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
Text selection and copying. Where the Atrix's Android OS falls short compared to the iPhone's iOS is in its text selection. If you're tapping away and realize you've made a mistake not caught by the autocorrect feature, such as when typing a URL, it can be difficult to move the text cursor to that error's location in the text. If you tap too long, the screen is filled with the Edit Text contextual menu; it took me a while to figure out how to tap long enough to move the text-insertion cursor to a new location in text without opening that menu.
On the iPhone, you tap and hold where you want to insert the text cursor (sort of like using a mouse); a magnifier appears to help you move precisely to where you want to go. You then add and delete text at that location. Plus, the controls for text selection also appear, so you can use those if you'd like -- there's no worry about some screen-filling menu appearing.
Along these lines, copy and paste -- and even basic selection -- is often not available in the Atrix's Android OS 2.2. In some fields, tapping and holding brings up the Edit Text contextual menu that lets you copy or paste the entire field's contents; in others you can't even do that. Although the browser lets you select and copy text, this ability is not universal. For example, you can't select text in email messages. On the iPhone, any textual item can be selected, and you can adjust specifically what text is selected by using little sliders. It's easy, intuitive, and universal.
The winner: iOS 4, by a significant length. If you've never used an iPhone, the Android OS with the MotoBlur overlay will be appealing. But if you're familiar with the iOS or Mac OS X, the Atrix's UI will feel clunky and a bit awkward, as if you were being forced to use Windows or Linux. But the Atrix's UI provides more immediacy and accessibility to email, social networking, and similar activities thanks to its widgets and notification functionality -- in that area, it's the iPhone UI that feels a bit backward.
Deathmatch: Security and management
A long-standing strike against the Android OS is its poor security. The standard Android OS doesn't support on-device encryption, and it supports only the most basic of Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) security policies. By contrast, with the enhancements made in iOS 4, the iPhone has become one of the most securable mobile devices available, second only to the RIM BlackBerry.
Motorola Mobility recognized that deficiency and has added significant security and management capabilities to the Atrix. The biggest item is the inclusion of on-device encryption. A close second is support for more EAS policies, such as complex passwords, failed-attempt lockout, and password histories. There's also new support for VPNs. These additions don't bring the Atrix quite up to iPhone levels, but they're what the majority of businesses will require, so the Atrix becomes the first corporate-class Android smartphone available. This will be a huge factor for users who want to connect to corporate email and in-house services.
Both devices offer remote wipe, SSL message encryption, and timeout locks. Both Apple and Motorola Mobility provide services to track a lost or stolen device and lock it or wipe its contents remotely: Apple through its free Find My iPhone service and Motorola Mobility through its free MotoBlur service. Remote wipe and lockout are possible on both devices through Microsoft Exchange as well.