Android vs. iPhone, Warts and All
The media spend an inordinate amount of time amping the pros of smartphones such as Apple's can-do-no-wrong iPhone and Google's latest high-end handsets.
Some folks, perhaps sick of the accolades heaped on the iPhone 4 coming to Verizon Wireless and Google's Samsung Nexus S, offered some contrarian views.
Let's start with Joe Nocera of The New York Times. Nocera, noting that Apple COO Tim Cook said at the Verizon iPhone 4 launch Jan. 11 that Apple wasn't providing an iPhone on the carrier's 4G LTE network because Apple wouldn't make "design compromises" wrote:
They never make design compromises at Apple. They make consumer compromises. Yet consumers have always been willing to overlook those compromises so they can claim they own some of the coolest products on the planet.
Nocera argues that for all of its elegant design, beauty and that impossible-to-beat cachet of being an APPLE IPHONE!, the device drops calls as if they were twice-baked potatoes, no physical keyboard to facilitate e-mailing (hello, Blackberrys!), and poor battery life.
My wife has an iPhone 4. I mean the original one on AT&T. I bought it for her because she made me but also because I believed it would provide a great barometer against which I might measure the gaggle of Google Android handsets I test.
Neither she nor I have noticed a propensity for dropped calls on her iPhone here in Fairfield County, Conn.
The battery life is weak, but you can't really complain about no physical keyboard because if Apple did provide one, it would negate that sleek elegant design everyone bows down to worship.
Again, Apple won't make "design compromises" and I'm sorry but physical keyboards, on any device, tend to look clunky.
But Nocera's point is that the iPhone 4 is not perfect and, that despite all of the iPhone balleyhooing, the world's billions of mobile phone users require choices. Such as Android, RIM Blackberry and Windows Phone 7, the non-iOS-based smartphone platforms.
However, Instapaper founder Marco Arment argues on his blog that Android suffers exactly from the opposite problem of Apple's iPhone: too many hardware choices hurtling toward consumers, making it hard to pinpoint what the platform is all about.
While iPhone has the advantage of being one universal brand from Apple, Android handsets are legion.
Verizon's Droid line, which in no mean irony will likely be impinged from the Verizon iPhone arrival, comes closest in offering a readily identifiable brand for Android.
Very few non-geeks know about individual Android handsets. They change so frequently, and are so numerous, that there's never much of an opportunity for a meaningful buzz to generate around any of them. Nobody's lining up to buy them. CNN's not covering their launches. Consumer Reports isn't vigorously testing their antennas. The Daily Show isn't making jokes about them. So the mass market doesn't really respond to individual devices.
All valid points, but it hasn't really impeded Android's growth much has it? Apparently, there are a lot of geeks out there or the marketing is good enough because Android just passed the iPhone on U.S. market share.
The phones are being bought and sold with vigor. But Arment really just doesn't like the model, citing the hardware and software compatibility issues, such as Samsung's alleged holding back of the Android 2.2 upgrade on its Galaxy S devices.
These are nasty, messy things few people know or care about.
That's where Arment's argument goes wrong. In his mind, everyone should worry about Android's flaws, which are legion. In reality, few people do and most in fact forgive Android and its carrier and hardware partners for their flaws.
And they do so as stridently as Apple fanboys forgive or even deny their beloved handset's handful of imperfections.