me a push notification stating that some app somewhere on the device demands my attention, I then have to go swiping around the device looking for the app. And if I have multiple notifications, I have only the little red notification bugs above the various icons to guide me. I'd expect Apple's engineers to simplify this process, but they haven't.

These functional interface touches are excellent examples of the increased control and customizability that make Android great. iOS offers neither of these incredibly useful features, and I wouldn't trade them for any amount of Apple's design flair. Want to give Apple a point for polish? Fine. But give Android two points for usability here.

Only one company makes the iPhone, and only four versions of the thing have come out. And, as Tom points out, Apple polices its ecosystem through draconian measures. So, frankly, the fact that Apple has had as much trouble with its precious handsets as it has is a little perplexing.

By contrast, dozens of different Android devices are on the market. Each major wireless carrier offers multiple choices, some decidedly better than others. (See our chart of the top 10 Android phones for ratings and reviews.)

Tom tries half-heartedly to imply that the wealth of existing options for Android users is somehow a fault for the platform, but he doesn't get very far. As with the PC market, choice is a good thing, and the lamer options tend not to garner much attention from consumers.

Tom also brings up the App Store and the Android Market, and their respective selections. The Android Market has plenty of great options, and I'm hard-pressed to think of any top-notch iPhone apps that aren't also available in the Android Market (or at least reported to be coming soon). But I disagree that the Apple App Store is substantially better organized than the Android Market. Both are disasters.

What is so difficult about creating reasonable subcategories that would make download listings easier to navigate? In either store, searching for a good to-do list (a significant category in its own right) requires users to surf through hundreds of irrelevant entries for other apps that fall under the general category of productivity. Apple and Google should be equally embarrassed by the unnavigable state of their app markets.

On balance, though, I'll take choice over restriction anytime.

I'm currently on my second Android phone, and I'm looking forward to my third sometime in the coming year (when the first wave of LTE models hits Verizon). As for the Verizon iPhone? Tom can have it.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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