Mobile OS deathmatch: Apple iOS 4 vs. Android 2.2

As the mobile battle narrows, the iPhone finally faces a real challenger

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Android OS 2.2 is on a par with iOS 4 when it comes to mail management. However, you have to use the Menu button when in a message to forward it -- an extra step compared to iOS 4. Both iOS 4 and Android let you mark a message as unread, though Android requires you do it via the Menu button's options. You can search your e-mail in Android, but not from within the E-mail application; it's part of a general device-wide search, which is more work than iOS 4's method. Like iOS 4, Android OS 2.2 has no select-all capability for e-mail.

iOS 4 remembers the e-mail addresses of senders you reply to, adding them to a database of contacts that it looks up automatically as you tap characters into the To and Cc fields; Android doesn't do that. Both operating systems let you add e-mail addresses to your contacts list by tapping them.

iOS 4 did add a message threading capability, which organizes your e-mail based on subject; you click an icon to the left of a message header to see the related messages. That adds more clicking to go through messages, but it does remove the effort of finding the messages in the first place. (iOS 4 lets you disable threading if you don't like it.) Android OS 2.2 has no similar capability.

Contacts and calendars. The iOS's more elegant UI for e-mail applies to its Contacts and Calendar apps as well. You can easily switch calendar views in iOS 4 in the main calendar screen; by contrast, doing so in Android OS 2.2 requires using the Menu button's options to select a view. Likewise, iOS 4 more elegantly lets you manage the display of multiple calendars, but neither mobile OS lets you send invites to other users for non-Exchange calendars.

Both iOS 4 and Android OS 2.2 have capable Contacts apps, but it's easier to navigate through your entries in iOS 4. You can jump easily to names by tapping a letter, such as "T" to get to people whose last names begin with "T," or search quickly for someone in the Search field by tapping part of the name.

On Android OS 2.2, you can search your contacts if you click the Search button (or if you click the Menu button and then tap the Search icon). You can also designate users as favorites, to put them in a shorter Favorites list; iOS 4 has no equivalent.

But iOS 4 lets you sync contacts (and calendars) from your desktop PC or Mac via iTunes if you connect the device via a USB cable. That way, you can get your Outlook or Address Book contacts into your device easily and even keep them in sync with your smartphone.

Android has no such local syncing capability. You must sync through a Gmail account -- a no-no for many corporations -- or, for Exchange data only, through an Exchange account. You can import and export contacts to an Android device via an SD card, so you could export your computer's contacts to a file and then move it to an SD card -- a fine work-around for initial setup but not for ongoing synchronization.

Corporate e-mail, contacts, and calendar support. Android OS 2.2 is significantly inferior to iOS 4 when it comes to corporate e-mail capabilities. That's mostly because Android OS 2.2 supports just a limited set of Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) policies, so most corporate Exchange environments are unlikely to permit access.

The biggest omission is support for on-device encryption, which is a basic EAS requirement. You can tell Exchange to ignore such policy misses, but that lets any noncompliant device onto the Exchange server -- not a viable option for most enterprises. Although iOS 4's EAS support is nowhere near as extensive as what BlackBerry and Windows Mobile offer, it remains the most compliant of any new-gen mobile OS.

Also, Android doesn't let you automatically sync Exchange folders; you have to go to each folder and manually update them. By contrast, iOS 4 lets you designate which folders are automatically synced as part of the mail settings.

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