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As I've blogged previously, I'm looking to move away from the iPhone to an Android set, likely an HTC model.  Before I get into the meat of this personal transition analysis, let's just get something out of the way: I'm over the iPhone, but I absolutely acknowledge and respect the things it (and Apple) brought both to my life and to the mobile world at large, at least in the US.  Despite my grumblings about Apple IRL, this is not a knee-jerk decision, nor or is a hater maneuver.  Not only does my iPhone and it's crappy carrier give me grief on an almost daily basis, but Apple is heading down a path that I simply can't support, least of all with my wallet.  In overhearing friends and colleagues, I also feel like other iPhone users are in the same boat but don't know where to turn post-iPhone; maybe this will help inform (I'll follow up once I've made the switch as well).  It's been a great ride, but now it's over.

Back to the analysis.

I decided to first do a full audit of my most used & useful iPhone apps, and find their Android equivalents.  I'm leaving out all nonessential apps, both core and downloaded.  My four iPhone docked apps - Phone, Messages, Mail, & Safari - are all being assumed for Android.

As soon as I started, I was immediately reminded of Google's bizarre decision to hold back Android OS and app information on the web.  Not only do you need to go through a third-party website to search the Marketplace (I found AndroLib, AndroidZoom, and AppBrain), but I couldn't even find a web resource that listed Android's core OS apps.  I remember hearing someone gripe about the marketplace being a bit of a mess compared to the App Store.  But the fact that the Android website directs you to find a physical handset for information baffles me.  Isn't this supposed to be THE cloud company?  I do have my ladyfriend's phone for reference but after getting locked out of it for the 10th time, I decided to stick with the web for search.

The process for my analysis was to:

  • first go to the original source, to see if there is a direct 1:1, official Android version of the iPhone app
  • where there was none, search the third-party marketplace sites and Google the term "[name] app android" to see what would come up
(Anti-anxiety medication is required for using the third-party sites, so Googling became more and more appealing as this went on.)

This process - and the crappy marketplace sites - also got me thinking about the approval process for Android, and realizing that this foray was going to require a new mindset for app search and usage.  I found this great NPR post about their jumping into Android development for the NPR app, comparing it to their iPhone development experience.  It's a great refresher on the apt 'cathedral vs. bazaar' metaphor, which really applies to the user experience too.  It certainly encapsulates my thinking on the issue.

With a plan in place, I began the research, breaking out the apps as they currently live on my iPhone, which are basically grouped by personal importance.


Round 1: "Most Essential" / Home screen apps

iPhone Android
FlickIt (Flickr uploader app)
Weather Channel
News and Weather (built in)
CityTransit (NYC transit app)
(a couple of options)
New York Times
Newspapers (maybe)
Read It Later (offline caching app)
Tweetdeck (soon)
Ambiance (white noise app)
Ambiance (soon)

Right off the bat, I found my most essential apps addressed by Android developers.  The often-opened CityTransit app of NYC's MTA lines & advisories has a few comparatives, as does offline caching app Read It Later.  Facebook and Foursquare each have their own official apps, naturally, and while Tweetdeck and Ambiance are each citing "coming soon", there are currently a few alternatives for each.

Two major asides that arose from thinking about this batch.  First, I was reminded how much I'm looking forward to native Google service apps, especially Google Calendar, which I use both personally and professionally.  It's been said often that the difference between your wanting or needing an iPhone and an Android set can easily be determined by which company's services you use most.  I loathe iTunes, use a PC at home, and the only time I use a Mac is for work, at which I very rarely sync to my phone.  But I use Google like a maniac throughout every day, so a tightly integrated GPhone makes more sense for me.

The other theme that I noticed was how little I cared about apps for web-based information, like the New York Times app.  iPhone does not do a great job of RSS and Safari-based web access (I might throw 'general connectivity' to the mix, but that's due in large part to AT&T; wifi tends to provide).  On Amber's Nexus One, both functions work swimmingly.  So whether or not the Times ever gets their act together for an Android app, or if the Newspapers app even fits the bill, doesn't concern me.  I'll have a much easier time consuming their content through Android's lighter means, and not a bloated crash-prone third-party app.

Round 1 Conclusion: A


Round 2: Games

iPhone Android
2 Across

Low-hanging fruit first: Scrabble is available from the official source, and I'm fine with taking PuzzleQuest off of the iPhone and onto the DS (they had dubious iterative launches on the iPhone anyway, and the sequel is out next month and I want it now).  There are several other games on my iPhone, but I've either finished them or grown bored of them, so there's no need to carry them over.

But while no games are considered first-screen apps, this second screen is considered my phones right-hand man, for two reasons: gaming on the iPhone is awesome, and 2 Across is my hands-down favorite and most-used app of all time.  I've been in touch with Eliza Block, 2 Across' developer.  I asked if she had any plans to port the app for Android (it's a perfect daily NYT crossword downloader and the interface can't be beat).  An unfortunate resounding no; she works for Apple now.  I'm pretty sure the paid version of Crosswords will do the trick but I'm not certain.  And if it doesn't, it looks like there aren't any other viable options for daily Times crosswords.  This could be a major problem.

Generally speaking, I am concerned about this area of Android development.  The iPhone is beginning to really flourish as a gaming platform (Street Fighter IV isn't perfect but it is kind of amazing), and as more casual, portable games increase in popularity, so will their mobile adaptability.  It will be up to developers to decide on which OS to spend their energy.  Fortunately, I believe the future here for Android is bright, and I'm willing to gamble my mobile use on it.

Round 2 Conclusion: C (possible B, depending on Crosswords successes)


Round 3: Periodic use

iPhone Android
iPodMusic app
Air Sharing (file storage)
(USB cable)
ESPN ScoreCenter(several)
GoodGuide (product guide)
GoodreadsGoodreads (soon)
Articles (Wikipedia app)

The nonexistent Zipcar and GoodGuide Android apps don't concern me in the least; Zipcar is a bit of a fail, and as my packaged goods consumption goes down so does my interest in GoodGuide.  There is a core Android music app (though several sites deem it lacking, so a third-party player may be in order) and - finally! - direct file sharing via USB cable.  For Wikipedia, like the Times app, I'd be fine with web-based access only, though on the web I found the recommended Quickpedia app, just in case.  Goodreads has been great to have access to while roaming bookstores, but I'll have to wait for an Android port.  And I'm happy to ditch the ESPN ScoreCenter app entirely for either web-based access or any other third-party sports score app.

I also stumbled upon a little bonus. While searching sports apps, I did a quick look into fantasy sports apps, a void the App Store hasn't been able to fill.  While there's no official Yahoo! app to support my 2010 fantasy baseball league, I came across the aptly-named Fantasy Tracker app, which seems to integrate with Yahoo! and touts the functionality I'm looking for.  I have no real expectations of it but I'm very intrigued and excited at the prospect of being able to make on-the-go last-minute fantasy team decisions.

Round 3 Conclusion: A


Round 4: "Save it for later" apps

iPhone Android
This American Life This American Life (maybe), NPR news, Google Listen
Fandango Fandango
Amazon Amazon
MenuPages MenuPages (soon)

Used very infrequently, I'd still like to know that these apps are available on Android.  Oh, lucky day: a native calculator and clock, official Fandango and Amazon apps, and cab4me for on-the-fly taxi services.

I can live without the other two.  MenuPages is likely sufficient via the web (and even if it isn't, it's no loss), and while I love This American Life, streaming media apps never jived with me.  This might be a result of a city lifestyle, but even podcasts come and go as phases in my life.  So again, no big deal.

Round 4 Conclusion: A


Round 5: Back burner

iPhone Android
Various comics

And buried way in the back of the iPhone are a couple of comic apps that I've already read, to which I'm waiting for updates.  Comics are surprisingly fun to read on the iPhone - I'd imagine the iPad is fantastic for this - but believe me, it's better I not open the Pandora's Box of comic books on a device that makes it so easy to access and consume.  They're addictive and costly enough in physical form.  It's better I just pull the cord on these while I have the opportunity.


There are other things Android sets will do that my iPhone won't (and will never do, since OS 4 won't fully support my 3G handset).  Switching over will get me multitasking, camera flash (and probably zooming), augmented reality, well-integrated RSS & other major Google services, snappy performance, and last but certainly not least saying goodbye to AT&T.

I'll follow up in the next couple of weeks once I've made the switch; I'm currently spying the HTC Incredible.  From everything I've read, heard, and experienced secondhand, here are my hypotheses for my future Android:

  • Verizon service will be stellar in comparison to AT&T
  • The HTC will perform and respond far better than my current iPhone
  • App discovery will continue to be murky and apps less frequently downloaded
  • Gaming will not manifest seriously for at least another 6 months
  • Non-gaming app development will dramatically increase in the next 6 months
Updated - 3.9.10 @ 7.18pm (EST): fixed the mp3 link!

I've been goofing around a lot lately with my ringtone.  When 99% of all the iPhone users use the same two generic tones, it can be very distracting, not to mention boring.  When I bought my first cellphone 10-ish years ago, the very first thing I did was drop 99 cents on 50 Cent's "In Da Club" ringtone.  Today, there are just too many great flash-in-the-pan internet hilarities to not roll with.  And for someone who uses their cell phone for work, a fun ringtone is a great preceder to a client calling.

Last week I bought Ke$ha's "Tik Tok" and made myself a ringtone out of the mp3.  This week, the fantastic "Trololo" video took us all by storm, and it just made sense to do the same.

So, please to download: the Trololo ringtone, and accompanying mp3:

It's proving to be a great song with which to usher in the spring.  (I like to imagine the creeper in the video is the personification of spring, awakening from his long wintery slumber.)
Tomorrow is the keynote to Apple's WWDC 2009, and like every year prior, it's the most anticipated evah.  Gizmodo's last minute rumor round-up includes a new iPhone with colors, better hardware, upgraded cameras with video capabilities, new laptops, a new OS X, cold fusion, time travel, a uranium-fueled bionic Steve Jobs exoskeleton, and (just maybe) orange drink for the media.  If you've been following the mongering over the last month or so, the critical piece is clearly Jobs' presence, post-illness.  Because a cult can't survive without its leader.

I've had an iPhone for over a year now (the 3G for about a month) and I thought I'd take a minute to reflect on what this little gizmo has been capable of in that time, before we're all swept up in today's "new and improved!", losing sight of what already is:


Buy it, sign up with AT&T, and you've got yourself a basic working cellphone with calling and texting.  Except this one has a radical (and I don't use that word lightly) touch-screen, which makes using the other basic features - calculator, alarm clocks, stock checking, and music and video playback - less basic.

It's got a camera too, so you can take pictures.  But you can also instantly upload them to your Flickr account on the web.

It's a "smartphone", so it's got internet connectivity with standard emailing and web surfing. And it's also got a basic built-in weather forecasting app, but you can leverage the fast 3G wifi connectivity to get other weather apps with more in-depth features, like real-time radar.

The phone seamlessly integrates Google Maps - now with guided GPS capabilities - so you can see traffic directions, your own travel directions, and, for many locations, mass transit stops.  A complimentary MTA app details mass transit advisories in real-time, so you not only don't get lost, you also don't get stuck.  In the off-chance you do get stranded somewhere, there's an app that geo-locates nearby cab companies and with 2 touches, I'm extracted like a US Marine.

You can check not only the Yankees score in real-time, but you can track the game pitch by pitch faster than many websites.  Once the game has officially ended, within minutes you can watch high-resolution video with the MLB app.

You can connect with both your digital friends and my IRL friends, on Facebook and Twitter.  You can play social connectivity games, checking in at locations, meeting up with people and meeting new people.

As though it were the 2050 we thought up back in 1950, control my stereo system from the couch with the phone.

Like a middle-aged Boomer, you can check individual housing details on the fly as you cruise for-sale realty.  Like a senile octogenarian, you store several scannable shopper value cards, all in one app.

For my work, I can track my time and create action steps from inside a subway tunnel, and sync up online when I get street-side.  When I get to the office, if it's too busy for my tastes, I flip on a white noise app with endless soothing rhythms.

I can play over a decade of New York Times crossword puzzles, and dozens from other sources.  I can play poker or Scrabble alone or with my fiance with her iPod over WiFi.  Play pitch-perfect ports of SimCity 2 and Myst.  And when I've finished them all, I can open the Fandango app and buy movie tickets for a show in under 30 seconds.


Between the very fast 3G wifi and the year-old app store, there is a myriad of possibilities.  In my mind, there are really only two major limitations.  The first is your wallet, between the phone, the contract, and the micropayments for apps.  And the second is AT&T as its lone service provider.  Because when some cell tower went down this weekend and I had zero phone service in my home, my iPhone quickly became a very entertaining iPod touch.


Eric Tabone is Operations Manager at the digital strategy consultancy, Undercurrent. He lives in Brooklyn, New York with his awesome wife and two kick-ass cats.

All original opinions and commentary throughout this blog (comments excluded) are Eric's alone, and do not necessarily represent Undercurrent in any way.


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