Much has been made of the fact that Apple’s iPhone App Store has roughly 100,000 applications available for download, while the Android Marketplace has “only” around 10,000. Let’s be honest, though: an awful lot of those apps do very similar things. Just how many restaurant finders, digital “levels,” and tip calculators do you need? Granted, I’m not the heaviest user of the App Store, but for everything that I need or want my iPhone to do, I was easily able to find a fairly useful Android version–and most were free.
Yes, I encountered more app crashes and general “bugginess” with Android applications and widgets than I have with iPhone apps. But none of the crashes were severe enough to destabilize the phone. The rating system on the Android Marketplace is also not yet as robust as that on the App Store. But as the number of Android users increases, so will the number of developers and applications, particularly since the Android Marketplace is completely open, unlike the iPhone App Store, since Apple must pre-approve an app before it’s available for download.
The one area where the Droid trumps the iPhone hands-down is in coverage. On one trip, I drove about 30 minutes south of Austin, TX, to visit family, and the Droid never lost 3G coverage on the Verizon Wireless network. In the meantime, my iPhone (on AT&T Wireless) dropped a plain-vanilla voice call on one lonely stretch of road. The Droid’s built-in Google Navigation Beta also performed flawlessly, guiding me from door-to-door in two of Austin’s newer communities (which don’t always show up accurately even on current maps on dedicated GPS devices). And because of its full integration with Google Maps, the Droid (rather creepily) showed me a street-view picture of my uncle’s house, just in case I wasn’t sure which one was his.
The next morning, I headed out of Austin with a friend to give the network a real test. We drove two hours north on US-183, out past Lampasas, a small city in the middle of farm and ranchlands. Just 30 minutes outside of greater Austin (Leander, to be precise), my iPhone 3G and my co-tester’s 3GS both lost 3G signal and remained on AT&T’s slower EDGE network the rest of the trip out. The Droid, meanwhile, speedily fetched e-mail, YouTube videos, and Web pages from Verizon’s 3G network until we were about 15 minutes north of Lampasas–pretty much the definition of the middle of nowhere. I’m now a believer in Verizon’s coverage claims, and I think its network will give the Droid–and the Android operating system along with it–a big boost.
In the end, though, gadget lust, an open development platform, and even the superior network weren’t enough to convert my copilot–or me. The iPhone is just too simple to use and integrate into daily life. In my friend’s words, “Even as much as I hate AT&T and dislike Apple’s closed ecosystem, [the Droid] isn’t enough to make me switch. But if I were a Verizon subscriber, it would definitely make me think twice about switching away for the iPhone.”
And a year from now, when my AT&T contract is up, I’ll definitely take a hard look at Android before recommitting to the iPhone.