Monday, December 06, 2010

The iPod Touch/Android Shakedown!

I bit the bullet and got an Android smartphone a while back, and figured I'd use this page to sort out what I like and don't like about it, as compared to my old iPod Touch.

The Prices

My Android is a Samsung Intercept. I got it for around $200, and a 300 minute/month, unlimited data plan for $25/month from Virgin Mobile. My iPT was around $200, and last I looked, Apple wanted around $200 for an iPhone, then $70/month at a minimum for the cheapest voice and data plan (through AT&T, was it?). Yeah, in this case, Virgin Mobile spanks AT&T, especially considering how little I use the voice side of my phone. Heck, AT&T's data alone was $40/month. Sheesh. So yeah, base price is about even, but Android plus Virgin Mobile beats the iPhone pretty easily.

The Actual Phone

The unfair comparison here is that the iPT doesn't have a phone. Android wins! (Wait, what?) Well, the Android let me combine two devices into one, and let me stop carrying my plain old phone. And that's been very nice.

OTOH, my old phone, low-tech as it was, was quicker to dial. Unlock the keypad, punch a couple of buttons (for speed dial) or the actual phone number, and you're talking. With Android, you unlock the screen, start the phone app, scroll around to find what you want, it's clunky. In that way, I kinda miss my old phone, but I doubt the iPhone would be much easier than Android, at least from seeing others with their iPhones.

Other Unfair Comparisons

My Android has a GPS and camera. My iPT is an older generation model that doesn't have either. Android wins! (Hey, stop that!) Actually, I've used the camera maybe two or three times, and until I feel like pretending that I'm a photographer again (it happens every two or three years), I don't really seem to be messing with it much.

The Android GPS is tolerable, I guess, but the software leaves something to be desired, (i.e. I can scroll the map to look around, but can't select a point on the map as a new destination), and it's not hard just in driving around to get it to give obviously bad driving directions. (I'm getting a stand-alone GPS for Christmas; we'll see how much better that is.)

The Hardware

Here's where Apple shines, and the fanboys can gloat. (Hi, Andre!) The Intercept has a smaller screen and thicker body, while the iPT is noticeably larger. +1 for Apple.

Also, not sure whether it's the Intercept's processor or touch screen or what, but where the iPT may be slow or pause on 1 out of 20 interactions, the Intercept is sluggish maybe half of the time. I was playing with my iPT for the first time since I got my Android, and it was VERY nice not having it lag on just about everything. While that's probably not Android's fault, Apple gets another +1 for homogeneous hardware that just works.

But the Intercept gets kudos for having a keyboard. If you're reading stuff on the iPT, it's nice, but putting input INTO one is a bit tedious. I've sent maybe a dozen emails from it in the couple of years that I've had it. I've sent that many via the Intercept in the last couple of weeks, as well as had SMS conversations with folks, and it's just NICE! +1 Intercept!

And while usually Apple just GETS hardware, my Intercept came with a wall plug USB adapter. +1 Samsung, (even though I'm actually only using the wall plug on my bedstand to keep my iPT charged).

The O/S

This gets subjective. In a nutshell, iOS is simple, Android is more powerful. And as a geek, I often like powerful over simple. But not always.

Okay, some particulars. With Android, I can connect to a machine on my network via SMB, pull an MP3 file down and have it show up instantly in Android's music player. It takes a little geekery (I probably lost some of you when I said SMB), but it's possible. It's also possible to see exactly what's on my SD card, and move things around if I want.

Neither thing is possible with iOS. With iOS, you load songs via iTunes, which doesn't run on Linux. So I need to borrow Wife's Mac to put things on or take things off of my iPT. Silly, but simple. Apple assumes A) you aren't running Linux, and B) you'll be plugging your iPT into your main computer regularly. Wrong, and wrong. I've never plugged my Android into a non-Linux computer, and only once have I actually used my Android as a USB drive. (It's not exactly simple to do, +1 Apple.) But the point is, I don't need to. The thing is wireless, why would I need to plug it into a computer?! +2 or +3 Android.

But then I sit down with my iPT, and all my apps are right there, and they're simple and they just work. Hrm. What's a geek to do?


Android has a native GMail app. Yay, Android! But that app only does GMail, and you need another to check an IMAP server, while iPT has one mail client that tolerably does both. Yay, iPT! (But, as I mentioned, my Intercept has a keyboard. Yay!)

Web Browser

Android's web browser is clunky; Safari on the iPT is smooth. In particular, bookmarks on Android are weird, and I'm still trying to figure out if I can do tabs. Safari just works. +1 iPT, if only for being easier to figure out.

The Stores

Both devices have their stores to get apps. Again, Apple does simple, while Android does functional. I'm not on Mac or Windows, so none of the links to apps take me to iTunes, so simple breaks. But the Android store and web presence in general isn't as smooth, somehow. I think in both cases, I'm a bit spoiled by the search awesomeness of, and hate not getting that in the device stores. But the availability of apps hasn't been a problem on either device; no clear winner.

One other thing, though. I can develop my own app on Linux, and put it onto my Android, if I want to. I can't do that with iPT. Now, to be honest, I'll probably never actually do that, so I can't factor that into a score, but the geek in me loves that I can. So there.

Twitter & Facebook

Both services have clients for both devices. I realized that I prefer Twitter's mobile clients on either device to their web client, as it's more obvious when I get replies. (Insert twitter grumbling here). Facebook's clients seem equally tolerable on either. No winner here.


Both devices have YouTube clients, and both are frustrating in that they won't let you search for a channel or user. The Android client will let you pull up your subscriptions, but the larger ones seem to go into some other mode that just shows activity on the account, which is weird, and is not what I want. But the Android client can also do playlists, so you can go to the web site, setup a playlist, and watch in on the Android, which I've never found a way to do with the iPT. +1 Android.

Other Apps

I love GoodReader on iPT, and hate that they don't have an Android client. Adobe has an Android version of Reader, which is kinda cool, but not as easy to use. Dropbox exists on both, and OMG you can edit text files on the Android! +2 or +3 Android! And they sync back to the server (since it's Dropbox)! +2 more for being so awesome! Weather Channel exists on both, but they have real estate issues on the Android (some screens have not quite half of the already small screen being scrollable; come on!) Google Reader has an app on Android; haven't looked on iPT, but it's nicer than the mobile web app. ESPN is on both, and equally clunky on either.

Bottom line is that, for the apps I use, the two are about equal.

Other Annoyances

I've already beat up Apple for making me use iTunes for way too much with the iPT, no need to belabor that here. Intercept has its problems with the interface, and I'm also still trying to get Android to notify me exactly when and how I want. Having a separate phone was easier in that regard, as I never got email on my phone, just SMS, which I did want it to wake me for. To date, I don't keep my Android on the bedstand, which means I can miss SMS's that I'd rather not miss, but I'm still working on figuring that out.


So I'm actually going to punt, and not declare a solid winner here. I like them both, for different purposes, and they each have their strengths. I'm finding that for being on the go, in my car, waiting in line, etc., I'd much rather have my Android. For laying in bed and reading web pages or watching videos, it's kind of a toss up, but I like my iPT, and plan to keep using it.

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