Mobile deathmatch: Motorola Mobility Atrix 4G vs. Apple iPhone 4
Motorola's versatile new Android smartphone outshines the iPhone in some ways, but falls short overallFollow @MobileGalen
Email management. Both devices support multiple accounts and universal inboxes, but the Atrix approach is a real mess of inconsistency and competing options. The iPhone, by contrast, lets you access all your emails from one app, in a consistent way. It has a universal inbox, plus an inbox for each active account. Below the inboxes are a list of accounts that if opened show all the associated folders in a nice hierarchical display. I don't think the iPhone needs the two lists; the universal inbox followed by the individual accounts would be just as easy and less cluttered.
The Atrix's email handling perpetuates an Android flaw: using separate apps for each email account. Yes, it does provide the Messaging app from which you can access all your accounts, but it's really just a folder containing one app for each account, so switching among accounts is a pain. (Google Gmail isn't available via that app; you have to use the separate Gmail app.)
But the Atrix's MotoBlur interface worsens that Android flaw: The universal inbox account in the Messaging app shows you all your inboxes in one big list of messages, but it doesn't use color or any other mechanism to differentiate which account each email came from, as the iPhone and the standard Android UI do. Also, when you long-tap the account name in your email list, the Atrix displays the folders for that account -- except for Exchange email, for which you tap an arrow button instead. (The standard Android UI has no such long-tap option to see folders; you have to use the Menu button instead, so the MotoBlur UI does help a bit in this area.)
This mix of nice additions to the standard Android UI and idiotic UI misfires is emblematic of the MotoBlur interface's frustrating design. Based on these inconsistencies and contradictions, you'd think that the people working on various aspects of MotoBlur never talked to each other or used the final product.
The iPhone 4 has a message-threading capability, which organizes your emails 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 also removes the effort of finding the messages in the first place. (The iPhone's iOS 4 lets you disable threading if you don't like it.) The Atrix has no equivalent.
The Atrix has an out-of-the-office setting and an autoforwarding capability that doesn't require the smartphone to first download the messages (which saves on data usage). The iPhone has no equivalent.
I was annoyed that Atrix doesn't support PDF files out of the box; you have to download the Adobe Reader app from the Android Marketplace. The Atrix opens images and Office files, though, using the basic version of the Quickoffice app that comes installed on the Atrix. The iPhone's native QuickLook viewer handles a nice range of formats, and it opens attachments with one tap (downloading them if needed at the same time). Of course, to edit those files rather than just view them, you'll need an office app such as Quickoffice Mobile Connect Suite or Documents to Go Premium. The iPhone doesn't open Zip files unless you get a third-party app such as the $2 ZipBox-Pro. The Atrix, like all Android smartphones, handles Zip files natively.