I’ve had my Google Android G1 phone for over a year now, and I have a lot of good and bad things to say about it. I’ve had my iPhone 3GS for just over 6 months now and have come to a number of conclusions why I don’t like the iPhone and prefer Android.
In a nutshell, G1 hardware sucks, Android OS and applications rock. iPhone hardware is rock solid, iPhone OS, though easy to use, is very limited and applications do not seem to be as innovative, most likely a result of the limited OS. Lucky for Android users, there are now more than a 1/2 dozen better Android phones to pick from with more available in the coming months.
I got the Android G1 phone back in October of 2008, about a week after it came out. The first 24 hours with the phone was frustrating. Once I read the manual that came with the phone and watched a couple videos, I quickly understood how the phone worked and went from frustrated to enlightened. I’ve met a number of other folks who had a G1 for a few days and then quickly returned them. I suspect if they just spent the time to read the manual their experience would have been a better one.
I got the iPhone 3G S this past summer, essentially a week after the 3G S phone was released. The 3G S is provided by work. Being in the podcasting and new media business, it was important that I have and use a iPhone because it makes up such a large portion of the podcasting market share. It was easy for me to start using the iPhone, I never had to refer to a manual to get started. Coming from Android though, I quickly came to the realization how limited the iPhone is. I will get more into that shortly.
My Analogy of iPhone vs Android: An iPhone is like a desk, it can handle lots of work, but the only way the work gets done is if you do it. An Android phone is like having two desks with a secretary; one for you and another with a secretary working 24 hours a day 7 days a week. You still have to do your work, but it is nice to have your secretary tell you when you get new email, future appointments, Facebook reply, Tweet message or if there’s a flood warning.
This is my biggest frustration with the iPhone. I’ve been told by some iPhone users that the phone can be hacked to do what I can do with my Android phone. But that’s not quite how things work in Android. Not only can multiple applications run at the same time on Android, but all push type notification for things like Twitter, Facebook, Weather alerts, etc.. all funnel into a single stream of notifications that are easily accessible at the top of the screen. Even with a hacked iPhone, the user has to load the specific app to see if anything has changed.
I’m indifferent in opinion if the iPhone should evolve to be a multi-tasking push notifying device like Android. Referring back to my original frustration with the G1, I think there will always be a market for a simple one task at a time, only work when I tell you to work phone. I have a feeling that Apple did this on purpose so users can start using the phone quickly without frustration. Keep it simple works for most.
Unfortunately for Apple, I’m not most people. I have a lot of work to do all the time. Android, though it is initially more complicated than the iPhone, simply does more.
Hardware wise, the iPhone is definitely a well built phone. I am not at all worried that something will break or fail on the phone. I cannot same the say about my HTC G1, after 1 year of use it feels aged.
Some specific features missing in the iPhone found in Android:
- Multi-color LED light: Applications in Android take advantage of this. I setup my twitter app to blink cyan when I have new tweets for example.
- Desktop Widgets: I never have to load the calendar or weather applications, I can see what my next appointment is and the weather simply by looking at my home screen.
- Micro SD card: Comes in handy, I’ve actually downloaded documents on my G1 then plugged the SD card into my laptop.
- Notifications Bar: Applications such as Twitter, Facebook, Weather Bug, system updates, etc.. add little notifications in an easy to access list available by pulling down the top of my screen with my finger like a curtain.
- Google Voice: iPhone doesn’t have this functionality, not because it can’t, but because they didn’t allow it. Sad because Android has 2 applications for Google Voice, one made by Google and another called GV made by Evan Charlton which is even better than the Google version.
Some things about the Android G1 phone I don’t like:
- Hardware on the G1 seems weak. I’ve seen other G1’s where the sliding mechanism feels very sloppy. Since I’ve seen that I’ve been very careful when I open/close my G1. The plastic clear cover over my camera lens has cracked and I find the plastic used on the phone to be of a poor quality.
- Camera is slow – I thought this was a problem with Android, but I’ve seen the Hero take pictures faster and they’re much more crisp compared to my phone.
- Touch keyboard in Android sucks – It can be improved, the only thing I do like is the short vibrate on button touch feature. I haven’t seen Android 2.0, reportedly the touch keyboard is much better on it.
- No 3.5mm audio jack – I have to use a Mini USB to 3.5mm adapter in order to plug headphones into the phone.
Applications noted with an asterisk* are applications I highly recommend.
Applications I use on iPhone (besides what comes with the phone):
- NPR News* – If you like NPR, this is a pretty good app.
- WordPress 2.0* – App made by Automattic.com for working with your WordPress blog. Prefer the wpToGo but moderating comments with this app is superior.
- Bump* – Exchanging contacts by bumping phones
- PogoPlug – Works with your pogoplug account.
- Pandora – Streaming radio
- NASA – Keep track with NASA missions
Applications I use on Android (besides what comes with the phone):
- KeePassDroid – Android version of KeePass
- ShopSavvy* – scan bar codes while at the store and get both regional store and online compared pricing
- TasKiller (Free/Pro) lets you kill tasks that run in the background, useful if you want to extend battery life
- AndroZip File Manager – Handle/create Zip files on the phone.
- Bluetooth File Transfer – Exchange files with other Android phones
- AndFTP – FTP client
- Wifi Analyzer* – Analyze all the Wifi signals so you can determine the best channel for your wireless access point.
- Key Ring Reward Cards* – Scan all your grocery store and box store cards into your phone. More abou this app below.
- wpToGo* – similar to WordPress 2.0, works better for writing posts, but the WordPress app for the iPhone moderates comments better.
- Listen* – Podcatcher (audio only at present) that runs in the background and downloads any size media. I’ll write more about this app near the bottom of this post.
- T-Mobile Visual Voicemail – just like visual voicemail on iPhone. I prefer the interface better tahn the Voicemail on iPhone actually.
- Pandora – Streaming radio
- WeatherBug* – Way better than WeatherBug on the iPhone becuase it has a desktop widget and adds notifications to my notifications bar in Android. Other than that, it’s similar to the WeatherBug app on iPhone.
- httpmon HTTP Server Monitor – Monitors web sites.
- Barcode Scanner – Alternative to Bump, all your contacts have square barcodes you can use this to scan in or give out your contact information easily.
- Voice Recorder – Simple application for recording.
- FxCamera – Camera app that lets you add effects
- Tuner – gStrings – lets you tune your instruments with the phone
- Qik* – Stream video from your phone’s camera live on 3g or Wifi (unlike the iPhone)
- Snap Photo Pro* – Camera app with a lot of options (default camera doesn’t have that many), it is worth buying this application.
- PogoPlug – Works with your pogoplug account.
- T-Mobile My Account – Get account usage and also monitors battery life
- Facebook for Android
- Scoreboard – Follow sports teams
- ConnectBot – SSH client
- GV* – Google Voice application, works better than the one by Google
- Bubble – Level application
- iTweet* – Twitter application, more about it below
- ToggleWifi– Toggle on-off Wifi from a desktop icon.
- ToggleBlu – Toggle on-off bluetooth from a desktop icon.
- Rings Extended – Use any audio on your phone as an audio setting for any application that uses notifications.
Key Ring Reward Cards
This has to be one of my favorite applications on Android. I used to have a half dozen of those cards on my key chain. Sometimes I would go to the grocery store with my other keys and not even have my reward card on me. Now both of my sets of keys are free of these stupid cards. There is also a cool factor when the person behind you sees you using a phone rather than your keys to scan in your rewards.
Listen (Google Labs Podcatcher for Android)
The Google Listen podcatcher is way better than iTunes on the iPhone. It does not have the 10MB limit on 3g like the iPhone does. It also has a pretty easy to use listen queue that allows you to organize the podcast episodes you want to listen to into a simple list. Anything in your listen queue automatically gets downloaded in the background. The application has a lot of potential. The only major downfall of the application currently is its search. You would think anything having to do with Search and Google would be brilliant, but finding podcasts in the Listen app is nothing but brilliant. The trick I’ve found is to search for episodes based on the episodes show notes. Searching for a podcast program is futile at best, but by episode notes typically works every time. You can add podcasts manually by RSS feed as well.
i Tweet (Twitter app for Android)
Not to be confused with iTweet.net, the i (space) Tweet app on Android is the best phone interface designed Twitter application I’ve seen to date. I was using Twitroid for a while, but found its memory usage and clunky interface got to be quite annoying. i Tweet works in the same way and can run in the background to make use of the notifications features built into Android. When my phone blinks cyan, I know I got tweets waiting for me.
I noticed I missed some other Android applications that I am using. Here’s the remainder of the list:
- Toddler Lock – Locks the screen so toddlers can play with the phone. makes sounds and displays color shapes.
- BistroMath – Calculate tips when dining out.
- Compass – What direction is north.
- ASCII Chart – Displays the ascii chart and its numeric values (for programmers)
- GPS Speedo – can detect yoru speed when GPS is enabled.
- Where – Find dining, shopping, etc.. based on your current location
- Pick a # – Lets you randomly get a number based on a range you specify.
Here are some more apps suggested from Matt Gunn:
- Movies – Display currently playing movies at nearby Theaters
- SportsTap – Sports portal like Scoreboard
- Foursquare – Explore major cities
- Robo Defense – game
Good to see an actual “long term” use review of an Android phone for once. We all know about the bling by now so this is an interesting read.
The amount of kind of apps on Android are also pretty cool, and geeky. I like it. 🙂
Thank you for taking the time for this review – it was most helpful.
I have a G1 and it has been good, but is having slowing problems at the moment with “core process not working ” flashup’s.
Have tried to fix without success. But until now, have enjoyed the phone and particularly like the size as it fits into my trouser or suit pockets perfectly.
Do find that it slips out of my hand a bit too easily though.
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