Since its 2008 debut, Android has grown - not only meeting all of the functionalities of the iPhone, but besting it in nearly all aspects. Here is our list of the top 10 things Android does better than the iPhone.
Starting with version 1.0, Android has been able to run multiple applications at the same time regardless of whether they are system apps or apps from the Android Marketplace. The current version of iPhone OS does offer limited multitasking, but only allows native applications such as Mail, iPod and Phone to run in the background. Android users benefit greatly from this discrepancy, as they can receive notifications, listen to music, or even record GPS data without keeping the application open. Apple will try to level the playing field with iPhone OS 4, granting developers access to a small and limiting list of APIs that can run certain services in the background, but it's a long way from the true multitasking that Android has.
One of the key features Android has is a customizable home screen keeps active widgets right at your fingertips, always accesible and always visible - without having to launch an application first. There are widgets for just about every app in the Android Marketplace from playing music to checking the weather and keeping up to date on Facebook. Meanwhile iPhone users are force to flip through their app list to locate and launch each app. If you wanted to check the forecast, for example, you would have to find the app, launch it, and then wait for it to load. With Android, all of that information can be displayed directly on your home screen, never more than a finger swipe away.
It's true that Apple's App Store has over 180,000 applications, while the Android Marketplace has only just broken the 50,000 mark but Android's rapid growth and adoption give it the potential to catch up to the iPhone App Store. Android also has another advantage: a completely open market. Apple receives around 10,000 app submissions per week, yet many apps are overlooked because they appear too simple or denied because a similar app already exists. The Android Marketplace is driven entirely by its consumers, so the best app is the one that succeeds - not the first one to reach the market. In addition, the Android Marketplace doesn't censor its apps, so the possibilities are truly endless.
The iPhone has some trouble with notifications. Because it's restricted to pop-up notifications, it can only handle one at a time and because it lacks multitasking, applications must be open in order for them to make notifications. Android, on the other hand, has a convenient notification bar which displays an icon for every notification you have waiting. The notification bar can also be pulled downward to reveal more detail about each notification. Android also allows app developers to make notification details viewable from the lock screen, something the iPhone can only do with native applications.
Apple users are encouraged to "Think Different" but when it comes to the actual hardware, they don't get much choice. You can pick the color, either black or white, and you get to choose between the 16GB or the pricier 32GB version. Other than that, you're stuck with the 3.5-inch, 320x480 pixel display, 256MB of RAM, and 600MHz processor. Because Android is an open platform, manufacturers have the freedom to pair it with any hardware they want, like the Nexus One (with 3.7-inch, 480x800 pixel display, 512MB of RAM, and 1GHz Snapdragon processor) or the Motorola Droid which has a physical keypad. Obviously, available selections will vary by carrier - speaking of which....
AT&T truly is the iPhone's weakest link. The iPhone's success turned the country's fastest 3G network into a staggering mess of dropped calls and dodgy data connections. If you lust after an iPhone and live in an area with poor AT&T coverage, you're stuck struggling with low signal quality, slow data speeds, and missed calls. Android devices are available on every major cellular carrier (although AT&T only offers a single, somewhat underpowered, Android phone). Verizon has the Motorola Droid, Droid Eris, and Droid Incredible to start. T-Mobile has the Nexus One, MyTouch 3G, Behold II, and will soon carry the MyTouch Slide. And Sprint has the Hero, Moment, and plans for the very promising Evo 4G. No matter where you live, Android lets you pick the carrier that's best for you.
The iPhone can be Jailbroken for some additional functionality, like installing apps that aren't available in the App Store, but the overall experience is the same. You're still stuck with the same exact interface. Similar to the Jailbreaking movement, Android has a small community dedicated to building custom ROMs for Android devices. Not only do Custom ROMs bring the same functionality Jailbreaking does, but they also bring an additional level of customization to your phone. There are ROMs that port custom UIs from one device to another. Other ROMs strip down bulky features and optimize for speed. With Android, nothing is out of reach.
Smartphones have been gaining more and more functionality over the past few years: Wi-Fi, GPS, 4G, Bluetooth, etc. While these are all great and necessary additions, they have very adverse affects on battery life. In attempts to counter poor battery life, users have taken to toggling system settings like turning on Wi-Fi or 3G on only when they are needed. iPhone users are stuck digging around in the system settings every time they want to use the internet or a Bluetooth device. Android lets you use widgets to manage your settings directly from your home screen - and for those lesser-used settings that might not have dedicated widgets, you can also create shortcuts on your home screen to take you directly to the setting you want to change.
With Smartphones giving us constant connectivity, it's not surprising that the majority of our computerized lives are moving online. We have email for our messages, Flickr for our photos, Google Docs for our documents, and Facebook and Twitter for our social lives. Android offers the ability to integrate all of this natively. Your Gmail account can be automatically synchronized with your phone. Photos taken with your phone can be automatically uploaded to Flickr. Your phone can even be linked to your Facebook account and can sync your phone contacts with your Facebook friends - complete with profile images, email addresses, and phone numbers. The iPhone can do this only through use of third party apps, and is nowhere near as seamless to use as the Android alternative.
If you've ever thought about buying an iPhone, you have probably noticed the price tag. The older iPhone 3G costs $99 with a two-year commitment and performs sluggishly with the latest OS updates when compared to the 3GS (which will run you a whopping $199 with two-year agreement). Because Android is an open source platform, it is very cost effective to implement which means savings for the end user. Every major cellular carrier (except for AT&T) has at least one Android phone available free with two-year agreement. Of course these are lower end Android devices, but they are still comparable in performance to the iPhone 3GS. The most expensive Android phones (which significantly outperform the iPhone 3GS) are $199 with two-year contract.
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