Friday, January 4, 2013

Comparing Apples to Androids

Howdy y'all, I'm back, and this time I'm posting from a different continent. In my last post, I compared an ancient iPhone 3Gs to my Nexus 7 Tablet and Windows Mobile 6.1 Samsung Omnia... and the results were quite hilarious, to say the least. Now, armed with an iPhone 5, Galaxy S3, the experience of driving from Texas to California with nothing to do except play with these phones, and sobriety on my side, I can finally give an informed opinion about the two OS's/phones/what are we comparing again?/tablets. Or not. In reality, this isn't really a comparison. It's more of an outlet where I can complain about technology and wish for the good 'ol days when we all had pagers.


GPS

On both the iPhone 3GS and 5, I noticed it was considerably faster than Android at finding your GPS position, even if it was slightly off sometimes. On two of the Android devices I've tried (the Nexus 7 and the Galaxy S3), they both take forever to find a signal. It usually gives up and tells you to try again later so you have to sit there clicking on the same button repeatedly to see if you've got a signal. And when you're in the middle of nowhere trying to get somewhere else, that's a huge waste of time that could be better spent careening down an empty highway. Can't speak for other Android products but it seems like Android's GPS in general is weak sauce.

UPDATE: The S3's GPS still sucks big time. Can't lock a signal if your life depended on it.

Winner: iPhone, for not making me wait in the parking lot while it takes its sweet time getting a GPS signal.


Battery Life

When did it become acceptable to have a phone that you need to recharge two or three times a day? Almost every "modern" smartphone/tablet I've tried, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 5, Galaxy S3, and Nexus 7 has a crappy battery life. And by crappy I mean you can't even get through the whole day of moderate usage without the battery ending up at 15-20%. The Nexus 7 doesn't even have a phone and yet it somehow continues to suck as much energy as a phone. The smartphones are even worse--and that's after turning off all the things that you bought the phone for in the first place. I can literally watch my battery percentage spiral downwards whenever I'm surfing the net with my phone. This is exacerbated by the weak T-mobile signals (see the Connectivity comparison below) which cause the phone to keep reconnecting, switching between 3G and Edge, and basically just suck the battery dry. 

I sometimes wish I got the Galaxy Note 2, because according to reviews it has an amazing battery life that can last for days. The crappy battery lives of the iPhones and Galaxy S3, force us to keep a charger at home, in the car, at work, and in the bathroom just to ensure we don't get stranded in the Tenderloin with a dying battery after nightfall. I'll probably have to buy one of those portable battery-charging packs too. Seriously, don't you miss those old Nokia phones that could last for days or weeks on a single charge? You could play Snake for a whole week straight if you wanted to.

UPDATE: The Galaxy S3's battery is a huge letdown. After more real-world testing, my iPhone 5 outlasts the S3 battery, even with all of the s3 features turned off, while I can at least keep GPS on all the time on the iPhone 5 without the battery draining to 50% in a few hours.

Winner: No one. Both fail, but Apple fails more, especially because the iPhone 5 battery is reportedly worse than the 4S (and at least Android has the Motorola Droid Razr Maxx and the Galaxy Note 2 on its side).


Maps

This one's a hard decision because in reality the map applications on both Android and iOS are pretty good. I would say Google Maps on Android is still arguably the best mapping/navigation app, closely followed by Google Maps on iOS and Apple Maps. I haven't tried any other mapping apps that you have to pay for because I'm cheap.
  • Public transport: Apple doesn't even support public transport natively in their app (they force you to download a third party app to do the work for them.  FAIL. Way to encourage saving the environment, Apple. Winner: Google
  • Reviews (for restaurants, stores, etc) - Google is still the king of searching for stuff, but I like how Apple Maps is integrated with Yelp. Zagat (which is what Google Maps uses) is adequate, but Yelp just seems more comprehensive and it's what everyone uses here in the US. Join the crowd and you can't go wrong---can you???  - Winner: Apple
  • Step-by-step navigation - A godsend to people who have no clue where they are or where they're going. It works great on both Android and iOS and they are almost identical in form and function across the three apps I mentioned. As to which one you should use? I suppose it comes down to whichever icon is closest to your finger at the time you decide you're lost and need the help of an inanimate object - Winner: tie
  • Offline map support - Offline maps are supported by Google Maps on Android (curiously missing on iOS) but is still a poor implementation because you can only select a certain (limited) area to cache and are limited to about 500 mb total for cached maps...even if your phone had 32 GB of free space or something ridiculous like that. Apple Maps caches your maps automatically but there's no indication what is cached and whether it will be available when you're offline. It would be awesome if you could set a route and have the mapping app automatically download the maps, gas stations, restaurants, tourist attractions along the way. - Winner: Google
  • Accuracy - We've all heard stories about how bad Apple Maps is, but in practice, Apple has yet to lead me to drive directly into a ditch (so far). Surprisingly, the one time I was led astray was while using Google Maps. We looked up the "Westin Lake Las Vegas" but it takes you to the wrong hotel (Ravella) as of 1/3/13. - Winner: I don't know. Don't trust either without double-checking the route against another reliable source. I've learned that these GPS devices are good for getting you in the general vicinity but you shouldn't rely completely on them and should at least have some idea of where you're going by studying the area and memorizing the route as much as possible. How did this turn into a huge rant?


Stability

I've had crashes on both iOS and Android where the app just stops responding or crashes completely. Facebook and web browsers seem to crash the most (on both devices). Uploading things from a phone is a pain on both systems (although Android is a little bit better--at least it supports a normal file system). At least I never had to restart the entire device yet, unlike that wretched Windows Mobile 6.1 phone...

Winner: nobody


Status/Coolness factor

On one hand you look hip, trendy and cool if you have an iPhone. On the other hand, even your old granny's got an iPhone so maybe you're not so cool after all. What about Android? It says that you're different, that you're kinda geeky and that you enjoy long walks on the beach with your dog.

Winner: even


Usability

 Both OS's are pretty good. Apple forces all of the apps in their ecosystem to behave and look the same way, resulting in a cohesive, seamless experience... if that's important to you... but it's at the cost of a lot of freedom. Android gives you a user experience that is, in my opinion, almost as good, yet isn't as restrictive and stifling as Apple's. However, Apple still wins the UI battle overall.

Winner: Apple.. but I must mention that while the iOS itself is user friendly, iTunes is the unfriendliest piece of crap I've ever had the misfortune to use. Ever.


Contacts/calendar

You can only link up to five contacts on Android. I've never run into a limit linking contacts yet with iOS. On my Nexus 7, sometimes I would add calendar events from Google's web app on a desktop and the new event wouldn't show up on the Nexus 7, even after retardedly hitting the refresh or sync buttons a million times.

BTW, did you know Google has a limit of how far ahead of an event in can send you a reminder? It's only 28 days. However, if you think that's bad, Apple only can remind you 7 days in advance. This is a short-sighted move by both companies and the fact that they still haven't remedied these problems is quite embarrassing.

Winner: Apple, just because I'm peeved that Google isn't syncing my contacts/calender events.


Apps

Android seems to have more free apps, but game developers like Capcom, Square/Enix, and Telltale only prefer to make apps for iPhone since they can make more money there (apparently iPhone users are less likely to pirate than Android users--because they don't know how). If you don't mind paying for some apps, you might have a replacement for your portable gaming device right here.

Winner: iPhone


Copying files to and from your Phone

Perhaps the most annoying thing about Apple's products is that you're forced to use iTunes and sync with only one computer. So if you have multiple comps and you wanted to copy a video from one of the non-synced computers to your iphone, it would ask you to erase everything on your iphone---this is even if you turn on the option to manually manage your music and videos. I suppose they do this to stop piracy but it's more of an annoyance than anything else. With Android you just plug it into your computer and you can copy as you would to any old USB drive. It's amazing that they would spend so much time making the iOS experience smooth and easy while iTunes is a pain in the butthole. Oh yeah, and the lightning connector is stupid. Why not just use microUSB like everybody else so we don't have to buy your stupid $19 cables?  Oh....

Winner: Android

Bluetooth

Wow, I can't believe how worthless iPhone's bluetooth is. Half the time it can't even see the other device and the other half of the time it won't even let you transfer files. So basically bluetooth on the iPhone is reduced to using bluetooth headsets. With the Android phone I was able to wirelessly connect to a photo kiosk and print pictures. With the iPhone it couldn't even find the kiosk and connect to it.

Winner: Android


Cellular Connectivity 

I've been using T-Mobile ever since coming back to the States and the connectivity has been.... inconsistent, to say the least. Firstly, with the Galaxy S3, in big cities we get consistent 4G connections. With iPhone (3GS or 5) I usually get Edge and occasional 3G. I usually never get more than two bars almost everywhere I go. This may be because the iPhone isn't officially supported yet by T-Mobile but it also might just be that T-Mobile is still rolling out nationwide 4G and one day the rest of us will get to enjoy lightning fast speeds.

While driving from Texas to California, we couldn't get decent connections. I don't know if this is just how it is for all of the service providers due to the impossible task of covering the entire US or if it's a T-Mobile problem... but it sure is annoying trying to post an Instagram of my meal at some roadside diner in the middle of nowhere, TX.

Winner: Probably different depending on your provider but for T-Mobile as of 1/3/13 Android is more reliable and gets faster connections. Hopefully this will change soon for iPhone users.


Wifi Connectivity

I've had problems with iOS 6 connecting to wifi hotspots (the kind that make you log in through the browser). Sometimes the browser login screen refuses to appear and you can't surf and post pictures of your macaroni and cheese. There was an update to iOS that should have fixed this but I've still occasionally encountered this annoying bug, while with Android I've never had an issue connecting to wifi.

Winner: Android, just because I'm mad at Apple for sometimes not connecting to wifi hotspots when I need them.


Web Surfing:

While surfing from an iOS device is intuitive and easy, I prefer Chrome or Firefox, especially because Firefox on Android can view Flash websites (see here). Also, Safari stupidly tries to reload web pages that should already be cached on your system.

Winner: Android


The Screen:

This one's tough because after using the iPhone 5 and its retina display for a few weeks. When I look at the iPhone 3GS it looks like a pixelated mess from the Atari 2600 days.
The longer iPhone 5 screen feels more respectable than the now-miniscule-in-comparison screen on previous iPhone models.

The Samsung Galaxy S3 screen, though is gorgeous as well and the size is pretty amazing. About as close to the Galaxy Note as you can get without feeling self-conscious about your humongous phone. The only problem is I have to turn the brightness down to save the battery so we can't really enjoy all that the S3 screen has to offer.

Winner: Like the special olympics--everybody's a winner

Conclusion:

So to summarize, I wish I had a Galaxy Note 2, but in general I'm still happy with the iPhone (although I still need to get a battery pack for it because have I mentioned how much the battery life really sucks? At least it's not as bad as the Galaxy S3's though).



Related Articles:
Ancient Smartphone Showdown
Nexus 7 Review

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