May 24, 2010

Hey iPhone, Forward All My Calls (To Android)

This morning, when I left for work, I also left my iPhone at home. Blasphemy, I know. But in the interest of giving Android a fair shake, which I have never done before, I have told my iPhone to forward all my calls, and intend to use the HTC Evo 4G (powered by Sprint) that I received from Google I/O last week, exclusively, for the entire week. Since gaining the device on Thursday, my iPhone use has already dropped down to a mere minimum, as much for testing as anything else, and I am finding where Android's latest offering matches up, and the cases where Apple clearly still has an edge. While it makes sense to leave anything resembling final decision making until after the conclusion of WWDC next month, I want to end May as an informed citizen who has equally consumed the Kool-Aid from the two warring camps - not as an uninformed bigot who will throw down whenever anyone questions his undying allegiance.

Deciding which direction to go as a consumer, one with significant history on one side (Apple), will depend on a few things:
  1. Will making a switch eliminate any problems I have with the current platform?
  2. Will making a switch gain me features I am missing on my current platform?
  3. Will making a switch introduce new problems?
  4. Will making a switch remove my access to things I am used to?
Clearly, new features and removed problems would be fantastic - while dealing with new headaches and lacking functionality would be less than ideal. I expect to find all of the above, and the frequency and severity of 1 through 4 will aid toward my long-term decision.

First things first, going a week on Sprint's network instead of AT&T's, should make it clear how the two differ, after nearly two years of my battling dropped calls and flaky 3G connections.

Secondly, I will need to find out which applications that I use on a daily basis on my iPhone have equivalents on the Android platform, and which do not. For those that do have equivalents, I will need to find if additional costs are needed to make them available.

While all the industry buzz is around Android Froyo (2.2) and the iPhone 4, planned for June debut, or so we think, I am admittedly a little behind already in both cases. The HTC EVO, while much respected on the hardware side, is running Android 2.1, and I am going to have to compare it with my iPhone 3G, at least until version 4 shows up. This means that Apple doesn't get a perfect position from me - as I am not contrasting it with a 3GS, and its camcorder, improved speed, etc., but I'll try to be realistic.

Forgoing a more thorough review, best saved for later, making the transition from iPhone to Android seems pretty simple. I set up my Apple mail account on the phone, as well as GMail. I configured the native Twitter client, as well as Google Buzz. The embedded Web browser is quite good, and streaming my personalized radio station hasn't had me missing iTunes. The addition of an 8 megapixel camera and a video camera to the phone are also solid pluses for the EVO. On the flip side, I have managed to crash a number of apps, and their error messages haven't been too user friendly. Meanwhile, it turns out the rather simple act of taking a screenshot on Android is best reserved for someone with a computer science degree, not nearly as simple as on iPhone.

For the most part, I have found the applications I use on the iPhone to be available on the Android Marketplace. I don't have Cinchcast for simplified podcasts, and I couldn't find Redfin for real estate, but with those exceptions, practically everything is there. I have heard people say that some of the applications on the Android platform are not as well done as those for the iPhone, and I understand where they are coming from. There's a mix of Windows/Linux feel to some apps, while iPhone feels more like Apple, but I am trading form for function where it makes sense.

Having a phone that multitasks is a wonderful thing, and I haven't dropped a call yet. But I'll see how I feel about this particular platform by the end of the week. Let me know if you have any particular questions about the hardware or software you want me to test, and I'll do my best to give it a run.

Disclosure: I received the HTC EVO free as part of my attending Google I/O. Similarly, I gained my iPhone 3G from Socialmedian back in 2008. I guess that makes me cheap.