With the first Android-powered mobile phone — the HTC Dream — recently hitting the market in Australia, comparisons will the ever-popular Apple iPhone 3G have already begun. It's easy to see why — both are touch screen smartphones running modern mobile operating systems designed to deliver an intuitive user experience. So which device comes out on top?
The iPhone 3G's operating system is completely closed and is being developed by Apple purely for Apple devices. The Android platform on the other hand is open source — it is developed primarily by Google, but a number of other companies are also involved. This group is called the Open Handset Alliance and includes the likes of HTC, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and Motorola.
The benefit of an open platform is that almost any company that wants to make a smartphone running the Android OS can, and a company is able to modify the software to suit its specific needs. There are also some downsides, though: with Apple, developers have a set of specifications and guidelines they must adhere to when producing software. With Android devices being built by a variety of companies, consistency could be an issue in the future. But as it stands, the potential for tweaks, add-ons and improvements is far greater on the open source Android platform.
Winner: HTC Dream
Android's interface is admirable, and perhaps the closest a competitor has come to toppling the iPhone, but it ultimately falls short. The HTC Dream's touch screen is responsive, but it lacks multi-touch, and it's slightly smaller than the iPhone's and not as smooth. Using the iPhone feels natural; transitions between screens are superb, animations are excellent and the overall ease of use is outstanding. Android has some pretty nifty interface features — the best of which is a superb, pull-down notifications system — but in the end, the iPhone is far more polished.
Winner: iPhone 3G
Apple holds a huge edge here. This is unsurprising — many of the company's products are accused of being all style and no substance. Regardless of the iPhone 3G's lack of some very basic features, its design is excellent. Compared to the HTC Dream, it looks sleek and attractive, with combined gloss plastic, rounded chrome edges and excellent attention to detail. The HTC Dream could easily be considered ugly, depending somewhat on your tastes. The Dream's matte black finish isn’t intended to attract fashion lovers, and HTC could have done a better job. The USB port cover is flimsy, the keyboard's plastic hinges are revealed when it is slid open and the bulky bottom section of the handset is more an annoyance than a thoughtful design choice.
Winner: Apple iPhone 3G