My new iPhone 3G (2nd one after returning my original last Fall) is on the way after finding a deal on a new one at HowardForums. I also have been using the T-Mobile G1 since last October, but as I mentioned in my first Clash of the Titans article I am going to discuss the HTC Magic since it is the Android device without the keyboard and I am trying to stick with touch screen only devices if possible. I wanted to clarify that I am putting these articles together as a reference resource that lays out everything we currently know about the devices and operating systems running on them. This is the method I personally use for most all high value devices I purchase and I thought it would be helpful to share my process with you all. As you saw in my iPhone vs. Pre article, I didn't reach a full conclusion because that is impossible without actually using the Pre. Some people may question why I even post these articles at this time as it may be premature, but this is the process I am going through as device release dates approach so if you think it is too early feel free to skip the articles and wait until I get a chance to get my hands on the device and post full reviews because you know I won't be able to resist and will end up with at least one of the devices in a few months.
So now let's take a look at the iPhone 3G with 3.0 OS compared to the HTC Magic running the Google Android OS and cupcake update. I laid out what we know of the iPhone 3.0 OS operating system in my first article so I won't repost all of that content here. I will run through each section for the HTC Magic and then offer my personal thoughts on how it compares to the iPhone 3G with 3.0 OS update on the last page of this feature.
Operating System - Google Android: The Android OS is a project from the Open Handset Alliance and is currently available on the T-Mobile G1 device here in the US. Vodafone did announce the HTC Magic for the United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, France, and Italy at Mobile World Congress in February and it has been rumored that this device will also be coming to the US eventually. The operating system in this device has a few updates over what we now see in the T-Mobile G1 that should include (not finalized yet) video capture support (not in the iPhone 3.0), onscreen touch keyboard, stereo A2DP Bluetooth functionality (present in iPhone 3.0) , updated browser, and some other minor updates.
As I said, I have been using my T-Mobile G1 since October 2008 and have to say that the device has NOT soft or hard reset a single time in all those months and I have installed and removed tons of applications. I cannot believe how stable the device has been, especially given the fact that this is a brand new Linux-based OS.
The Android OS is similar to the iPhone OS in that it has been optimized and offers an extremely fluid experience that is icon focused. You can easily swipe your finger across the screen and expect an instant response, you can move icons around with a tap and hold, and gestures are supported with swipes up and down.
The area of the Android OS that really shines and sets the bar over every other mobile device OS I have used is the notifications. Google has implemented a top status bar that developers can access and use to present the user with different notifications. Different icons appear in this top bar and then you simply "pull down the shade" with a finger swipe to see what the notifications are. Tapping on a notification then takes you to the application that is pertinent to the notification so you can quickly address it. I LOVE this notification system and would like to see it in other devices in the future.
Another shining star in the Google Android OS is the vast integration of Google and Google products in the OS. You won't find a better mobile Gmail experience than what is on the HTC Magic. Like the commercials show Google Search is also integrated so that a dedicated search button is found on the HTC Magic and G1 both. The Google Maps experience is excellent and the G1 was the first device with street level compass support. Google Talk and IM presence is another powerful feature for those of you with your lives integrated into Google. There are still several areas where Google could improve, such as with Google Reader, Google Docs, and the new Google Voice.
While the Android OS is similar in appearance to the iPhone OS, there are several areas where I think it is more advanced and gives you more power over your device. For example, you are given three "home screens" in the Android OS to place shortcut icons to applications. You can also create folders and place shortcuts into folders so you can really optimize this "virtual desktop" for better performance. You can also always slide up the bottom center tab that presents you with icons for all loaded applications on the device.
In addition, you can multitask with the Android OS and have several applications running at the same time. This is nice when you want to have your IM client running and then jump over to take care of email or browse the web. A simple press and hold on the Home button gives you quick access of up to 6 of your running applications and there are 3rd party utilities to give you an even better task manager. A cool thing about the Android OS is that the display behind pop-up windows turns fuzzy so that your focus is turned to the pop-up window.
The keyboard is also deeply integrated with the OS so that you can setup customized icons for all the keys on the keyboard and control every function on the device without even touching the display if you desire. While the T-Mobile G1 has a physical keyboard, the HTC Magic does not so it will be interesting to see if the virtual keyboard supports the shortcut capability.
Picture messaging is supported now in the Google Android OS, but we will see this in the iPhone OS 3.0 update too. Phone functionality between the two is similar with a touch screen dialpad, contact scrolling lists, and favorite lists. Switching to speaker and Bluetooth headsets is also drop dead simple in the Android OS, just like the iPhone. There is no proximity sensor so you do need to press a button to turn the display back on during a call.
One aspect of the OS that really bothers me, especially with the emphasis placed on third party applications, is the inability to store apps and databases on the external microSD card. I regularly get low memory warnings and have to actively manage applications. I understand you can perform some basic hacking to enable this capability, but this should be in the OS like it is in Windows Mobile, Palm, and S60.
Hardware - HTC Magic: The HTC Magic should be the second Google Android OS, after the T-Mobile G1. The hardware looks very similar to the G1 with the keyboard removed and slightly revamped front hardware buttons that include the Google Search button and different layout of the other buttons seen on the G1.
The device still has a 3.2 inch 320x480 capacitive touch screen display, 3.2 megapixel camera, microSD card, 528 MHz Qualcomm processor, 192 MB RAM, GPS receiver, WiFi, Bluetooth, accelerometer, and digital compass. The ROM has been upgraded from 256 MB to 512 MB and the battery has been increased from 1150 mAh to 1340 mAh. The 1150 mAh battery on my G1 only lasts about 4 hours of moderate to heavy use so it is nice to see this capacity increased. I have a 2600 mAh battery now that easily gets me through a full day. The fact that the HTC Magic has a removable battery may also be a major issue for people since the iPhone has a non-removable battery.
I am a big fan of the trackball used on the HTC Magic and Dream devices that is similar to what RIM uses on BlackBerry devices. I admit it does take a bit of getting used to, but once you use it more it really grows on you.
While I like having a miniUSB port for charging, I don't like that this is also used for the audio jack. I prefer my mobile devices to have a 3.5mm headset jack for ease of use with my existing headphones.
The camera is decent on the HTC Magic and the new OS does support video capture. There is no flash, but autofocus is included so you can take decent photos in well lit environments.
Carriers: The G1 is currently available only from T-Mobile USA and it does support their new 3.5G network. The HTC Magic will be coming to Vodafone in Europe and will also work on their 3.5G networks in various countries. It may be coming to T-Mobile USA as well, but that is still not confirmed. I can't really comment on Vodafone's network since I haven't used it and have no personal experiences.
In regards to T-Mobile USA, I have gotten very good phone coverage and EDGE data coverage on my G1. I only see 3.5G in a single county here in Washington State so their high speed data network really needs some infrastructure work.
I've been with T-Mobile for something like 7 years and have been extremely happy with their coverage and customer service, which is why I continue to stay with them even if their high speed data network is still limited.
3rd Party Applications: Back when the T-Mobile G1 was announced, the prospect of thousands of developers supporting the platform was in the air and when I was at the launch event I heard over and over again that T-Mobile and Google were leaving "this" or "that" up to 3rd party developers. There were quite a few free apps available on the Android Market at launch and some like ShopSavvy, Bonsai Blast, The Weather Channel, and imeem Mobile are fantastic. It wasn't until mid-February before we saw priced apps appear on the Android Market and I was a bit disappointed in the apps that appeared during the first week.
I purchased the TouchDown so I could get my Exchange account synced up and working on my G1 and have been quite happy with the regular improvements they provide. This last weekend I bought my first application through the Android Market on my G1, FriendMobilizer, and was quite pleased with the simple process of using my Google Checkout account and selecting the credit card to use. FriendMobilizer was only 99 cents and while it is the first 3rd party application to support Facebook on the G1 it still needs some work and has not been that stable on my device. It also only provides a limited list of your friends updates and is nowhere near what the free Facebook application on the iPhone provides.
I also tested out TeleNav Navigator on the G1 and this is a FANTASTIC GPS navigation solution. The iPhone 3.0 OS will support turn-by-turn navigation solutions and I think it is highly probable that TeleNav will be one of the first to come out with a solution.
I have something like 30+ applications on my G1 now that include Twidroid, PhoneFlix, wpToGo, WeatherBug, TeleNav GPS, imeem Mobile, Shazam, Skype, Truphone, and TuneWiki. The Android Market is fun to browse through and discover apps, but I still think there are many more high quality applications for the iPhone than for the Google Android OS.
You can multitask with 3rd party applications on the Google Android OS, but the only applications that multitask on the iPhone are native apps like the music player.
One major difference between the Apple App Store and Android Market is that you can browse and select applications for your iPhone on a computer through iTunes while the Android Market is only available on the device. You do get a confirmation via email that you can then later use if you need to redownload an application. The Android Market gives you 24 hours to ask for a refund if the application doesn't do what you like, but I understand you get 90 days in the Apple App Store. I personally think 90 days for applications is way too long of a period and something like 3 days is much more reasonable.
My Personal Choice and Final Thoughts
As I always state, purchasing a mobile device is a highly personal choice and IMHO there is not any single BEST device or operating system for everyone because we all have such varied needs. I have used the earlier versions of both of these mobile operating systems and since we know what updates will be included in the iPhone 3G 3.0 and HTC Magic I think my experiences are vast enough for me to decide which is my preferred device and OS. The iPhone notification and push server processes may impact my choice in the future.
For now, I prefer the HTC Magic running the Google Android OS for several reasons that include true multitasking, customizability of the "home" screens, trackball navigation and hardware buttons (I prefer to have at least a few to help me operate a device single-handedly), and extensive Google integration.
I do think the iPhone is a much better media player (music and video) so if that is important to you then the iPhone may be the better choice. I also like the Exchange ActiveSync support natively found on the iPhone, but third party applications can provide much of that same functionality on the HTC Magic.
The Android Market is currently the best competitor to the App Store and thus I do not see any real advantage of one over the other. I do want to see more developers jumping on Android, but think we may need to see more pieces of hardware before it becomes more popular. I hope that we see several Android OS devices in 2009 since there are many people that do not want touchscreen only devices.
My next article will focus on the RIM BlackBerry Storm.