The main thing that stands out in moving from iPhone to Android is how much more work it is to get an Android phone to do what I consider to be all the basic smartphone functions. Now, calling favorites is easy and intuitive. Set up your favorites in the pre-installed widget and give them their own home page. Touch their face and talk to them. 10 out of 10. I’m no longer on Verizon so chances are I can actually make the call. However, Verizon did drop my Father’s Day call from my son as I drove through the western mountains of Virginia.
The big four of smartphone uses are the four C’s, Calendar, Contacts, Chats, and Calls. If you are a Gmail user, just enter your Gmail account info when setting up the phone and you can use all the Android apps. However, HTC includes some nice apps that require a second setup using either Microsoft Exchange or pop/IMAP settings. That’s fine for non-Google accounts but redundant for Google accounts. I did find this more straightforward than either setting up syncing through iTunes or MS Exchange on the iPhone.
But it is not all sweetness and light once we leave the land of meat and potatoes and head to the side dishes of smartphone life. The iPod on the iPhone is slick. The only gig on the iPhone is that one has to manually update podcasts or hook up to a computer and sync with iTunes, which automatically updates podcasts. However, the interface for music and podcasts is beautiful. It matters not whether we are listening to albums, artists, genres, audio podcasts or video podcasts. It is beautiful, intuitive, and all in one place.
An Android phone breaks the iPod function out into multiple applications. There is an Android Music app. It is beautiful and also allows playing by artist, album, playlist, song, genre, or composer. One can easily make or add to a playlist. Hold your finger down on an album or song and follow the menu for adding to a playlist. You can also copy m3u format playlists from your computer. Getting music onto the phone is as easy as copying it to an external thumb drive. HTC adds an attractive widget for this app.
There is an audio podcast app, Listen. Listen bests the iPhone in one area only. It updates podcasts over the air automatically. No need to manually pick new episodes or hook up to a computer. The ability to find a podcast with Listen’s search function is horrible, however. I found myself shopping for podcasts in the iTunes store and then copying the URL of the podcast and then typing it into Listen using their ‘Add Subscription’ function. Awkward and shameful from a company that is primarily known for their ability to perform a search.
Both viewing photos and videos are done using the Photos app. There is no way to subscribe to a video podcast of which I am aware. There is no way to bookmark where one leaves off viewing a video. Like the new iPhone one can do basic picture edits, but there is no iMovie equivalent for videos.
If you are a Twit.tv/Revision3 or other video podcast addict, this will be frustrating. For now I am using the beta DoubleTwist software. DT wants to be iTunes for Android. It is a desktop application that can filter your computer’s media and sync that filtered media to a mobile app on your Android phone. One could use this for one’s music and playlists. My syncs took hours and only worked a small percentage of the time. It can also be used to make picture and video playlists but it is waaayyyy faster to just copy over the pictures and videos you want to the phone. The one area where I find DoubleTwist useful is to manage my video podcasts. When I pause a video for too long, it drops the player. It does not remember where I left off viewing. However, if I stop viewing and come back it does offer the option to resume viewing where I left off. DT requires that I physically connect to the computer to get video podcast updates but in that regard I am in no worse shape than I was with iTunes. Except that it takes one heck of a lot longer to complete the sync. To save time in syncing, I am only using DoubleTwist to manage my video podcasts. However, the player is very attractive and as DT improves I could see myself using it to sync with my iTunes music playlists.
If you don’t subscribe to video podcasts, the difference between the iPhone and an Android phone is not great. I like having all my media in the iPod app on the iPhone with a unified interface but I don’t like being dependent on iTunes. I like the auto-updates on audio podcasts on the Android but podcast search function is ridiculously weak. Both systems work.
One fun feature of Android 2.1 is the availability of various “scenes.” These provide a different set of apps and widgets laid out for different functions on different pages. Amazingly, none of the screens are laid out like the one in my illustration. If you want your iPod-like functions where you can easily access them you have to build your own custom scene. While this was fun for me, it is more work than most of my family members would ever want to undertake.
I can’t speak to the iPhone 4’s battery life. I did have to plug in my iPhone 3GS before the day was over but I’m a heavy user. My Droid Incredible is at 16% of the battery after a half hour commute listening to an audio podcast and three hours of having the display on but the wi-fi and bluetooth off. I would estimate that it uses its battery at roughly twice the pace of the iPhone 3GS. I see this as the greatest weakness of the phone. However, it is not a deal breaker. My use is heaviest in the car and on a stand at work where I use it to display my calendar, mail, weather, and time. Using a charger in those two scenarios is not a big deal.
I prefer the display on the Droid Incredible to the iPhone 3GS. It is larger and in the 16:9 aspect ratio instead of the iPhone’s archaic 4:3. I’ll have to see the iPhone 4 to tell if the higher resolution will make up for the smaller screen. Now, if I only had a Netflix app, but that’s a different story for a different day.