I lied. I said that if Apple didn’t launch a new iPhone in June, it wasn’t as if I would get an Android phone instead. Except I did just that. In June.
I didn’t make that claim here at The Wonder of Tech. I made the claim on a chat at The iPhone Blog (TiPb). Rene Ritchie, the host of the chat and editor at TiPb, wanted to prove me wrong, I guess, because he gave me his Nexus One Android phone. Actually I won the phone in a contest on a podcast he co-hosts with Georgia called Zen and Tech. I wasn’t planning to buy an Android phone, but when I won the Nexus One, I was thrilled.
Before I switched to the Nexus One I was using an iPhone 3GS, unlocked (meaning I could use it with other compatible cell phone carriers), that I brought with me to the US when I moved back here from England a year ago. Because I valued having an unlocked phone more than I valued the new features that the iPhone 4 offered, I stuck with the 3GS a year ago, fully planning to upgrade to the iPhone 5 in June.
But, in spite of my optimistic predictions that Apple would launch the iPhone 5 in June, alas, the iPhone 5 did not appear. Which left me with a two year old phone. A perfectly good two year old phone.
The Switch (or How an Unlocked Phone Works)
Because both my iPhone 3GS and the Nexus One were unlocked, I removed my AT&T SIM card from my iPhone 3GS and inserted it into my Nexus One. (A SIM card is a small card that connects the phone to your cell phone service.) I turned the Nexus One on, it recognized the SIM card, and I began to use my Android phone.
No one wants to type all of her contact information into a new phone. There are ways to transfer files by complicated methods, but I like easy. In fact, the easier the better. So I did some research and realized that I could use a very handy tool that would do the trick – Bump.
Bump is a very cool app, available for free in the iTunes App Store and Android Market. I knew about Bump before and had used the app to transfer photos to friends, but I hadn’t thought about using Bump for transferring contacts from my iPhone to my Nexus One.
I loaded Bump onto my Nexus One, bumped it with my iPhone and voila! My contacts were now on my new phone. (See, Bump – The Fun, Fast And Free Way To Share! for more information about this fun and useful app.)
Likes and Dislikes
Switching from one type of phone to another involves many changes, some features are better, some are not as good. I will try to limit my comparisons to the two operating systems, iOS (iPhone) and Android (Nexus One) to avoid comparing the physical features of the two phones. I will compare the physical features of the phones if those features I’m comparing are common to all phones using that operating system. What I like/dislike may be very different from your opinion, but that’s what the Comments section is for!
Notifications are a phone’s way of telling you that something happened while you were away (think of Notifications like a flashing light on your answering machine telling you that you have a message when you return home). Notifications can be used for email, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, CNN and other apps. There is a delicate balance between Notifications informing you what’s going on and being intrusive.
I love how Notifications in Android alert you to what’s new. First, you learn of a Notification through a flashing light on your phone. That gets my attention without being intrusive (unless I’m in a dark room and a flashing light is distracting).
When you turn on the phone, you can swipe from the top of the screen down, and an Android phone will show you what has happened since you last checked the phone. Each notice is separated out: how many new emails, Twitter mentions, Facebook messages, people adding you on Google+, etc. you have received. You press on any one of these to take you to the app.
This Notifications method is very handy to keep track of what has been going on and to navigate around the apps to catch up with what has happened.
In addition to the flashing light and the swipe, Android sounds a tone when you get a Notification. This could be handy for some, but I wanted to turn it off. I went to Settings => Sound => Notification Ringtone => Silent.
Easy, right? Wrong. My phone still sounds a tone when I get Notifications. I asked my favorite Android expert to help and he suggested putting the phone on Silent, but that doesn’t help because I want to hear my ringtone when someone calls.
Hearing a chime every time I get and email, someone mentions me on Twitter, etc. can be inconvenient in meetings, movie theaters, when I’m sleeping and plenty of other times.
Comparison to the iPhone:
Currently the iPhone has pop up Notifications (see, Apps: To Push Or Not To Push?) that can be either handy or annoying. iPhone’s pop up Notifications are quick, but are intrusive and interrupt whatever you are doing. Listening to an audiobook on your iPhone Audible app in the car? Too bad if you get a pop-up Notification because the audiobook will pause until you close the Notification.
The good news for iPhone lovers is that iPhone has “borrowed” the swipe down Notifications method from Android for the next version of its operating system. I’m hoping they didn’t borrow the tone that goes with it as well. Bonus point for Apple if they make the Apple logo glow when you get a Notification on the iPhone 5, but that’s very doubtful.
What About Apps?
Without apps a smartphone is just a phone. So apps getting apps on the phone is very important. There are three places to get apps for Android phones: the Android Market, the Amazon App Store and from other third party sites.
I’m a fan of the Amazon App Store. A free app is available each day. You can register multiple phones on the account so an app I get can also be loaded onto my daughters’ Android phones. Also, if switch phones, I can reload the apps for free.
The Android Market has more apps than the Amazon App Store so I download apps from there as well.
I haven’t downloaded apps from third party sites yet.
There is no testing of apps in the Android Market, so Android apps can more easily contain evil malware (software that can do bad, bad things such as steal your information, crash your phone, etc.). I can’t re-load the apps I get from the Android Market onto other phones, so I try to avoid purchasing apps from there.
The Android Market is growing, but is still missing many of my favorite apps.
Comparison with iPhone:
iTunes is one stop shopping for iPhone apps. When I purchase and app on my iPhone and sync with iTunes, I get to keep the app forever and can download it onto a new iPhone and my iPad. iTunes also tests the apps so there is less chance for conflicts with other apps, malware, battery hogs, etc. When I switch phones all of my apps and data get transferred onto the new phone.
The selection in the iTunes App Store (over 500,000 apps) is well beyond the selection of apps for Android phones.
Both the Nexus One and iPhone 3GS have virtual keyboards (See, Poll: Physical Or Virtual Keyboard?). Some Android phones are available with a physical keyboard. iPhones do not have physical keyboards, but accessories are available if you want one.
In general, typing on the Nexus One is a nightmare, but thanks to SwiftKey X, typing on the Nexus One is now a dream. (See, SwiftKey X Makes Android Typing A Breeze! for more information on this amazing app).
Android phones and SwiftKey X also let you speak instead of typing (there is a microphone icon on the keyboard), which is very handy.
Without the SwiftKey X app, typing on the Nexus One is quite difficult.
Comparison to the iPhone: I also find typing on the iPhone to be challenging, though not as much as with the Android. But there is no magic solution for iPhone typing because SwiftKey X is not available as an iPhone app.
Dragon Dictation is available as a free iPhone app to let you speak to the phone, but using it requires you take quite a few steps. The iPhone has some other voice entry options, but not as many as with Android phones.
Click here for Part 2 of this article where I discuss more differences between the iPhone and Android, what happened when my Android phone died an ugly death, and what phone I am using now.
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* Image by Eduardo Arcos
** Image by wicker_man