If you are on the fence about an Apple iPhone or an Android phone, and have read the first part of the Android vs iOS series, you are probably no closer to making a decision. There I discussed that despite the convergence in the elements of the user interface of the iOS operating system found in Apple’s iPhone, and Google Android smartphones, underneath the skin, the two are rather different. One is a smartphone, the other a computer trapped in a mobile phone. I know what you are thinking: “That’s all he wanted to say. The freaking author wasted my time.”
The long introduction will become more relevant as we go further along this series of articles. Like any serious decision, it should be made slowly and patiently, but for maybe about 5% of the readers of this article, your decision will be made today. I said Android was a full-fledged computer. It is time to put my money where my mouth is. For brevity, I will just look at three notable examples.
Android vs iOs: The Cloud
The Cloud is a beautiful thing. All our files are within reach wherever we go. The typical productive basic use of the Cloud goes something like this: Late at night, and you are finishing a long report on your laptop. You are tired, so you save the document without a good proof reading. Your computer uploads the latest version of your document to a server from your Cloud service provider.
The next morning after breakfast, you commute to work. On the way there, you carefully review your report making some edits along the way. When you open the file from your Cloud service, your phone has downloaded the file and opened it on a word processor on your phone. When you save the file, the word processor saves your changes and uploads the document back to the Cloud, which in turn updates the copy of the document found in your computer at home. Having discussed the contents of the report with your boss, you turn on your office desktop, and after it boots, the latest version of the document you are working on is downloaded into your office desktop, and you finalize the report.
In this Cloud based system, all your files are hosted on your home computer, office computer and a server. Your smartphone is a bit player downloading and uploading files as needed.
If your phone is an Android, that need not be the case. Apps like DropSync will allow you to perform real time synchronization of all your files on an Android phone. As files are edited or added on your laptop or desktop, the updated and new files will also be downloaded to your Android phone. Can the iOS operating system on an iPhone do this? Probably, but since Apple does not allow it, then the simple fact is that at present, iOS devices cannot.
If this type of functionality is important for you, then your decision has been made.
Real time two-way Cloud sync is not the only aspect which makes Android more PC-like than iOS. I would think a lot of users do not spend a lot of time preparing documents, spreadsheets or presentations. However, these users still keep a personal computer around for other purposes, like downloading file over the Torrent network.
Now, Torrents have gotten a bad name, mainly because a lot of pirated material is exchanged via Torrent. But there is a lot of legitimate material exchange over the Torrent network. If you are a Torrent freak, and have a hefty data plan, you can carry on your activities on an Android device with apps like uTorrent or tTorrent, and may find less and less use for you laptop or desktop.
Apple does not allow this kind of activity on its iOS devices. You would have to jailbreak an iPhone in order to download Torrents.
Maybe the most extreme example of how Android really is a powerful operating system is Tasker. Tasker allows you to automate almost all of your smartphones functionality, making an Android smartphone really live up to its name. Tasker allows Android to execute command based on certain triggers like time, location, handset orientation, connected hardware among others.
Tasker can be configured so that your Android phone will automatically take certain actions on your behalf. When you leave your house in the morning, your phone detects that it has left home and disables WiFi conserving battery power that is otherwise wasted when it is left on scanning for WiFi networks. While driving to the office, your phone detects you are moving, and Tasker sends out SMS replies to all SMS and missed calls saying, “Sorry, I am driving, I will get back to you later”. As part of your daily habit, you stop by a coffee shop for a cup of Joe. Tasker powers on WiFi and launches Flipboard, which you browse when you take you morning coffee. Later in the office, you attend a meeting and place your phone on the table face down. This alerts Tasker to send out SMS replies to all SMS and missed calls saying, “Sorry, I am at a meeting. I will get back to you later”. This kind of user-customized automation cannot be achieved on iOS, even if you jailbreak it.
For some of you, one of these is a must have, and your decision is made. I would think the vast majority, would say, “But I just want a smartphone.” With the uber power users now in our wake, we will look at more mundane tasks in Part III of the Android vs iOS series.