The iPhone 4 has been my primary phone, but back in December i picked up a Google Nexus S (Why the Nexus? Well, being that it’s the “official” Google phone, it benefits from OS updates before any other Android device gets it).
Anyway, I’ve had a number of friends ask about my preference between the iPhone 4 and Android Nexus S, so I’m posting my own layperson’s review comparing the two. For those wondering, I’m on AT&T, meaning that I can’t actually experience true 3G speeds with the Nexus (as it only works with T-Mobile’s 3G service in the states).
Both phones have 512 RAM and zippy performance thanks to their respective 1GHz processors. Both include an accelerometer, GPS, three-axis gyro, compass, front-facing camera, and proximity sensor. The iPhone contains a 640 x 960 pixel LED-backlit “retina” display, while the Nexus has a 480 x 800 pixel AMOLED capacitive display. The Nexus also sports an NFC chip for payment transactions, though it’s a moot offering since NFC isn’t really used stateside (yet).
I’ll say this–both are stunning devices thanks to their simplified design. I definitely like the Nexus’s design compared to other Android phones, though the iPhone is thinner, smaller, and feels a little more sturdy since its case doesn’t rely on any plastic parts (albeit slightly heavier).
My one gripe with the iPhone is that I can’t immediately detect which side is the front when I pull the phone out my pocket. Alternatively, Nexus’s curved back immediately indicates which side is which. I suppose another plus for the Nexus is the removable battery (although additional batteries aren’t something I really bother with for phones). Ultimately, though, I don’t think the curved back poses that much of an advantage for the Nexus since the iPhone’s design has spawned a whole market of cases; I could simply replace the Apple bumper i currently have with something sporting a sexier posterior. I can’t imagine as near a large market for Nexus cases given that there are so many other Android devices–and few maintain an similar form factor.
Both contain 5-megapixel cameras, and while the iPhone offers an HDR mode (which is the first I’ve seen on any camera) the Nexus allows for cropping and rudimentary exposure compensation. The Nexus also sports a digital macro setting, which is a nice touch.
As far as video goes, the iPhone supports 720p HD-quality, which trumps the Nexus.
In my rather non-scientific tests, both cameras are pretty similar in quality, though I’ve found that I prefer the iPhone’s UI simplicity. I suppose it’s because my mobile shots are usually very quick and candid. The exposure compensation on the Nexus inevitably yields noise in the photo, and I’m much more inclined to take my pictures into Photoshop and edit them where necessary.
Both phones also have front-facing cameras, but Apple’s FaceTime software has actually given me an excuse to use this second camera. Google does not have an equivalent to my knowledge, and I personally don’t use either device with Skype video.
Being that Android was the latecomer to the game, I found that there were still some apps that were missing from the Android market that were readily available on the iPhone, such as LinkedIn and Madden (after all, who can’t live without Madden on their phone?!). Apps in general behaved similarly, though the Android apps seemed to lack some of the polish that the iPhone equivalents have. Facebook, for instance, gives me regular connection errors on the Nexus.
The Nexus does support Swype (currently in beta), which I consider to be a game changer and something immediately missed when moving over to my iPhone or iPad. It also has Firefox, which would (sadly) never be allowed on the iOS.
Browsing on the Nexus feels a lot sloppier than on the iPhone, which surprised me, considering both browsers stem from Webkit. Zooming in and out of webpage columns yields choppy animations–a far cry from the smooth UI of the iPhone. I’ve also always been impressed with how the iPhone’s Safari browser detects column margins; I didn’t think Android’s browser did as good a job.
I immediately downloaded Firefox, and it’s all I use for browsing on the Nexus. The performance is relatively similar to Android’s default browser, but I find the tabbing more robust and intuitive.
Of course, the biggest difference between the two browsers is Flash support. I didn’t notice it so much in daily browsing, but appreciate the Google’s not so childish to omit a plugin for power users that might want it.
Herein lies some of the major reasons that i prefer the iPhone to Android.
My biggest complaint with Android stems from the physical back button, which is used to navigate as a back button on apps (and, as I understand it, isn’t consistently placed across Android devices). I guess the fact that it keeps track of your history is nice, but it comes across as a design flaw to me, since I often find myself looking for such a navigation element within the app’s touch screen area. Furthermore, when I rotate the device horizontally, reaching for the back button is really awkward.
I use Google for search, but I’ve always been skeptical of “the cloud”. I don’t use Google’s calendar or Gmail for saving contacts, yet Android requires a Gmail account to use the phone (I suppose I just don’t feel it’s right to share my friends’ contact information with a third party like Google). I finally discovered that I could transfer VCards via USB to the device (and avoid Gmail), but it’s tedious and yielded duplicate contact entries that didn’t match up with the Facebook sync. Of course, the iPhone doesn’t perform any syncing with third parties besides Yahoo! and Google . . .
Editing text is a disaster on Android, as in some cases it provides you with handles to select text and in other cases it shows a popup offering you to edit the text. The iPhone’s definitely better here, though this could be corrected in a future OS update.
This isn’t to say that everything on the Nexus was worse. Generic file transfers are easier on the Nexus since it will work as a USB flash device. Android doesn’t have iTunes, but doubleTwist fills the void when one wants to sync media files.
I definitely prefer Android’s non-intrusive notification system, which is displayed as a drop-down drawer and lists notifications from multiple apps. Apple’s iOS has no such inherent notification system (though you can download the free Boxcar app), and while I prefer the iOS popups for SMS messages, I find it annoying for everything else. Not surprisingly, Apple’s rumored to be working on an upgrade for this functionality.
So that’s pretty much where I stand with it. If anyone has questions, definitely leave a comment.