Jeff Waddle

The smartphone has become the Swiss Army knife of the 21st century: endlessly useful, cool and a necessary tool that every man should carry. The difference is that smart phones carry a hefty cost, and they're not all designed equally well.

Two of the most popular smartphones are the ubiquitous Apple iPhone and its new challenger, Google's Android platform. Here's a look at how the two phone giants stack up.


First, we need to be clear about something. There's no official "Android" phone, just as there's no official "Windows" computer. Android is simply the name for Google's mobile operating system, and as such, it's somewhat difficult to compare the iPhone to Android without being biased. Many functions of the iPhone seem to work more intuitively than those on Android phones, but that's mainly because the iPhone and its operating system were designed to work together, while Android was designed to be used on a variety of phones made by a variety of manufacturers.

Therefore, if you're looking for that "wow, cool!" factor, you're probably going to be more impressed with what the iPhone has to offer. Every function of the iPhone seems to work effortlessly, with intuitive touch-screen controls that have made it the weapon of choice for countless hipsters in coffee shops everywhere. However, most of what the iPhone offers is available on Android phones. You want the web? The Android phones can get you there. You want a touch screen? Android phones have that, too. In fact, the best Android phone currently available, the Nexus One, feels completely natural.

The big difference is that the iPhone is a single device, while Android is a software platform. That makes a straight comparison difficult but not impossible; it's like comparing Macs to PCs, as many bloggers have noted. Apple carefully controls everything available on its iPhone. Google's Android, on the other hand, offers its adherents something else: freedom to do whatever you'd like with your phone.

The Apps Question

This is most pronounced when you consider the apps available for the iPhone and the Android platform. Apple has made the huge number of apps in its iTunes store a major selling point for the iPhone. There are certainly fewer apps in the Android app store, but here's where that "freedom" comes into play. You can install apps from web pages and other corners of the Internet with Android. You can't do that with the iPhone. That means that you might find an app made by some software tinkerer somewhere that lets you completely change the layout of your home screen, or do any of a thousand things that Apple won't allow its developers to offer. Basically, the iTunes store won't display any app that threatens Apple or AT&T's business, or any app that could be potentially harmful. Android doesn't enforce these types of rules.

Now, again, there are fewer apps available for Android right now. Many major apps are available in both stores, though, so you probably won't be missing much on Android. If you're pretty good with computers, you might enjoy the freedom that the Android system offers. If you're a fairly average user, though, you're honestly not going to see a huge difference, and you'll probably appreciate the smoother interface of the iPhone when compared with Android phones, even the Nexus One.


Currently, the iPhone only works with AT&T's data networks, although that may change soon. Android isn't limited in this way, so if you dislike AT&T or if you find its networks just a bit too slow, you can get an Android phone that works with any other major provider.

Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference. If you hate AT&T and want to do some techie tinkering with your smart phone, an Android is probably going to be right up your alley. If you really don't care and simply want a cool new toy that makes phone calls, there's absolutely nothing wrong with the iPhone. The competition between the two has already sparked some exciting innovation.

Apple is probably going to offer the iPhone on other cell carriers soon, in part due to aggressive advertising from Google, and the Android development community is scrambling to fill the system with as many apps as possible. Either way, suit up and pick your poison. Both the Android OS and the iPhone offer incredible ease of use and a long list of exceptional functions, and they'll give you a major boost when organizing your professional and personal life. Plus, they're both cool. And that definitely counts for something.