For development purposes, I got a HTC Legend smartphone running Android 2.1. Setup and the first days of using it provided interesting comparisons to my iPhone 4 (iOS 4.01)
Of course, both phones are eminently useable. And lest anyone accuse me of an unfair comparison, I know they’re not direct contenders. That’d be the HTC Desire or the Samsung Galaxy S (who thinks of these names, one wonders) to go up against Apple’s finest.
Both handsets show the rigorous application of design principles. Much has been written about the iPhone 4 being made of two glass panes and a notorious stainless steel band doubling as an antenna. Funnily, the HTC Legend embodies another Apple design idea, it has an aluminum monocoque body like the MacBook Pros. Haptically, that’s better than the iPhone’s slick surfaces. But don’t think that this body design doesn’t come without compromises! The Legend has a realtively small port at the bottom covered with a plastic hatch. Battery, SIM-card and Micro-SD-card go in there, and somewhere at this port there are the antennas as well. Result: “Just don’t hold it that way”, i.e. don’t cradle it in your palm naturally. You’re really going to see some bars drop otherwise (or WLAN arcs, or the GPS won’t find a satellite). So, Antennagate-mongers, count your blessings!
Another hardware difference lies in the touch-screens. The iPhone 4’s Retina Display is noticeably sharper, the HTC Legend’s OLED display shows better colors in a wider gamut.
When you get one of these, even if you want to develop apps for them, you first set it up and use it as a civilian. Whilst doing so, differences showed up that can be summarized like this. The Apple iPhone 4 and iOS 4 are a prototypical closed system. The HTC Legend with Android 2.1 however epitomizes an open source system.
It’s “works out of the box” vs. “fiddle with the settings until you have it your way”.
It’s “just sync it with iTunes” vs. “use third-party software like The Missing Sync for Android and hit snags while syncing”.
It’s “be bound to DRM music files you bought in the iTunes store (and don’t even think about wanting to play them on the Android phone)” vs. “put on it what you want and if there’s software for it, it will play/read/show”.
It’s locked-in vs. free (as in software, not beer, cheap they both aren’t).
When it comes to coding apps for these two systems, I’m a newbie both in Objective-C and Java, in Xcode and Eclipse. I’ve just been setting up the IDEs and going through some example code from books and the documentation. I like Eclipse and Java better than Xcode (even the 4.0 beta, which is really nifty) and Objective-C, but that’s just me. Eclipse and the Android tools were harder to set up than Xcode, on the other hand, the Android Marketplace is much more accessible than the App Store. That doesn’t seem to harm the quality of the software on the Android Marketplace.
As I fall into these two rabbit holes deeper and deeper, I’ll report back with updates from two different smartphone worlds.
Update! Breaking News! There’s one other difference between smartphone systems: