App icons on a HTC Incredible
This is what it is all about folks. Apple’s app store contains over 200,000 apps, many of which cost nothing. The Android marketplace is the second largest mobile OS app store, but tallying in at around 50,000, doesn’t yet compare to what is available for the iPhone. While many of the popular apps are there - Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Foursquare, Shazam, and Pandora – many of my favorites were missing. These included apps like TweetDeck, Flickr, KCRW radio, Words with Friends, and Remote. However, the gap is closing quickly and the selection should be more than adequate for most.
While the maps feature on the iPhone has done an impressive job at redefining what is possible for mapping on the go, the Android OS takes it one step further with built-in turn-by-turn GPS. The driving GPS feature of the Incredible easily stands up to a $100 stand-alone GPS, just don’t forget your power cord.
The music player on the Incredible is anything but. The app itself is not very attractive, slow, and doesn’t offer common creature comforts such as EQ, ratings, or even the ability to make a quick playlist while on the go. Also by default, one must mange their music manually, by dragging MP3 files onto a disk image. Podcasts are managed through a beta product called Google Listen. I was unable to get this feature to work, as it first required a memory card and then, even after countless reformats, produced an error message. This meant no Radiolab in the car, DJ Tiesto at the gym, or GeekBrief TV while running through the 3-minute Sonicare "Max Care" cycle.
One of the greatest features of the iPhone is the fact that it is an iPod. Apple spent a great deal of time developing the iPod music player for the iPhone, and it shows. From the ability to manage music and video within iTunes and then sync it over with one click, to being able to manage podcasts, smart playlists, and ratings – it will be a while before Android even comes close to what Apple has built with their iTunes/iPod system.
Overall, the Android OS is a strong contender in the battle for app phone operating systems. But, until Google comes up with a piece of software like iTunes to manage apps, music, video, and podcasts, iPhone/iTunes/App store ecosystem will always come out on top. The Android Marketplace has done a great job at attracting developers and, for the most part, has been stocked with the critical smartphone apps. Crashing apps and system processes were all too common during my testing. This isn’t to say application crashes do not happen on the iPhone, they do, but just not as much. Aside from lack of multitasking support (which will soon be enabled on the 3GS with iPhone OS4), the polished and easy-to-sync iPhone OS is the overall winner here.