It’s true that until recently, Apple’s iPhone had the most and the best apps on the marketplace. Palm, Blackberry, Windows mobile – none of them have the selection and quality of applications that could rival the iPhone. The main reason for this is that those companies miss something that Apple got right – user loyalty.
But now, a new player is starting to gain traction. It’s the Android operating system, pioneered by Google and adopted by a wide range of big companies like Nokia, HTC, LG and others, which is almost a guarantee that the platform will survive, develop and thrive.
Android has implemented Apple’s technique of getting loyal users along with something else that is important to the big majority of people – freedom of choice. The Open Handset Alliance (composed of the above-mentioned big corporations), which owns Android has done this by opening the source code of the OS to the world and encouraging developers to do the same.
Technically, they couldn’t keep the code closed even if they wanted, as the Android OS itself runs on a Linux core, which, due to its GPL license (which basically says “Once free – always free”), can not have any derivatives with closed code.
So, now we have a new, very powerful contender in the mobile operating systems market, ready to take on the iPhone and crush it. And many truly believe that it can do that. In the last year, we’ve seen a lot of great applications launched for the Android platform, from augmented reality apps like Layar to excellent mobile photo editors like PicSay to superb 3D games with mind blowing, console quality graphics (Armageddon Squadron, the full version of Quake 3 Arena). A lot of these apps are completely free, which makes it even better for the users. And of course, many of them come with an open code which you can modify to suit your will and needs.
Of course, there are a lot of great applications for the iPhone (even more if you “jailbreak” it), but there are some apps that you can only get on Android. Below is a selection of some of the best ones.
Google Apps (Calendar, Gmail, Voice, Docs and others)
One of the biggest reasons to get an Android phone for current users of Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs and other Google apps is the complete integration of all these great cloud-based apps with the operating system. As the Android code base was largely created, supervised and is currently maintained by Google, it is not surprising that they went an extra mile to make sure the OS is fully integrated with their other products. And for many, this is the single most important thing when choosing a mobile device. It is much better doing search on Google, using Google Maps, Calendar and Gmail on an Android device, right from the box, than on any other phone, including the iPhone.
Nintendo ROM Emulator – NESoid
If you liked playing Nintendo games when you were young, you will surely like this application. It allows you to recreate a full retro Nintendo gaming experience on your mobile device, which will surely lead to a lot of entertainment for when you’re bored or are waiting in line, but also to a lot of wasted time playing Mario . All you have to do is find the ROM’s for your favorite games (there are plenty of sites where you can get them) and open them with NESoid. The free version of the app doesn’t allow you to save the game, while the paid version costs $3.50 – not a lot for a Nintendo in your pocket.
If there is one thing that iPhone users complain about the most is the lack of customization options, specifically for the home screen. When it was first released, iPhone’s only major competitor was Windows Mobile, which also lacked an in-depth customization of the Today screen, so Apple’s developers probably thought that their simple yet effective home screen was enough for most users. But now, with millions of people using the iPhone, there are bound to be a lot of people that want a different home screen layout. Some may want widgets, some may want their latest tweets and facebook updates displayed, and others just want a big clock to cover the screen. What matters is that the iPhone just can’t give them that freedom. Android, on the other had, can. Open Home was designed to let you easily customize almost every little thing on your screen, including where, when and how it appears. The result is a very individualized display for everyone’s liking, which truly shows that different people “think different”.
Quake 3 Arena
Like the NESoid, only better (in my opinion). The full version of Quake 3 in your pocket! I’m sure a lot of people remember playing it on LAN or with AI opponents and thinking it’s the best shooting game ever. At the time, it actually was. Now you can have it on your Android phone, with excellent, beautiful graphics and sounds that will make you want to play for hours. The only drawback is that you gotta
have a powerful enough device with a hardware keyboard (like the Motorola Droid/Milestone).
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Tethering
While there are apps that would allow you to tether your iPhone with other devices (like a laptop or the upcoming iPad) so that you can connect to the Internet using your 3G data plan, it’s impossible to do that without jailbreaking the phone. On Android, you can do it freely (you’ll only need root access which is easy to gain). So, if you were planning on buying and using the cheaper version of the iPad (which has only a Wifi adapter and no 3G) with your current iPhone and 3G plan (without having to pay for 2 contracts), you’re pretty much left with 2 options: jailbreak your iPhone or exchange it for an Android phone. By the way, if you were wondering, Steve Jobs said there will be no support for tethering between the iPad and iPhone.
This is just the beginning, and a lot of even better apps will come in the following years, as the platform is evolving and new, faster hardware is appearing. Take this into consideration when deciding to ditch your iPhone and buy a new smartphone.