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
The winner: A tie. The iPhone's selection of apps and strong app quality outshine what's available for Android devices. But the widgets and notifications capabilities of the Atrix's Android OS are very handy, and you feel their absence on an iPhone after you've used an Android device for a while. Plus, the Atrix's Navigation and Social Networking apps have no free iPhone equivalents.
Deathmatch: Web and Internet
Both Apple and Google are strong forces behind HTML5 and other modern browser technologies, so it's no surprise that the iPhone and Atrix both offer capable Web browsers. Do note that neither is as HTML5-savvy as their desktop counterparts, however. Based on the HTML5 Test site's scores, the Atrix's mobile Chrome scored 176 out of 300, versus 242 for desktop Chrome (version 9.05); the iPhone's mobile Safari scored 196 versus 208 for desktop Safari (version 5.03).
The main differences between the iPhone and Atrix browsers gravitate around their OSes' UI: Android usually requires the use of the Menu button to access Chrome's controls, whereas iOS 4 makes more Safari controls accessible without such machinations. For example, Safari has a Forward button on all screens; it's buried in the Menu options on the Atrix.
Likewise, bookmarking, sharing pages via email, and switching among open Web pages require several steps in Android but not on the iPhone. I also really noted the lack of a .com button on the Atrix's touch keyboard when entering URLs; it's a significant timesaver on the iPhone. But the iPhone's separate Search and URL boxes are less convenient than the Atrix's unified URL and Search box; you have to be sure to tap the right box on the iPhone.
Using the cloud-based Google Docs on either device is not a pleasant experience. It's barely possible to edit a spreadsheet; the most you can do is select and add rows, as well as edit the contents of individual cells. You edit a text document, but painfully just one text block at a time. But things are improving on the Google Docs front; for example, you can create, edit, and navigate appointments in Google Calendar in all four of its views (day, week, month, and agenda) pretty much as you can on a desktop browser.
Partly, the Google Docs awkwardness is because Google hasn't figured out an effective mobile interface for these Web apps; the Safari and Chrome browsers are simply dealing with what Google presents, rather than working through some front-end Google Docs app. It's also because the mobile Safari and Chrome browsers don't support all the capabilities their desktop counterparts do. (If you connect the Atrix to an external screen via its optional dock, you can then run the desktop version of Firefox, and thus be able to use Google Docs or Microsoft Office 365 as if you were on a PC.)
The winner: The iPhone, slightly, thanks to its easier UI and ability to copy Web images.