I’ve been getting more than a few expressions of “You? Got an iPhone?” from friends and family lately, after they see my iPhone 4S. While I’ve been known not to be the biggest fan of Apple up until now, I’m starting to realize why the device has gotten to be so popular — it’s an easy-to-use, reliable device that doesn’t frustrate.
Although learning a new smartphone OS hasn’t been terribly difficult, here’s some of the major points between the two that I’ve found myself having to adjust to.
The Home Screen
The home screen on an Android phone is more-or-less a “blank slate”, waiting for you to fill it to your liking with widgets and shortcuts, to make it just the way you want it. If you want to access all your installed apps you open what’s typically referred to as the “app drawer.”
On an iPhone, that “app drawer” is your home screen. No widgets here, though apps do have what’s called “badges” that can show an indicator on the icon if the app has something that wants your attention, such as a number of missed calls over the phone icon, unread texts over the messages icon, and so on.
Android-based phones feature a microSD card slot for removable storage. It’s an optional — but highly recommended — additional storage space that you can use for media, and on some versions of Android, even apps. You can upgrade this by simply popping out the card, copying the contents to a new, presumably larger card, and putting that card in your phone.
On an iPhone on the other hand, what you buy is what you get — buy a 16GB iPhone, get a gross total of 16GB. Likewise for the other sizes, such as 32GB.
However, there’s some distinct differences:
Android phones by default have their apps installed on the phone’s lower-capacity internal memory. Since the internal memory is smaller than the microSD card, (Sprint’s Epic 4G for example, only has 1GB internal memory), you are sharply limited for the space your apps have to share with everything else. Starting with Android version 2.2 (Froyo) and up you had the ability to move apps to the SD card. This frees up internal memory. However, its up to the app developer to support this feature, and if they did, most apps still required that you move it yourself from within the phone’s settings. Remember those widgets? Don’t plan on them working if you move your app to the SD card.
iPhones on the other hand have a single unified storage area for everything. Assuming you get a 16GB iPhone, that storage space is used for everything — there’s no need to move anything. Apps, media, and the OS all share a single storage space. You might say “this is less overall than an Android phone”, and you would be right. But — you aren’t going to have to try to balance what apps are stored on SD card versus the phone’s internal memory.
When you plug your Android-based smartphone into your computer’s USB port, you’ll likely get a message asking if you want to charge-only, or mount as removable storage. If you select to mount as removable storage you have full access to the SD card in the phone. This is handy if you want to use your phone’s memory card as a makeshift USB flash drive. However, once you mount it to the PC, you don’t have access to it from the phone. Apps that are installed on the SD card cannot be run, and you won’t have access to any media on the card until you unmount it from the PC.
Installing media on an Android phone isn’t difficult. Simply mount the phone to your PC as USB storage (or insert the microSD card into your computer), and copy music, pictures, or anything else you like to it. When you unmount (or insert the card back into the phone) the media scanner will automatically detect your media and propagate the media libraries. But — it’s up to you to get your own music.
With an iPhone and a Windows or Mac computer running iTunes you simply connect your phone to your PC, select what media — such as music, movies, or other — you want to sync, and iTunes adds it to your device. You can purchase your music through iTunes as well. However, you have to use iTunes. Don’t expect your iPhone and Linux-based PC to get along very well.
Backup and Restore
With an iPhone, completely backing up your device is as quick and easy as plugging it into iTunes and right-clicking on it and choosing “Backup.” iTunes takes care of it, and makes restoring it just as painless.
With an stock Android, you don’t have any options to make a “full” backup. You can sync your contacts, calendar, etc to your Google (or other) account, and there they will sit in case you need them. In case of a serious issue, you can boot your phone to recovery mode and wipe it from there, restoring it to stock configuration, after which, prepare to spend some time reinstalling and reconfiguring your apps and account. Rooted users have a few additional options, such as ClockworkMod’s Nandroid backup and restore, and the third party app Titanium Backup.
There’s a lot more differences between the two that I didn’t cover above. But I will say this: When people ask me why I got an iPhone, my typical response is something along the lines of “it’s easy to use without having to think about.” I really enjoy my iPhone, and I don’t think I’ll be picking up an Android phone again anytime soon.
What about you, reader? What are you experiences with Android and iPhones? Do you have anything to share or compare that I didn’t cover in the above? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!