Thursday, September 6, 2007

iPhone vs. Windows Smartphone

Which one is "better" - the iPhone or the Windows Smartphone? That's the question that many gadget-loving road warriors and cell-phone geeks are asking these days...

Here is my personal take:

I've been a big proponent of smartphone technology for a long time, and have been chasing the "perfect smartphone" for a while. Specifically, I've been hooked on using Windows Smartphone devices, because of the seamless integration with Outlook and the resulting automatic synchronization of all my contacts, calendar entries, tasks, notes, and e-mail over the air. And my favorite Smartphone so far was the Cingular/AT&T 8525. To meet a new business partner on the road, enter their contact details into the smartphone, and find the same person automatically in Outlook when you get back to the office is simply great - same goes for calendar entries.

So when my wife wanted a new iPhone when it came out, I was very sceptical. Sure, I do use an iPod Video and have been a big fan of the early Macs from 1986-1996, but I could no conceive of how the iPhone could offer anything to me - especially since my AT&T 8525 device had it all: UMTS, Wi-Fi, Push-Email, Windows-based Smartphone, PDF Reader, Pocket Word, Pocket Excel, Video, etc.

It took just one week.

I played with her new iPhone while we were in New York. I played with her new iPhone at home. I played with her new iPhone on the boat. After a few days she said "Buy your own iPhone!"...

So I did (at the Apple Store on 5th Avenue in NY) and I haven't touched the Windows Smartphone since.

The reason is very simple: UI design, UI design, and UI design! Just like with any great piece of software on the computer, it all boils down to the design of the user interface. Apple has managed to pack the essential applications into the device in such a way, that I actually started using them. Sure, the Windows Smartphone had a browser (Pocket IE), but it pales in comparison to the Safari browser that comes with the iPhone. Integrating Google Maps into the iPhone was a stroke of genius - it's so easy to use that I actually use it. Technically, I could have used it on the Windows Smartphone, and I even did once or twice. But I use it on the iPhone on a daily basis: to find a restaurant, get the phone number for a school, get the doctor's number, or just look up the way, if the car GPS is confused again (which happens a lot in Boston!).

E-Mail connectivity with our corporate Exchange server works great, and the difference between Push-Email and email that gets polled every 15 minutes is unnoticeable in reality.

Sure, I'm missing out on over-the-air synchronization of my contacts and calendar at the moment, but Apple has already licensed ActiveSync from Microsoft, so it's only a matter of time, before that will work on the iPhone. And until then I happily plug my iPhone into the laptop once a day to sync my contacts and calendar.

Bottom-line: even though the Windows Smartphone has some technological advantages (UMTS, Push-Email, over-the-air sync), the iPhone wins this comparison easily with the best UI design I've ever seen on a mobile phone plus it's 1/4 the thickness of the Smartphone and has a much larger screen!

Here's another reason why this XML aficionado likes the iPhone: it's all Web 2.0 based and you know what that means. Yup, it's using XML to talk to the servers!

UPDATE: Apple just annouced that the iPhone price has been reduced by $200 - what are you waiting for - go and get your iPhone now!


hourog said...

You didn't mention how you handle the loss of Excel on the iPhone.

Any suggestions? I need to access Quick Books generated spreadsheets. The iPhone has no capability, at present, to download these types of sheets for local use, mostly Cntrl-F, doing searches.

These workbooks are so large, the "flick" function is not workable.

A.Falk said...

Loss of Excel: good question - but it's really only the loss of Pocket Excel, and I found myself never using that for more than just looking at the spreadsheets...

The iPhone has a reader for displaying PDF, Word, and Excel and I found that sufficient for my purposes.

But I did never view large spreadsheets where I would be tempted to do a Ctrl-F Find on the Windows Smartphone either, because of the tiny screen.

Have you thought about trying a different approach: what if you uploaded your Excel sheets into the Google Docs & Spreadsheets Web 2.0 app and then accessed that through Safari on the iPhone?

Never mind, I just tried that and it doesn’t work because (a) Google Docs pops up a JavaScript alert that says “Sorry, Safari is not yet supported”, and (b) apparently there is no Find function in the Google spreadsheet.

How ironic is that: a search engine company makes a web 2.0 spreadsheet where you cannot search for stuff?!

Anonymous said...

Hi Alex, well were did the summer go.......anyhow I was glad to read you take on the iPhone. However, I am not sure it will work out for me as I still need to carry a notebook computer with Edge card from At&t to do quote on the road. However, maybe I could get rid of my iPaQ that I also carry plus my a Cell phone IF one can sync with Outlook Express, can it do that? I put of buying the iPhone as I was sure the price would drop and recently I lost my PDA with all my data in it (tuck ran over it after the 70 MPH wind blew of the roof of my car....don't ask) So I was stuck with no data but I still had my phone. Ok I think the stuff form Apple has some really big improvemts over Micsoft and I am very sorely temped to juck my 5 Windows machines and jump to them............what is holding me back? Don't know!
Final note: the Black back ground on you Blog is to dark on my PC's have you though of changing it to another color it would make you blog easier for me to read? Chow....speaking of which it is now time to get. Jim

Ed Dodds said...

As cool as iPhones are I wish they'd go ahead and release a tablet with VOIP and air card built in.

It would really be a boon to us chunky programmers who could get some walking done. More portable than the treadputer:

Norman said...

I'm waiting for an affordable plan. Voice and unlimited data at T-Mobile costs me about $40/mo. The least expensive plan I can find at AT&T is $60/mo. I might like the iPhone, but not to the tune of $240/year more than I'm paying now.