Friends who know me will know that I’m an Android geek. That doesn’t mean that I hate the iPhone though – I acknowledge its multimedia capabilities, just that I always have the idea that Android is better at being a ‘smartphone’ because of its more customizable interface. Well, now that I finally got a chance to use the iPhone 4S, I guess I can finally make some proper, somewhat-fair comparison about the two ecosystems.
I’ll be basing this with my current Android phone, the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play. Not the best phone around definitely, but I’ve tweaked it quite a bit to become a good phone for me to use.
My Play had been receiving bad reviews on its screen, which is neither bright nor colorful, and suffers from ghosting issues. The iPhone 4S’ screen is a pleasure to look at – the high pixel density IPS screen offered awesome color saturation and good brightness levels. I haven’t used the Super AMOLED screens offered by the high end phones, but I have to say Apple definitely did an amazing job on the iPhone 4/4S’ screen.
Android is the clear winner here – once you go to a bigger screen with more estate, you will never go back. Viewing web pages is a breeze on my Play, and once I turned my phone to landscape mode I didn’t need to zoom mostly to read mobile-unfriendly web pages. For the iPhone, it’s quite difficult as without zooming you’ll have to squint quite a bit.
The larger screen estate also meant that my Play could display more things at the same time. The Sony Ericsson Xperia 2011 series phones all have FWVGA resolutions (854×480), which meant that up to 5 rows of shortcuts or widgets could be displayed at once, on top of the persistent bottom bar. With the iPhone, every shortcut seems cramped together on the home screen (more on this later).
I think the screen size really is a factor here – with the iPhone everything seems cramped up together, all the shortcuts and all. I like Android’s widget-based home screen, as I can put down simple but useful widgets such as Google Tasks and Gmail, so that I can have a quick glance at them without needing to fire up the app.
The 4S blazes through everything. I haven’t experienced a single lag throughout my few days of usage. That is crazy, compared to the Android phones (I dare say that even the dual cores experience some lag when switching applications etc). Of course, this has to do with the limited multitasking that Apple implements, but hey, it works right? Not like Android’s multitasking is any better, especially on lower RAM phones like my Play.
Android wins hands down.
Even in iOS 5, the notification center still leaves something to be desired. Swipe-to-remove notifications is really an awesome thing in Ice Cream Sandwich, and the ability to customize notifications in the notifications bar (such as adding buttons or progress bars to individual notifications) makes Android lead in this area.
Also, the popdown notification often blocks your finger from touching the navigation bar buttons properly in most apps. This is really a stupid design issue, and you either have to wait for the notification to go away or swipe down the notification center and up again.
Wow, I did not expect the iPhone to give me some troubles here. I can’t share a picture from my Camera Roll to Facebook, I have to use the Facebook app instead. This is definitely a disadvantage compared to Android’s sharing features, which allows you to share photos from your gallery to different applications.
WhatsApp for the iPhone also seems to be less well-implemented compared to that on the Android – it added all contacts with WhatsApp installed into my favourites list, seemingly because it is not able to generate that list on the fly. And the favourites list doesn’t make sense – I can’t quick scroll through it!
I used to think that the iPhone keyboard sucks (partially due to the small screen size), but I typed this post entirely on it without many mistakes! It’s actually pretty good, but I don’t like how it corrects my words when I don’t want them corrected. I think Android’s implementation of showing the suggested words above the keyboard works better.
One thing I have to say though, the Chinese keyboard on the iPhone works wonders. 真的是好到不得了。Android’s keyboard doesn’t support Chinese natively as far as I know and that’s one part that the iPhone definitely wins.
Bad battery life here. It’s half gone from the moment I started using this morning, about 5 hours, and I was tuitioning half the time (not using the phone much). I’m not sure how it compared to other Android phones though, but it definitely won’t last me one whole day (and that’s the reason I bought my extended battery on the Play, which lasted me two whole days on a single charge).
I’m glad the Android Market has grown to be almost as big as the app store – whatever you can find on the App Store, there will be at least a substitute that’s on the Android Market. That being said, a couple of games are still iPhone-bound, so Apple is at the slight edge here. I must admit I’m not really a mobile gaming fan (yeah, I am slightly regretting getting the Xperia Play..) so it doesn’t concern me so much.
The camera on the 4S is really impressive for normal usage, especially on low light scenarios, where most Android handsets fail. Pictures are nice with good color contrast and it’s definitely one of the top attractive features of the iPhone (be it 4 or 4S).
As to the music quality, I’m not an audiophile so I can’t really hear differences, but I think it’s comparable to the other phones I used, if not slightly better.
I think the iPhone is definitely a very powerful multimedia device; the lack of a sharing framework for apps to take advantage of is definitely a downside though (in Android, any app can be programmed to Share or to be on the receiving end of the Share feature). This really came as a surprise to me.
I think, though, that I will stick to an Android phone for its customizability and larger screen size (to be seen with the iPhone 5).