Switching from iPhone to Android

After three years as a loyal iPhone user, I'm thinking about making the switch to a phone running Google Android. I'm looking for something new, Android is looking good nowadays, and Apple's creepy corporate culture is wearing me down.

The primary thing making me look at Android -- specifically the HTC Evo 4G, which seems to be the current top-of-the-line for Android phones -- is word-of-mouth. I know a few people who have the phones, and they're happy. My friend Gina Trapani, founding editor of the Lifehacker blog, is a former iPhone user and she's very happy with her EVO.

iPhone versus Android

Mitch Wagner:

Why I'm not getting an Android phone

Preston Gralla:

5 reasons Mitch should switch

Customer satisfaction is far more important than speeds, feeds and features when evaluating a smartphone. Are people using it? Are they happy with it? In the case of EVO, the answers are definitely: Yes, and yes.

But let's take a look at the specs and features anyway, shall we? CNET's Nicole Lee has done a side-by-side comparison of the iPhone 4 vs. EVO. Some of the differences that jump out at me:

Bandwidth: The EVO is faster, 4G WiMax where available. But is it available near me? I'm hearing the 4G kills battery life.

Screen size: The EVO has a bigger screen, 4.3 inches vs. 3.5 inches. On the other hand, the EVO is also a bigger phone: 4.8 inches vs. 3.5 inches. It's heavier: 6 ounces vs. 4.8 ounces. And the iPhone screen has better resolution.

Camera: The EVO has a bigger-capacity camera: 8 megapixel vs. 5 megapixel for the iPhone. That's not as important as it sounds, though; with a digital camera, it's not the megapixels that matter, it's the size of the sensor, which information is not available on the CNET chart. Both phones have tap-to-focus, LED flash, and 720p HD recording.

Storage: Storage is 16 GB or 32 GB on the iPhone, with no external storage options. The EVO has a scant 1 GB internal memory, but it accepts 32 GB external SD cards. Big points to iPhone on this one. External SD cards are more components to buy, keep track of, break, and lose.

Voice-data plan: As is always the case, comparing between the two is confusing as heck. With the EVO, I'd probably go with an $80/month plan for 450 voice minutes, unlimited texting and data. The iPhone's closest equivalent is more expensive, $85-$90. That's not enough of a difference to matter in my decision-making.

Hardware price: The EVO, at $200, is the same price as the low-end iPhone 4, and $100 cheaper than the high-end iPhone 4. That doesn't matter a lot to me; if I were looking to economize, I wouldn't buy a new phone at all. I'll pay $100 more if I get a better phone for it.

Other factors I'm weighing:

Corporate culture: Earlier this month, I asked, Is Apple evil? I concluded they're not. But they are creepy. Employees at their major manufacturer, Foxconn, are committing suicide rather than work there (Foxconn also makes products for Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and Sony). Apple is sending the cops to break down journalists' doors. And they're subjugating content providers -- that's me and my employers -- to their will, driving applications to the App Store where Apple keeps a tight leash on its partners.

The latest step in that direction: Apple added an ad-blocker to Safari 5, while simultaneously introducing the iAd platform for App Store advertising. Apple is pushing content providers off the Web and pulling them into the App Store, where Apple will control access between the content providers and their audience.

Google has its problems, but it's nowhere near as creepy as Apple.

Also, Google talks to journalists and bloggers. Apple is buttoned up as tight as Willy Wonka's chocolate factory.

Google Apps integration: I use Google Voice for my primary phone for work and personal calls, and Gmail for e-mail. Those services are integrated into Android. On the other hand, Apple rejected the Google Voice application for the iPhone. Google countered by coming out with an HTML5 browser-based version of Voice; it works well, but I think a version integrated into the phone would be better.

Application compatibility: I'm figuring that'll be a wash. I figure every app I love in the iPhone has its equivalent on Android. I'm sure Android has lovely Twitter and Facebook clients.

The one application I'm most concerned about is Lose It, an application for tracking calories and exercise. I've lost 62 pounds since March 2009 using Lose It, I have 38 pounds to go. I'm sure I can find another weight loss app on Android -- heck, for 100 years people lost weight counting calories with pencil and paper -- but I'm used to Lose It and I don't want to mess with a system that works.

Wi-Fi tethering: The EVO is convertible to a portable Wi-Fi hotspot; you can use Wi-Fi to share your EVO wireless data connection with any Wi-Fi enabled device, including a notebook computer, iPod or iPad. This is suddenly a huge deal for me, because my wife and I both have Wi-Fi-enabled iPads, but not the more expensive Wi-Fi+3G models. The EVO would make our Wi-Fi-enabled iPads into go-anywhere wireless data devices.

The iPhone 4 will offer data tethering -- but not, for some baffling reason, with the iPad.

The iPad was a game-changer for me in my relationship to the iPhone, and not in a good way. Most of the things I used to do on the iPhone are now things I do in the iPad: Reading, Twitter, Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, Web browser. The iPad has made the iPhone a lot less important in my life.

I have three big questions:

Music and podcasts: How does the Android compare to the iPhone for listening to music and podcasts? I have a music collection and a long list of podcast subscriptions in iTunes, is that going to be a problem?

Web browsing: How does the Android Web browser compare with Mobile Safari?

Text entry: How do the two phones compare for text entry? Swype for Android looks like a great way of inputting text, is it as good as it sounds?

Wireless coverage: How reliable is the voice and data network for Sprint, particularly where I live in San Diego? I've been pretty satisfied with AT&T service, although I know I'm in a minority on this.

So what should I do, folks? Stick with the iPhone for another generation, or switch to Android?

Update: My colleague Preston Gralla has reasons why I should jump from the iPhone to Android. And colleague JR Raphael compares the iPhone to Android.

Mitch Wagner is a freelance technology journalist and social media strategist. Follow him on Twitter: @MitchWagner.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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