And so the ever continuing phone debate rages. Who will win? Who has the most apps? Does it really matter? Well, no. All that really matters is that you choose the phone that's right for you, you just have to make sure that you've looked at all the different options and haven't gotten caught up in hype. Apple are ever so slightly good at creating hype, especially when it comes to the iPhone. However, I still think the iPhone has many shortcomings and now there is a competitor breathing down its neck.
Let's be fair, until the iPhone came along, all phone interfaces were useless. At the moment I'm a Symbian user. While I like the functionality it affords me, by now the interface is beginning to bug me. Actually I'll be honest, it's rubbish. I don't exactly have the latest Nokia model but the one statement about their latest and greatest N97 that sticks in my mind is "If this is the best Nokia can do then they're in very serious trouble". Looking at the N97 I can't help but agree.
I tried Blackberry and it was rubbish. For some reason I'm attracted to the new Bold 9700 but I'm not daft enough to fall for that again. Now the battle comes down to two major contenders, the iPhone and Google's Android.
There are some major differences between the two, the biggest being the number of handsets that the operating systems are available on. If you want Apple's Touch OS you can get it on the iPhone and only the iPhone. That's OK if you're happy with the hardware. Android is an operating system that can be put on any handset a maker feels like. As a result of that there's a whole world of handsets that started out badly but are improving day by day. Rest assured that there is an iPhone killer coming and it will be Android shaped. So I think it's clear that my next phone will be an Android phone. I don't know what phone that will be because while there are some fantastic phones available already and more by the end of the year, I have no idea what will be available by the middle of next year when I get my new phone. Here are the reasons for my choice.
The iPhone costs a small fortune. Until recently it was only available in the UK on the O2 network. Then the news broke that Orange were going to be selling it starting from a week or two ago, Vodafone will have it at the beginning of 2010 and even 3 will have it by the middle of next year, maybe in time for iPhone 4. Everybody thought this would lead to a price war. I said at the time it was never going to happen, it didn't happen when Orange started sales and it's still not going to happen when Vodafone start. Actually there might be a price war, but not the good kind. It's going to be the "I wonder how much we can raise the price and still get away with it" kind of price war.
Price comparisons become a little complicated due to the range of handsets available with Android in the UK so I'll do it with HTC's G2 Phone aka the HTC Hero. The HTC handset comes with 16GB of memory on board so I'll compare it to the 16GB iPhone. That seems fair. Right now if I want to buy a 16GB iPhone from O2 it will cost me £87.11 on a £44.05 p/m 18 month contract. The HTC G2 from T-Mobile is free on a £40 p/m 18 month contract. So I can walk into a T-Mobile store with no money and leave with a G2. If I want a free 16GB iPhone I need to get the £73.41 p/m contract. Right now my contract is £22 p/m so there's no way I'm going for that. You get a slightly different number of minutes and messages in each contract but both offer far more than I'm ever going to use so it really makes no difference.
If I went for a different Android phone I could do even better. Vodafone will sell me an HTC Tattoo for free on a £35 p/m contract and an HTC Magic for free on a £30 p/m contract.
No matter how hard I try I can't get over the one app at a time policy of the iPhone. A couple of weeks ago I sat on my sofa listening to the Simply Syndicated live stream, had a twitter app running and chatted on IM all at the same time. The iPhone can do all those things one at a time. If I'm chatting on IM I don't want to have to keep coming out of it to see if anyone has replied to my tweets. It's much better to have the Twitter app give a little bleep when it happens. Then I can go and see what's been said without quitting my chat session.
Then there's the available apps. At the moment Apple are bragging that there are now over 100,000 apps available for the iPhone. I have many issues with this claim. First of all nobody has 100,000 apps on their phone so that doesn't matter. Next, most of those apps may as well just be web pages. Look at the Amazon app or the Wikipedia app. Couldn't that be done with just a web page? Do I really need an app for that? Then there's the app store policy. Apple are now in the business of pissing off developers. Rogue Ameba, a maker of some spectacular Mac software has just declared that they're stopping development for the iPhone due to the poor policies of Apple. Even the makers of the new Doom game for the iPhone let slip that working with Apple was a painful process because they're hurt that people are seeing the device as something you can play games on. They're letting it happen but they really wish it wasn't. In the reverse of that Google are doing anything and everything to get developers working on their platform. The Android App Store is free and open to anyone who wants to put an app in there. You don't even need to put an app in the store to be able to distribute and sell it.
It's important to remember that as long as you can get the three or four apps you actually need to use, it doesn't matter how many more there are available. Also remember that a great deal of Apple's 100,000 are "lite" versions, or many slightly different versions of the same thing such as one football app that has a version for each team. Don't be fooled by the hype.
Google are also in the process of designing apps that simply don't have a hope in hell of ever making it into Apple's App Store. Have you seen this?
It looks just a bit good doesn't it! It's also a free part of the Android OS. If you like you can get the TomTom app for your iPhone for the tiny price of £59.99 plus the £99.95 required car dock. So that's £159.94 vs free, even after you spend your £159.94 you still end up with a TomTom which I would pay the same amount to never have to use again.
3. The Hardware
I hear the phrase "good enough" thrown around a lot when it comes to the iPhone. I truly think that people use that phrase when they're trying to convince themselves and others that they haven't bought something that's not as good as it could be. Hardware makers are really going to town with the phones that Android runs on. Bare in mind that the HTC G2 is about 6 months old and doesn't represent the latest and greatest examples of what's available. While it comes with 16GB of on board memory, it doesn't stop there. It also has a micro-sd slot so you can add another 32GB of memory on top of that. The iPhone camera also isn't up to industry standard. Sony have a fantastic looking 8MP Android phone on the way next month that has all the auto focus stuff the iPhone comes with but also adds a flash and video light. Don't take my word for it, I seriously you take a look at this - Sony Ericsson X10. Failing that, watch this...
That's just one example of what's coming soon. I can't wait to see what's coming next!
To sum up...
Over the last few years I have been slowly shaped into a glowing example of your classic Apple fan boy. Yet since the very first model I've found it impossible to get too excited about the iPhone. I know it's nice and I know it's significantly better than most phones available but there was always something about it that seemed to fall short for power users. I'd tell my mum to get one and I know she'd love it. I just want something more and I truly think that Android wants to offer it to me. For further proof of this I refer you to the Motorola Droid coming soon to the UK.