I had a 1st generation iPhone. When the iPhone 3G came out, I traded up and gave my wife the original iPhone. We used MobileMe to synchronize our contacts and share a calendar. It worked great. For the first time in recent memory I wasn’t buying a new cell phone every year; it had become every 18 months. That is, until the iPhone 3GS. I skipped that one probably for the same resaon you’re reading this article. The iPhone is a fantastic device, but it’s not for everyone. Some of us like a little more control. Even before I bought my first Android handset, I was already trying to emulate the things that I liked most about the Android platform on my iPhone.
I dislike comparing Apples to anything. The debate is as pointless as it is old. PC verses Mac commercials are funny; even more so if you own a Mac, or you’re a person capable of laughing at yourself and use a PC. Toss Linux into the mix and you’ve got an interesting situation. Mac people are generally fanatical about their computers. PC people are either all business or didn’t know there was an alternative. Linux users think they’re superior in every way for having discovered the best software is open, non-proprietary and they’ve figured out how to use it.
The problem with Linux in a nutshell is that it exists to be modified to fit a need. It’s open, usually free, particularly stable, and cryptic. It’s employed by elitist sysadmins who bathe as often as they reboot and who pride themselves on using an operating system that is arguably the best of what both Apple and Microsoft have tried to accomplish.
Lots of cell phones run on Linux, but just as Linux is employed and developed to fit a need that’s where they stop. They make calls, they’re stable, and that’s all. Enter Google and Android.
Why did I switch to Android and what have I learned about the differences between the iPhone and Android platforms? I switched because we’ve “gone Google” at work and decommissioned our Microsoft Exchange email server in favor of Google Apps Premiere Edition. I’m a big believer in native synchronization whenever possible, so I picked up a T-Mobile myTouch 3G with Google.
Physically, the hardware is very close to the same size in the hand. The iPhone is slightly wider and longer, while the myTouch 3G is a bit thicker. They both feel roughly equal in weight. I also found that the way I’d become accustomed to holding my iPhone doesn’t benefit the myTouch 3G. The iPhone’s power/lock button is atop the upper right edge of the device, but the lock/off button of the myTouch 3G is found at the lower right corner on the face. Holding the myTouch 3G in my palm with an index finger on the upper edge, like I typically held the iPhone, results in an awkward thumb stretch to power off the myTouch 3G, and that’s where things get interesting.
Where should the power button be located? Am I holding the myTouch 3G incorrectly? These questions spawned this article and they don’t stop at the hardware. Where Android truly wins is in the ability of the software to run on vastly different hardware. The myTouch 3g is about as close to the physical form of an iPhone as Android gets, and it’s still radically different. But Android also runs on devices with full, sliding qwerty keyboards, trackpads or scroll wheels, bigger screens, and smaller ones. The choice isn’t iPhone or Android anymore; it’s what hardware do you want your Android device to have? Oddly enough, the thing I miss most about the iPhone is that SMS notifications would periodically repeat until I read the message. Now I enjoy a blinking LED when messages await. Why didn’t Apple think of that?
Which brings us to Google. Because Google is platform independent, it’s an excellent and free replacement for Apple’s MobileMe (known as me.com now). Each member of my family has a Gmail address, we all share our individual calendars, Google Latitude allows me to check in on the kids location whenever I want, and since my daughter has a myTouch 3G too, she can use Google Maps turn by turn navigation to direct her to my current location. My wife and son’s iPhones use ActiveSync technology to enable Gmail with true push notification. When their iPhones give up the magic smoke (AT&T doesn’t offer handset insurance on any iPhone), they’ll inherit the myTouch 3G, and I get to refresh my hardware to the latest iteration of awesomeness that Android has spawned.
When he’s not practicing Krav Maga or training for an AGPMA black belt, Chris writes from his offices in Houston, TX where he serves as IT Director for a trucking, transportation company. He’s worked in networking and systems administration since leaving the US Coast Guard in 1995 and shortly thereafter married the love of his life and raises 2 children. Chris has previously worked with Apple Computers, Kaiser Permanente, and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. Chris bathes regularly.