A while ago Motorola ran a commercial for the Verizon Droid, listing things that the iPhone couldn’t do and proclaiming “Everything iCan’t, Droid Does!” Looking back on that commercial now, though, it seems like half of the features they listed are in the new iPhone 4, and the other half are kinda niche. Do you really decide to buy a phone based on whether or not it has a removable battery?
After using my HTC Aria for a while, though, I’ve started thinking about some basic features I use on it every day, that the iPhone and other iOS devices don’t have. I don’t mean “techie” features, like the ability to use Flash (sort of) or to load apps from outside the Android Market (on some phones). And I don’t mean shinies like animated wallpapers, either, although HTC Sense is very shiny. Here are the three Android features iPhones and iPads don’t have, that iCannot live without.
This Android feature is so convenient and basic, it boggles my mind why they didn’t include it on the iPhone and iPad.
What is text reflow? Well, it’s sort of like word wrap for your browser. On Android phones like my Aria, no matter how far I’m zoomed in or out on a webpage it makes the text flow to fit in the screen, so I only have to scroll up and down to read it. It even makes it fit if I tilt my phone on its side. Meanwhile, on iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad, if you aren’t zoomed out far enough to see everything you have to scroll left and right also. That just seems like it’d be incredibly inconvenient, especially on a device with a screen as small as the iPhone’s.
This isn’t a crippling disadvantage for the iPhone, because a lot of websites have “mobile” versions that fit on a phone’s screen. A lot of the ones that I go to, though, don’t, and every time I’m grateful for this Android feature.
Most Android phones come with either a trackball or some kind of touchpad. They were useful back in the days when Android phones did not come with multitouch, and they’re still used in some Android games, like Replica Island. Nowadays, though, they seem redundant; a needless throwback to BlackBerry form factors. So what are those trackballs good for?
Answer: Cursor positioning. Sometimes when I’m writing an email, filling out forms on a website, or otherwise entering text, I notice a typo or something that I want to edit. But trying to get the cursor positioned right, using only the touchscreen, is an exercise in frustration. That’s where my HTC Aria’s optical trackpad comes in handy. By running my finger across it, I can get the cursor exactly where I want it to go, making editing my words a breeze.
The iPad has a big enough screen that this probably isn’t a problem for it, but the iPhone and iPod Touch lack any real hardware controls besides the volume rocker and home button. Speaking of which …
These are the bane of minimalists, and their absence is one of the big reasons why the iPhone looks so uncluttered. And while phones like my HTC Aria have extremely tastefully-designed hardware keys, flush with the screen on the glass, that also makes it easy to accidentally trigger them while browsing the web or playing games. So this is, admittedly, a toss-up, which depends on whether or not you prefer it.
This article is about the Android features iPhones don’t have which I can’t live without, though, and I really like Android hardware keys. I can always tell which Android apps were originally made for the iPhone, because their interfaces are cluttered; they’ve got rows of huge buttons along the top or the bottom of the screen, taking up precious screen space, while native Android apps hide them until you press the Menu button. I also like how the Back, Home, and Search buttons work so predictably on my Android phone, and are so useful across applications.
So those are the Android features iPhones don’t have, that I can’t live without. It’s worth pointing out, though, that there are features iPhones have that are hard to come by on Android phones, including a ton of good apps.
It’s also worth pointing out that the comparison isn’t really “Android versus iPhone,” but rather “The HTC Aria versus the iPhone,” or any other given Android device versus an iOS device. Because “Android” isn’t a phone, like the iPhone is; it’s just a way for companies like Samsung and HTC to make tablets and phones like the iPad and iPhone. You have to look at each one individually, to see if it has the features you want.
Android devices have a lot of things in common, though! Hopefully this article helped to point out some of their strengths. Scroll down and leave a comment if there’s anything you’d like to add … and whatever phone you use, I hope you have fun with it!