My last blog post I wrote about tips for people moving to the HTC Desire from the iPhone. I was writing with the bliss of a new & shiny gadget in my hands. Who could blame me? The HTC Desire is one very nice piece of hardware. Fast processor, nice camera, beautiful screen etc.
But this post is why after a few weeks I have found myself back using my iPhone, whilst the HTC Desire now resides in my top drawer, probably never to see the light of day as my daily handset again.
Let me put forward the main point which is probably going to be highly contentious:
Android just isn’t there yet. Sorry fans of the OS, but it’s like the best intentions of the open source community have produced an OS that has not learnt any lessons from the failings of the dated Windows Mobile OS, and along with the snazzy HTC Sense UI have actually made a number of brand new mistakes on the way.
Not to mention things I’ve learnt on this “journey” that point out to me what I believe are flaws in the entire push that is Android (or the upcoming Windows Phone 7) when versus the iPhone. Some can be fixed, others are inherent in the go to market. So let me get into it:
1. Android OS (whilst hidden behind the beauty that is HTC Sense) is an inherently geeky, inconsistent, temperamental and beta-like OS. It fails in numerous ways:
(a) It responds inconsistently to what should be basic functions of a phone, such as delays when answering a call, speakerphone not enabling when on-screen key pressed, slow number input, contacts taking too long to display etc. These sometimes happen perfectly, other times (especially when coming out of an application) they can drive you completely mental.
(b) Exchange sync having random hiccups. Like when you roam from a WiFi network to 3G, suddenly without warning Exchange sync can randomly start flashing the sync notification icon. If you don’t see it happen you can go through a whole day without a single email or calendar coming in.
(c) The limitation of the OS not allowing you to install applications onto the microSD card means after the 5th or 6th app you have installed starts making the phone run more slowly and be more prone to crashing. Every app installed takes up the valuable system memory of the device. People used to having 10, 20, 30 or more apps on their iPhone will find this unbearable, and frankly it is just poor design from Google.
(d) Auto memory management is poor at best. The OS can start closing apps (like the actual Sense UI) that you need, whilst keeping apps (like Footprints) running. Adding a Task Management app (which any phone user really shouldn’t have to do, not to mention any iPhone converts) doesn’t make things much better. With so many processes running at any point in time it is impossible to work out what should or should not be open or closed.
2. Possibly more importantly, I have come to believe Android is not and can not be an “iPhone Killer”, nor really even a competitor.
The Android market is disjointed, confused and inconsistent, whilst Apple have created a stable, consistent platform that whilst limiting in some ways, allows users a level of comfort that Android does not.
There are multiple version of the Android OS, running on various different hardware platforms with infinite variety. Some may claim this is of benefit. I claim differently. Ask older Android handset owners if they enjoy being stuck on Android 1.5 as their handset manufacturer releases new phones with 2.1 with no intention of upgrading their 6 month old handsets that are now out of date.
My career has taught me to believe no single company can provide everything to everyone - and more often than not the best & latest technology is not developed inside your organisation, so you therefore must partner. You may think at this stage “yeah but doesn’t this argument work for Google and against Apple?”. Maybe a little, but overall not really. As anyone that understands working with Alliance Partners will tell you, a platform needs a consistent ecosystem to prosper. This is where the Android vendors are failing the very OS they want to push, and Apple is winning.
Apple has proven that an iPhone user can feel confident knowing that when they buy a currently available iPhone, that iPhone will be running the latest OS, or can be updated to the latest OS, and is relatively free from Telco “enhancements”. This stability works equally well for developers of software applications and hardware accessories.
Companies producing products that require a platform to survive (ie iPhone) need to ensure that their investment can scale & prosper. That is: design a case, cover, headphone, dock accessory, power adapter, external battery, keyboard etc once, and it will work across almost every iPhone available. Sure there was a difference between iPhone v1 and the following 3G & 3GS, and the upcoming iPhone next-gen may shake things up a bit, but the 3G & 3GS have provided these developers with over 2 years of a consistent, stable, growing ecosystem.
The benefit for consumers is you can now walk into almost any store anywhere in the world and buy an accessory for an iPhone. Name one other phone handset in the world that can claim that; It’s not HTC’s Desire, Legend or Incredible. It’s not the Droid, nor the Nexus One. It’s definitely not one of the numerous Samsung devices, the new Sony Ericsson or the new Motorola units. In fact there is not a single other phone, period.
Too many form factors. Too much variance in OS versions. Too many product releases, too quickly.
Buy an iPhone, it’ll have a life of 1-2 years easily before the average consumer feels they are out of date. In the world of Android, you’re out of date almost weekly.
No consistency = no ecosystem.
Whilst not the specific topic, the majority of the arguments apply to Microsoft in the current Windows Mobile hardware world. I’ve also seen nothing to make me believe any differently with the upcoming Windows Phone 7.
Android just isn’t there yet, and the HTC Desire (or any Android handset) is no real competition for the iPhone ecosystem. Of course it’s not all about ecosystem (you need to compete vs iTunes etc) but it’s one area I don’t see anyone really focusing on and until they do I can’t see anyone really causing Apple concern. And that is what worries me the most.
What do you think? Agree or disagree?