Mobile deathmatch: Apple iOS 4 vs. Android 2.2
As the mobile battle narrows, the iPhone finally faces a real challengerFollow @MobileGalen
There is a work-around to Android's Exchange omissions: The $20 TouchDown app creates a sandbox that encrypts the mail stored in it, so it complies with many Exchange servers' EAS policies. It also lets you choose folders to autosync and flag messages, but its UI for folders is unfriendly. Any folders designated for autosyncing are accessible via a menu at the top of the TouchDown screen, so you can look at specific folders, not just the inbox or all messages (the default view), though only one at a time and without the context of your folder hierarchy. And TouchDown can't add email addresses in mail messages to the native Contacts app in Android; it works just with Exchange and EAS-compatible mail servers such as Lotus Notes 8.5.1 with Lotus Traveler and the forthcoming Novell GroupWise Data Synchronization Mobility Pack. But TouchDown does work well with Exchange contacts, calendar items, and notes.
If you use Lotus Notes, you can work with IBM's Lotus Notes Traveler app on iOS if you're also running the Notes 8.5.1 server with the Traveler extensions. There's as yet no such app for Android, though TouchDown works with that Notes 8.5.1/Traveler server combination. Novell has no support for either device, but plans to add EAS support later this year that should work through iOS 4's Exchange support and through TouchDown on Android.
The winner: iOS 4, by a wide margin. The difference between the two operating systems is a classic case of the specs not telling the whole story. iOS 4 has a much more intuitive interface that makes using email, contacts, and calendars far easier than on Android OS 2.2, and overall it has more capabilities. When it comes to corporate usage, Android simply fails the requirements of most organizations. The TouchDown app can work around much of this gap, but at the price of poor integration with the rest of the device.
It's now part of the popular culture: "There's an app for that." There are tens of thousands of apps for iOS 4, from games to scientific visualization tools. Sure, there's a lot of junk, but there are many really useful apps as well. Android doesn't have nearly the same library of apps as the iOS, but its portfolio is now in the thousands, with many useful apps -- and more coming as the OS gains popularity -- such as TouchDown and Quickoffice. But you won't find more specialized business apps like OmniSketcher or Concur -- yet.
The native apps for both operating systems are comparable, providing email, contacts, calendar, maps and navigation, browser, a music player, a YouTube player, and SMS messaging. One strange exception: Android OS 2.2 has no native notepad app, while iOS 4 does. That's a very odd omission for a smartphone.
Unlike Apple's App Store, the Android Market is not curated, which makes it easier for developers to get their apps listed but has also let cyber thieves create phishing apps that masquerade as banking or other apps and steal user information; Apple's App Store seems to be less at risk to such Trojans. The Android Market is also slower to load than the App Store and not as easy to navigate within the app details.
In the Android Market, you're much more likely to not find an app you want than is the case in the Apple App Store. Of course, you don't have to use the Android Market to get Android apps. If you want to get down and dirty, you can configure the Android OS's application settings to install apps from other sources. It's not quite as drastic as jailbreaking an iPhone, but is in fact a hack.