Apple’s iPhone 3.0 software update has been showcased to the world. There’s a lot to like and it’ll be coming to you in June. Google isn’t sitting still: it is working on an update called Cupcake (how cute). Cupcake will allow for video recording on the G1 (not in iPhone 3.0) and stereo Bluetooth A2DP audio (yes in iPhone 3.0). Palm’s Pre with its WebOS looks cool but it’s not out yet. Here are some things to consider when you are in the terrible position of having to choose just one of these excellent smartphones: multitouch, keyboard, camera, background processes, applications, hardware software integration, open or closed.
Multitouch The iPhone has it and Android doesn’t. There is speculation that point to Apple asking Google into not integrating multitouch into the Android OS. Apple received Patent No. 7,479,949 with the title “Touch screen device, method, and graphical user interface for determining commands by applying heuristics.” After being awarded this patent in January, 2009, Apple’s COO Tim Cook gave fair warning during Apple’s fiscal first quarterly earnings call that the company “will not stand for having our (intellectual property) ripped off, and we’ll use whatever weapons that we have at our disposal.” Even though Cook wasn’t pointing his finger at Palm for the multitouch capabilities on the Pre, it doesn’t take take an investigator to figure out that Apple is indeed warning Palm. Palm’s Pre has a nifty feature called the “gesture area” that has navigational controls that extends the touch area all the way to the bottom. Advantage: Tie – iPhone & Pre
Keyboard T-Mobile’s G1 has a built-in slide-out QWERTY keyboard. The Pre has a physical one too though it is considerably smaller. Oh, and the Pre does not have an on-screen keyboard. The iPhone’s keyboard is on-screen. A lot of customers are used to a physical keyboard. I am too. But there are benefits to a virtual keyboard that no physical keyboard can match. I sometimes need to type in Korean and if I had the G1 or even the Pre there would be no way. With the iPhone I can type in Korean as well as a ton of other languages, even Chinese. You do need to get used to typing on a screen but the advantages overshadow the small comfort you have in a physical keyboard. The absense of a physical keyboard also makes the iPhone sleeker in my opinion with less mechanical things that can go wrong. Advantage: iPhone
Camera The camera on the iPhone is 2MP and takes decent pictures. Closeups? Forget it unless you’re inclined to purchase Griffin’s Clarifi case that includes a macro lens to help you get clean closeup shots. The Pre has a 3MP camera that beats the iPhone in resolution and has a LED flash. The G1 has a 3.2MP camera but without a flash. The iPhone doesn’t have a flash either. In terms of hardware, the Pre seems to have the advantage hear with a high-resolution camera and a LED flash. Ars Technica reviewed the G1 and claimed the camera “produces extremely sharp, high-quality photos, even at a range of a few inches. Its auto-focus and exposure adjustments are fantastic.” The Gadgeteer also thought the G1 does a good job: “The camera actually does a pretty good job. It’s surprisingly good at macro shots.” Since the Pre isn’t out it’s probably not fair to declare a winner here, but from the looks of it the G1 does a great job of taking photos for a phone. Advantage: G1
Background Processes Android runs background processes. The iPhone doesn’t. Apple claims that background processes eat up a lot of power and many users have seen their G1s die out pretty quickly running a lot of background processes. Apple is fighting back via its push notifications but Apple has botched its first launch of Mobile Me, a push notification-based service. Let’s see how Apple does with iPhone 3.0. Linked closely to background processes is notifications. Google’s Android has a nifty feature that notifies you via a shaded window of every alert, be it from email, a missed call, Twitter, etc. The iPhone? It’s one at a time and you have to dismiss it to do anything else. The Pre has a great interface is claimed to be the first smartphone with an OS that was built with multitasking in mind. The GUI element is called ‘Cards’ on the WebOS and allows for very quick task switching and notifications from other applications are non-obtrusive and does not require that you close what you’re doing to attend to it. Advantage: Pre
Applications The iPhone wins this game hands down. With iPhone 3.0 that enables cool features like maps integration, peer-to-peer Bluetooth connectivity, VoIP, accessory integration, etc. there will be plenty of features developers will make use of. There are plenty of developers for Android as well as the Pre. Palm has announced the Pre will handle all application delivery: there will be no iTunes-like desktop application for the Pre. Palm will based its approval process on “security and stability” but it isn’t very clear that it will be much better what is happening with Apple with its black box process. Android’s process is clearer than Apple’s completely black box. The sheer number of applications available for the iPhone will be hard to beat. Advantage: iPhone
Hardware Software Integration Apple does a very good job at integrating software and hardware. Some say Apple is the best. If Apple continues to execute well in its integration of hardware and software with the iPhone 3.0’s accessory integration potential, we can expect a lot of hardware that will make use of it. For example, Johnson & Johnson demoed at Apple’s press conference regarding the iPhone 3.0 a glucose meter that connected via Bluetooth to the iPhone giving the user valuable information. Google is like Microsoft in that it provides an OS platform. Hardware will come from many different companies. If Google succeeds we can expect a level of success that Microsoft has enjoyed with its Windows OS (except for may Windows Me and Vista) where a ton of hardware works quite well with it. Advantage: Tie – iPhone & Pre
Open or Closed Android is open. iPhone is closed. WebOS… not sure. There are many heated discussions all over the Internet debating the merits of a closed system versus an open system. I’m not going to rehash those arguments. Let me get to the bottom of it: All we want are devices that simply work and work simply. Apple seems to be doing a very good job at it with the iPhone. Android’s G1 isn’t too bad. And with all the previews on the Internet surrounding the Palm Pre, it actually looks pretty good. In my opinion whether a system is closed or open is a wash.
Display This post wouldn’t be complete without a display comparison. The Pre has a 3.1″ multitouch TFT LCD using capacitive technology. The LCD sports a 480 x 320 (landscape) pixel format and seems to look quite good in previews. The G1 uses a 3.2″ touch (not multitouch) TFT LCD sporting a 480 x 320 pixel format. And finally, the iPhone features a 3.5″ multitouch TFT LCD with a pixel format of 480 x 320. So all three have the same number of pixels. The Pre has the smallest display and the iPhone has the largest. Both the Pre and the iPhone have multitouch. Although 0.4″ difference in the display might not sound like a lot, on smartphones that are about 4″-5″ long, it is a big deal. Text is easier to read and there are larger icons, which is important when you’re trying to touch them with your finger(s). Some might think the iPhone is a bit too big, but I think it is about the perfect size. Advantage: iPhone
The iPhone took 5 wins. The Pre took 3. And the G1 took 1. But these are my opinions and are just some of the things you’ll need to consider when making a decision on the latest and greatest smartphones: Apple’s iPhone, T-Mobile’s G1 and Palm’s Pre. Ultimately you’ll need to make the final decision. Let me know what you think by posting your comments.
Source: cnet (“Report: Apple nixed Android’s multitouch“), lifehacker (“Android Versus iPhone 3.0: The Showdown“), GigaOM (“Android vs. iPhone: Why Openness May Not Be Best“), Ars Technica (“Almost Human: a review of Google’s Android G1 phone“), The Gadgeteer (“A Week with the Android G1 Smartphone – Day 5, 6 & 7“)