Here’s a thought I’ve been thinking for a few days.
Like many of the rest of the Google fanboi sheeples, I laid down a goodly sum of cash for a Nexus 7 the moment it came out. What’s to like? Well, first off, the screen is nice. Really nice. Better than the iPad 2 – maybe. Better than the iPad 3 (sorry, new iPad)? Not so much. But it’s close.
OK, that said the price is right – it’s a great deal cheaper than the iPad, and I can’t see anyone in the market for a cheaper tablet springing for anything less now unless it’s really JUST to read Kindle books on – in which case, you need it cheaper than a Kindle and with reasonably the same battery life, and there aren’t that many of those around right now.
You may also know that I had an iPhone before I had an Android phone, which I also wasn’t so pleased with, installed Cyanogen Mod on, replaced with an iPhone, which I replaced with ANOTHER Android (LG Prada 3 – stop giggling, it was a bargain and the hardware’s pretty nifty)
But there’s one conclusion I’ve come to.
Android’s better for phones, and iOS is better for tablets. In fact, I’d go further. iOS sucks on phones. Android sucks on tablets.
Basically, Google Play – Android’s online everything-for-Android shop – is quite nice. You can get most apps for Android that you can for iOS. But they look a bit ropey on the larger screen of the Nexus, whereas made-for-iPad apps look better on iOS. But oh wait – all Android apps are available for all Android devices. So maybe that’s an advantage, right?
Up to a point, Lord Copper. You see, Android’s problem isn’t that it isn’t a capable OS – it’s actually pretty good. It does most things well. The same is true of iOS. But there are a few fundamental things that differentiate between the two platforms and that make Android unsuited to tablets, and iOS unsuited to phones.
First up is the home screen. On your phone, you’re always in a hurry – for example, nobody really ever wants to sit down with their phone and read a book on it, write a letter on it, or play a game if there’s a tablet or PC available instead. It’s an “it’ll do” device. The same applies to the homepage. I open my Android phone and I see – the time, the weather, battery life, signal strength, just like iOS. But I can also configure it to see widgets. If I want my Twitter feed right there in the front screen, I can have it. News feed? Sure. Calculator widget? Of course. On iOS, what are my options? Icons, or folders. That’s about it. On a tablet, that’s not important – you son’t pick one of these puppies up just to check your email very quick or see what time it is. So for the iPad, this doesn’t matter. For the iPhone, it’s an immediate fail the first time you pick it up.
Second bugbear for me is the wifi hotspot. Reliable as anything under Cyanogen Mod, the HTC Desire HD dropped out every few minutes. So did the iPhone. Worse, despite a truly terrific tariff from 3 where I can use as much internet as I want, the iPad insists on treating the iPhone’s 3G connection as mobile – and refuses FaceTime, BBC iPlayer and many other apps. Use an Android phone and that isn’t a problem – better yet, on the LG, the wifi hotspot is rock solid. I can watch Netflix to my heart’s content, limited only by battery life and signal strength. Win. And let’s face it, what’s going to be my hotspot when I need it? Well, I always carry the phone…
OK, watching movies. Now let’s be clear on this – Android wins pretty much hands down. Sorry, that’s just the way it is. Android supports far more formats, doesn’t require iTunes to get them on the device… Android wins the format wars. But to be honest – ripping movies from DVDs and then converting through various myriad programs is a chore. And annoying. This is why Netflix was invented, and why there’s BBC iPlayer and ITV Player… and all of those work on the iPad. Does BBC iPlayer work on the Nexus 7? No. Doesn’t work on Android 4.1 yet. And all this despite the fact that I pay twice as much to the BBC every month as I pay to Netflix. Maybe that says more about the BBC, or even more about the current release cycles and the age of Jelly Bean compared to iOS 5, so it’ll change. But the truth is, a 10 inch screen is still better than a 7 inch, and playing on the phone… well, ok you can do it – but who has the battery life for that after carting the phone about all day?
Music? OK, iTunes, sure. For myself I’m not an iTunes user for music (I’ve bought one song from them, ever), preferring the more standard, open(ish) MP3 format. And if you use sites like TuneChecker, there are bargains to be had, for sure. But that said, the speaker on the iPad is better than the iPhone, and the LG. It’s not better than the Nexus, though, but they’re equal. That said, last.fm lives on whichever phone is closer when I’m in the bathroom…
Notifications. Ah yes, the much vaunted killer feature of Android. And sure, they’re really nice on Android 4. They’re pretty nice on Android 2.3.7 (come on LG, ICS is out for the Prada in Itay and Germany, hurry up with the UK version already). But on iOS? They’re OK. But by comparison with Android 2, they suck. Compared to Android 4, they suck big time. Really big time.
GPS. Here’s something that will change in a few months with iOS 6, but up until then, the only way to get turn by turn navigation on your phone without paying for an app is to buy an Android. Sorry, that’s just how it is. iPad? Like I’m going to use that for GPS, even if it had it – it’s just too big for a car dock…
I don’t want this to sound like an iPad bashing session, an Android drool-fest, or the other way round. But some of the things that iOS does better are not so obvious – the larger screen ratio, for example – 1024×768 on the iPad 2 compared to the Nexus 7’s 800×480 – is far better for web surfing, for watching movies, reading on Kindle; and that’s without mentioning the retina screen. But on the iPhone the retina screen is only 3.5 inches wide, meaning text is small and hard to read. On the LG’s 4.3 inch screen, the text is clearer, even if the pixels are distinctly visible. It makes the “retina” graphics feel like a gimmick.
Power management isn’t so great on Android, but I’ve never had an iPhone last more than a day on a full charge when it’s been used, but the LG will last more. And some Android phones last a lot longer. And you have options too – want a BlackBerry like QWERTY? Try the HTC ChaCha – comes with a 5MP camera (like the iPhone 4) and amazing battery life too. Want more pixels than 8MP? Try the Sony Xperia GX – 13MP. Want a bigger phone that doubles as a small tablet? Samsung Galaxy Note. Ah, but the iPhone camera must be better than the Sony one, right? Er, no. That’s made by Sony as well.
You see, really, the phones and tablets are much of a muchness. For the iPad, though, it’s the way Apple has controlled the experience that proves the “killer app” – the testing involved, the proven pedigree of the operating system and the known quantity of the SDK to developers.
For Android, it’s about the available hardware, and the ability of the manufacturers to innovate.
But here’s the real kicker, if you’ll excuse me.
iOS is geared to handling the same task for a lot of the time. It doesn’t allow much background processing. On a tablet, that’s what you want, because you’re usually single tasking – reading on Kindle, chatting, watching a movie. Android does more multitasking, which is what you want for a phone – if you’re using it as a music player, you don’t want it to stop checking your email, for example.
So overall, I’d say this. If you want a good phone, and a good tablet – get an iPad, and an Android phone.