Ever since Google Android's popularity began to surge last year, arguments are blazing over which smartphone operating system reigns supreme.

Tom Spring and Robert Strohmeyer both have strong views on the subject, and they're ready to present their arguments. First up, senior editor Tom Spring explains why he's had it with Android.

Hasta la vista, Android; Hello (again), iPhone

In the beginning, turning on my Droid X for the first time felt triumphant, exciting, nearly revolutionary in the face of the omnipresent iPhone minions. My new Motorola Android phone croaked a baritone 'Droid' as its freakish red eye blinked and looked into my eyes for the first time. It was love at first sight. Now, seven months later, the honeymoon is over.

These days, pulling the hulking smartphone from its charging perch makes me wince - will it freeze on me today? Should I switch to the iPhone? No question about it!

Here are five reasons I'm ditching my Droid X for the Apple iPhone.

Core apps are too buggy
Too often, trying to view images I've imported and taken with the Droid X camera produces the message 'unsupported file type'. I reboot my Droid X, and bingo: Images and videos are suddenly viewable. I have the same problem with audio files; as I gear up to listen to music, the dreaded 'unsupported audio type' message appears. Pressing Restart solves the problem.

Then there are the Android OS lockups in which the only solution is either a reboot or pulling the battery from the back of the phone to force a reset. I also would love to use the Voice Commands app bundled with the phone, but the application takes 10 seconds (an eternity in smartphone time) to load and prompt me to 'Say a command'.

If such occurrences cropped up only on a monthly basis, I could live with it. But I'm running into these types of errors weekly. It's got so bad, I'm thinking one of these days a Blue Screen of Death will appear and I'll have to press Ctrl-Alt-Delete to reset my phone.

Think I'm alone? Multimedia bugs are some of the most frequently complained about topics on DroidXForum.com and Motorola's troubleshooting support forum.

My Droid-centric colleague Robert will try to counter this argument, but he is conveniently sidestepping the fact that my criticism concerns preinstalled and core apps that are frozen onto my Android phone. It's one thing to gripe about apps I download from third parties, but this is another matter entirely. My current iOS devices and my past iPhone had core apps that were far more reliable. I'm not imagining things, either: On Motorola's support forums, the petition to remove the Droid X's preinstalled apps has garnered 108,000 views so far.

NEXT PAGE: Lack of accessories

  1. The smartphone platforms go head to head
  2. Lack of accessories
  3. Security
  4. The case for Android
  5. Optional accessories
  6. iPhone security

Which is better, Apple's iPhone or handsets running Google's Android OS? Tom Spring speaks up for the iPhone in the battle of the smartphone OSes.

Lack of accessories
Want to buy a speaker charging dock for your Android phone to listen to all the great music on it? Good luck tracking one down. If you do find one (let me know), you can bet that the pricing and selection will be discouraging. In the meantime, you'll have to snake wires from your phone's audio-out jack to a sound system's audio-in.

The problem, of course, lies with the fact Apple has cornered the market in third-party audio-dock devices. I don't like this fact much myself - but I certainly like the options that the iPhone affords.

According to my buddy Robert, I should be content with the stereo jack and the Droid's built-in DLNA streaming capabilities. Earth to Robert: I'm a big fan of wireless DLNA - the only problem is the paucity of affordable multimedia players that support it. The fact that both of our Droids support micro-HDMI is great, but we still have hardly any multimedia docking and charging stations for Android phones to choose from.

Video on Android blows
There has to be a better way to get great-looking video on my phone. I have several movies and television shows that I'm just itching to get onto my Android handset. With iTunes I'm forced to jump through several hoops, but the end results are great (thanks to VLC Media Player for iOS). No matter how hard I try with my Android phone, no matter which video encoders I use or the video players I download from the Android Market, I'm left dissatisfied.

Video transferred to my phone via my PC looks choppy, has out-of-sync audio, and sometimes just won't play. Robert will try to play the 'it-works-on-my-phone-what-is-the-problem-with-Tom' card, but give me a break. What's wrong with my Droid X? Good question. I would like to know the answer - and so would the hundreds of people who are flocking to support forums such as DroidXForum and Motorola's site, complaining of similar problems.

Robert will respond by trying to minimise the importance of mobile video and declaring it an unusual or undesirable use case; but I'm a mobile-video junkie, and I don't think I'm alone. Part of the allure of the Droid X was that its display was significantly larger than those of the iPhone and other handsets. That I'm somehow in a minority for wanting an easy and reliable way to put video onto my Droid X is absurd. To expect average users to use the HandBrake utility - which is no iTunes as far as usability goes - is unrealistic.

NEXT PAGE: Security

  1. The smartphone platforms go head to head
  2. Lack of accessories
  3. Security
  4. The case for Android
  5. Optional accessories
  6. iPhone security

Which is better, Apple's iPhone or handsets running Google's Android OS? Tom Spring speaks up for the iPhone in the battle of the smartphone OSes.

Security
I don't buy the argument that the Android Market has lower-quality apps - I've had just as many apps lock up on my old iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad as I have on my Droid X. But I am concerned about security.

In the iPhone universe, Apple reviews all apps before it allows them to be sold through its App Store. A similar kind of quality review doesn't exist in the Android world yet. That means we need to trust developers more, read user reviews more carefully, and - for the paranoid - buy mobile security software.

Although iPhones and Android-based handsets are both vulnerable to malware and phishing scams masquerading as legit apps, at least for now the iPhone seems to have taller castle walls.

Android is sloppy; iPhone strives for perfection
Apple is the ultimate control freak, dictating every aspect of the iPhone from the size and shape of the buttons to the selection of available apps. Some people see this as Apple's weakness - overzealous behaviour that will forever marginalise the iPhone as a bit player.

I'd agree, but the flip side is dealing with nonstandard hardware, temperamental software (read above), and the chaotic Android Market. I'm okay with a porn-free App Store if that means I don't have to wade through 200,000 poorly organised and hard-to-navigate apps, as I currently do on the Android Market. As our colleague Jared Newman points out in his Android Market-App Store comparison: "Searching for 'Angry Birds' returns 20 junky results (mostly ringtones, cheats and knockoffs) before the actual game."

Robert will say that few significant apps are missing from the Android Market, but I have an eight-letter-word response: Scrabble. Not only is my favourite iOS game not available on my Android, but other iPhone apps have yet to become available on Android, too. And as Jared previously pointed out in his comparison, some apps "that exist on both platforms lack certain features in the Android version. PayPal, for example, can cash cheques on the iPhone but not on Android".

When the Droid X was launched, I jumped at the chance to upgrade from my iPhone. But now I'm seriously reconsidering my choice.

The Droid X has no one fatal flaw, such as a faulty antenna. Rather, my gripe with the handset is that the phone's problems are more akin to water torture - with each bug, glitch, and hiccup being another agonising drop.

NEXT PAGE: The case for Android

  1. The smartphone platforms go head to head
  2. Lack of accessories
  3. Security
  4. The case for Android
  5. Optional accessories
  6. iPhone security

Which is better, Apple's iPhone or handsets running Google's Android OS? We put the two platforms head-to-head in the battle of the smartphone OSes.

Robert Strohmeyer makes his case for Android

My esteemed colleague Tom Spring has presented his argument against Android phones and made a case for iPhone supremacy. He is, of course, entitled to his opinion, however puerile and ill-considered it may be. Allow me now to present my observations on the matter.

I won't try to convince you that iOS is a bad mobile platform. It isn't - in fact, I think it's pretty great. I use an iPad daily in my work, and I have an absurd fortune invested in apps for the thing. But I prefer the sophistication and versatility of Android to the limitations of the iPhone.

Tom has discussed a number of problems - a few of them valid - with Android phones, but he has failed to argue convincingly for the iPhone's superiority in most of those cases. He has criticised his Droid X for unstable apps, lame multimedia tools, and what he views as a poor selection of downloads in the Android Market. He has painted a picture of a phone plagued by weak security and sloppy implementation issues.

But on each of those charges, I don't believe the iPhone is appreciably better. A few of Tom's complaints have nothing to do with Android at all, and owe entirely to Tom's choices as a user. I'll explain why. I'll also explain why the trade-off for greater control over the OS and the device itself is well worth whatever minute gains the iPhone can offer in some features.

OS and app stability
Buggy apps are a drag, to be sure, and I hate crashes every bit as much as Tom does. But iOS isn't immune to crashes, either.

Just last week, the Epicurious app (one of the most popular downloads in the Apple App Store) crashed repeatedly on my iPad. Every time I tapped the app's icon, it would load to a blank, black screen, and then suddenly drop me back to the iOS home screen without so much as an error message or acknowledgement that something was wrong. I did a hard shutdown on the device and started it up again, and then the app worked fine. This is far from an isolated incident. iOS crashes are common.

In the past year I've probably experienced about a dozen crashes like the one mentioned above on my iOS devices, and roughly a similar number (including that unbelievably irritating 'unsupported audio type' message that Tom mentioned) on my Droid. Both platforms can be infuriatingly buggy at times, and if we're keeping score, neither platform gets a point in this round.

Tom claims several of the apps that give him trouble are core apps that came with his phone, but I'm not moved by that argument. Not only do his claims ring untrue in light of my experience, but every single one of the Droid X's core apps is replaceable with a good alternative from the Android Market. Compare that with the App Store arrangement, in which Apple has spent the last three years aggressively defending its turf and preventing great third-party apps from competing with its included ones.

I agree that the inability to delete apps is annoying, and I loudly second the motion to pressure Motorola to knock off the shenanigans. But have you ever tried to remove a core app from the iPhone? The complaint applies equally there.

Of course, I'm not at all trying to defend apps that crash, regardless of the platform. I just don't see the evidence that Android apps crash so much more than their equivalents on iOS.

NEXT PAGE: Optional accessories

  1. The smartphone platforms go head to head
  2. Lack of accessories
  3. Security
  4. The case for Android
  5. Optional accessories
  6. iPhone security

Which is better, Apple's iPhone or handsets running Google's Android OS? Robert Strohmeyer argues in favour of Android in the battle of the smartphone OSes.

Optional accessories
You want a speaker dock for your iPhone? You have plenty to choose from, but they range in price from £30 to £300 and few play nicely with anything but an iPhone, which means they're single-purpose devices designed to keep you locked into Apple's ecosystem. Tom rightly points out the dearth of options designed explicitly for the Droid X, but this strikes me as a hollow victory. After all, both the iPhone and the Droid X (as well as a bunch of other Android phones) offer plenty of other multimedia output options that make expensive speaker docks look about as absurd as they actually are.

On iPhones and Android phones alike, you'll find a standard 3.5mm stereo jack. And both platforms support wireless streaming over DLNA. My Droid X has the advantage over the iPhone here, though, because it boasts a standard micro-HDMI port rather than a proprietary Apple connector. So I can buy a micro-HDMI cable at any electronics store to hook my phone up to my HDTV, while Apple offers only composite and component cables for iOS devices that cost considerably more.

I do sometimes wish that we had more choices for Droid X cases and such, but I'm also glad they're not necessary just to avoid the call-ending grip of death that has plagued the iPhone 4.

Video playback
There's no denying it: iOS devices are great for multimedia. You can buy and rent movies and TV shows straight from the devices through iTunes, and they work beautifully. By contrast, the lack of a stand-out source for video rentals and purchases on Android makes a Droid phone look like a poor choice for the video-on-the-go set. But let's examine this notion more closely.

According to Tom, no matter what video player he uses or what encoder he tries, he can't get decent video playback on his Droid X. I'm baffled by that statement, because I have lots of home movies on my Droid X, and they play great. I shot most of these with my Flip camcorder and simply dragged them to the Droid X's SD Card via USB with no extra effort or special encoding whatsoever, and the audio is synched perfectly. What could Tom possibly be doing wrong?

I don't have much interest in watching movies or TV shows on my phone, but for the sake of science I decided to try ripping a feature-length movie from DVD using the free HandBrake utility and copying that to my Droid. Again, it worked beautifully. Tom questions whether users should be expected to use a free download like HandBrake to put movies on their phones, yet he sees no problem with using a remarkably similar utility (VLC) for the same purpose. I don't get the distinction. It's not as if iTunes will rip a DVD movie to your iPhone.

Android still lags behind iOS in its selection of streaming video services, but that appears to be changing. VLC is coming soon for Android.

Once I scratched the surface of Tom's whole video argument, it quickly crumbled. I give both platforms a point here. And I'm giving Tom a demerit for his inability to make video work (seriously, this stuff is virtually effortless on both platforms).

NEXT PAGE: Security

  1. The smartphone platforms go head to head
  2. Lack of accessories
  3. Security
  4. The case for Android
  5. Optional accessories
  6. iPhone security

Which is better, Apple's iPhone or handsets running Google's Android OS? Robert Strohmeyer argues in favour of Android in the battle of the smartphone OSes.

Security
Whether smartphone security really matters at the present time is largely a topic of debate. Both iOS and Android have some vulnerabilities; but as far as I'm aware, neither has fallen prey to any particularly damaging attacks. Tom's suggestion that Apple has "taller castle walls" appears to be nothing more than an assumption at this point.

Choices, choices
Tom argues that Android is 'sloppy'. I hear variations on this claim a lot, but I'm unconvinced. I've spent my fair share of time in iOS on the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch, and I have to agree that Apple has gone to great lengths to give the menus a touch of flair and consistency. But there's more to an interface than shiny chrome and faux-lighting effects.

When I look at my Droid X's screen, I get instant access to useful information. My to-do list is readily visible in a widget on the main screen, so I can see what needs my attention next; another widget I keep on the home screen lets me instantly capture notes, pictures, or voice recordings to Evernote.

App notifications appear in the top menu bar, and I can swipe it down to go straight to the most pressing notification. By contrast, while iOS will give me a push notification stating that some app somewhere on the device demands my attention, I then have to go swiping around the device looking for the app. And if I have multiple notifications, I have only the little red notification bugs above the various icons to guide me. I'd expect Apple's engineers to simplify this process, but they haven't.

These functional interface touches are excellent examples of the increased control and customisability that make Android great. iOS offers neither of these incredibly useful features, and I wouldn't trade them for any amount of Apple's design flair. Want to give Apple a point for polish? Fine. But give Android two points for usability here.

Only one company makes the iPhone, and only four versions of the thing have come out. And, as Tom points out, Apple polices its ecosystem through draconian measures. So, frankly, the fact that Apple has had as much trouble with its precious handsets as it has is a little perplexing. By contrast, dozens of different Android devices are on the market.

Tom tries half-heartedly to imply that the wealth of existing options for Android users is somehow a fault for the platform, but he doesn't get very far. As with the PC market, choice is a good thing, and the lamer options tend not to garner much attention from consumers.

Tom also brings up the App Store and the Android Market, and their respective selections. The Android Market has plenty of great options, and I'm hard-pressed to think of any top-notch iPhone apps that aren't also available in the Android Market (or at least reported to be coming soon). But I disagree that the Apple App Store is substantially better organised than the Android Market. Both are disasters.

What is so difficult about creating reasonable subcategories that would make download listings easier to navigate? In either store, searching for a good to-do list (a significant category in its own right) requires users to surf through hundreds of irrelevant entries for other apps that fall under the general category of productivity. Apple and Google should be equally embarrassed by the state of their app markets.

On balance, though, I'll take choice over restriction anytime.

I'm currently on my second Android phone, and I'm looking forward to my third sometime in the coming. As for the iPhone? Tom can have it.

See also: Android vs iPhone vs BlackBerry: the best OS for apps?

Google Android 2.3 review

Evernote review

  1. The smartphone platforms go head to head
  2. Lack of accessories
  3. Security
  4. The case for Android
  5. Optional accessories
  6. iPhone security