iPhone versus Android (HTC Hero edition)

htc_heroAfter MAX I went backpacking and fell in a river with my iPhone in my pocket. The iPhone is not a fan of water so it was totally dead. I have to get a new one through the Adobe system but this week everyone at Adobe has been on vacation so I wasn’t going to be able to pick up a replacement. That left me with the HTC Hero that I’ve got for demoing Flash mobile content. I swapped the sim card and I’ve been using it all vacation. I hadn’t used any phone but the iPhone for a prolonged period of time in a while so I figured I’d write up my thoughts on the iPhone versus Android now that I’ve actually had to learn the Android quirks.

Overall User Experience

I really, really want Android to succeed. But the iPhone is still the king when it comes to user experience. I find the HTC Hero with Android to be much, much less snappy than the iPhone. When I click something on the iPhone, I get an immediate reaction. On the HTC Hero, there’s a noticeable delay which becomes very annoying. However I like the UI for the Hero a lot better. Android has a nice, polished UI that is mostly intuitive and a bit more interesting than the iPhone’s boring button UI. The responsiveness is what got me though. On a faster phone, I could see Android being king here, but right now: Winner: iPhone

Battery Life

I found the battery life between the iPhone and the HTC Hero to be pretty equal, they both last me less than a day with heavy use. But one thing that I found extremely annoying is that the HTC Hero takes forever to charge via USB while the charging the iPhone over USB works really well. As a result: Winner: iPhone

Software

I love the Android software. I know Apple has the “There’s an App for That” crap, but out of the box, Android rules. Being able to install applications with a barcode scan is also really slick. I found the Android software to be more full featured, have many more hooks into the social networking services I’m a junkie for, and generally just more fun to use. If it wasn’t for the sluggishness, it would be perfect. The exception to this is the mapping. It’s abysmal. No gesture support for zooming, you can’t click on markers and interact with them in the same way you do on the iPhone. It’s just terrible to use. But In general, even with that and all of Apple’s apps, Winner: Android/HTC Hero

Typing

I type a lot on my mobile devices because I use them pretty heavily for email. I found it took a while to get used to the Hero’s keyboard. I like the fact that Android offers you a set of words based on what you’ve typed so you can auto-correct. That feature also makes it easy to add things to the dictionary because you can just click the word you typed and it will be added (no more ’shot’ and ‘duck’). But even with that enhancement the iPhone’s keyboard is just better at detecting which letter I want to type next. Maybe I just need to spend more time with the Hero, but Winner: iPhone

Annoying Things About Android/HTC Hero

No sensor that detects when the phone isn’t near your face any more. This is just a limitation of the phone but it is annoying as hell. I also think the phone is too “buttony”. While I like the rollerball, it seems like any time I want to do something I have to click a button. With the iPhone they did a great job of making it as gesture-based as possible. The browser is a good example. On the iPhone, to type a URL, just move to the top of the page, and type it. With Android, you have to push the “menu” button. Takes some getting used to and the iPhone feels more natural.

Annoying Things About the iPhone

No Flash Player for one :) . But I also loved the GPS indicators on the Android. The little stauts icon at the top tells you whether you actually have GPS signal, and the camera lets you know when you’re locked on so it can geotag your photos accordingly. I really wish the iPhone had that.

Summary

In the end, the iPhone is just too damn good. I have high hopes for the Droid, but I’m on AT&T so I won’t be seeing it any time soon. But if the new processor is as good as people say it is, then hopefully we’ll get a snappy Android phone on AT&T soon. When that happens, I’ll ditch the iPhone in a heartbeat.

HTC Hero – Consumer Review

device

As some of you have seen me tweet (@markadoherty) last week I received a new phone the HTC Hero.  The devices comes in a few different colours, but I got the white version simply because it’s got Teflon coating.  The device itself is pretty resistant to scratches and greasy paws on the screen, a life in my pocket isn’t easy :-)

Summary

Build quality for the Hero is outstanding, the device is light but feels really solid to hold.  As many of you have heard me bleat previously buttons are always a big giveaway when it comes to quality.  If a button rocks in it’s bezel, or has a poor action you can tell that it’s not designed to last.  With the Hero there’s no issues with any of the front facing buttons, the volume control on the side could have been toughened up.

The screen quality is great, it’s sharp and bright right to the corners and sports 320×480 pixels with multi-touch support.  I’ve found it to be highly responsive and accurate, and with the accelerometers I can type in portrait and landscape mode very easily.  In the screenshot above you can see the rich SenseUI provided by HTC, everything on the screen is customizable because they are either Widgets or shortcuts.

Android has come on leaps and bounds in its first year, with the addition of on screen keyboards, widgets and a major OS upgrade bringing stability, performance and entertainment features.  The Hero demonstrates that HTC really have their finger on the pulse, but it’s not without glitches as you’ll see below.

Widgets

The clock and weather Widget also displays my current locale and automatically determines the weather, this changes as I move around London and so is really accurate.

stocksnoel

books

If I swipe my finger left or right from the Home Screen I can move to other spaces, in each of these I can add new widgets to personalise the experience.  You can see in the screenshots above that I have added my SMS/MMS messages, a Stocks Widget and some quick links for Web browsing.  The widgets are updating using very simple Android Widget framework, which is fully customizable.  So I can inform the Twitter Widget to update every 4 hours rather than every 5mins (which is the default and had my account suspended).

Web Browsing

As far as mobile browsing goes Android has from v1 been able to deliver a great experience for end users.  It’s based on the open source Webkit browser with some modifications for performance and to tailor it to run well on Android’s UI framework.  Currently it does not support HTML5 but it does have Location support, which is a great boon to tailoring searches for mobile devices.  In fact it borrows the same location technology as Google Maps, so there’s no need for GPS.

browser

Flash on Android

Of course the feature that’s most important to me is the support for Flash on Android, in fact it’s the first Android device to support the Flash Player.  With such a high resolution 3.2″ multi-touch screen you’ll notice that Flash fits particularly well in this form factor.  As with some later Nokia devices it’s now possible to view multimedia content made available by various content sites using Flash today.

stocksnoel

books

Sites like Yahoo Movies, Youtube and various games sites can now provide mobile experiences designed to work with mobile screen sizes. Using the pinch and zoom functionality of the device a user can easily navigate around.  In the image above you can see a video that started to playback automatically to promote a new movie.  I should point out that while annoying at times, this is also how the business model for the site works (there was no audio btw).

stocksnoel

books

If you want to watch a video or play a game in full screen mode you can simply double tap on the content and it will playback in full screen mode.  You can see in the screenshots above the trailer for the new movie Orphan playing back in full screen mode, and in windowed mode also.  Also shown above is the BBC’s iPlayer showing a few videos in the carousel.  Now I should point out that iPlayer doesn’t work in the browser because the desktop video file was 627mb.

I have noticed a few browser crashes, and interestingly my Google start page is the usual culprit.  Wonder if it’s the location feature?

Social Networks

people

One of the great features of the HTC Hero, and I suppose the Android OS is the ability to “do what you want”.  HTC have nailed the principle that phones are social devices, yes they help us communicate but they also enable us to organize our busy lives like never before.  With the Hero, Facebook and Twitter have been built right into the platform with full contacts integration.

During the setup of the device the application will automatically try and match your phone contacts with Facebook and other Social networks.  This can be a little bit of a hassle if you have hundreds of contact, but it’s well worth the time and the suggestions are pretty good.  An example of where it goes wrong is that SIM cards only hold a single name string, not first and last name and there’s no way to know that “Mum” = “Margaret Doherty” on Facebook.

serge

stocksnoel

As you can see each contact can be linked from my address book (”People”) to their Twitter, Facebook and Flickr accounts. I’ve opted to not use Flickr because I don’t use it for Photos, and prefer to get updates from Facebook for that. It’s a personal choice though and I’m sure many people would like updates across the board.

Exchange Support – Fail

fail

As you can see Exchange support wasn’t such a great experience, because as it turns out the Hero doesn’t support installation of SSL Certificates.  At Adobe we use a corporate SSL certificate for mobile devices to ensure that each device has been setup by a known employee.  The benefits of the certificate and installation are numerous and it’s a pretty standard corporate IT policy.  On this front therefore “Exchange support” is a fail and a real pity as everything else works perfectly.  I seriously wonder how they got this so wrong?

Exchange Support via Moxier

Without Exchange support the HTC Hero would never have been my personal phone but for a company called Moxier.  It was well known that MS Exchange support was not a strategic priority for Google, and while that makes sense it’s great to see that Android is open enough for others to build a business around these opportunities.

Moxier, DataViz RoadSync and Roadrunner have been created to fill this gap and today Moxier ($29.99) fits my requirements and includes SSL support.  RoadSync would have been my choice but for the lack of SSL support and the great UI, support and 10 second installation and setup was nothing short of perfect.

mail-synccalendar

Inbox

Included are Calendar, Email, Sync and Contacts support including access to the Global Address List so that I can look up other employees easily.  I’ve also found that the Calendar is pretty well thought out, particularly the agenda view shown above where I can see the next meetings coming up.

What you might notice is that my Agenda is pretty light on meetings, and that’s where problems have started to show.  As it turns out some meetings are not synchronising correctly, most notably those with timezone offsets and that’s pretty common for me given my position.

In all it’s pretty good but an industrial strength solution is required for enterprise customers, missing appointments would make me look bad.  Saying that, it’s better than nothing and I’ve reported the bugs so let’s hope the developer is spending my $30 wisely :-)

Next Post

My next post is going to be all about my investigation into getting Flash standalone applications to work.  I’ve been “fiddling” with the Android SDK and so far I’ve managed to start Flash independently and load the File Picker.

Hopefully I’ll complete the investigation tomorrow!!

Flash Player Marketing for the HTC Hero

28072009095

Today I was holding an analyst briefing here in London on our Digital Home Platform, and on the way to the office I spotted the advert above for the HTC Hero. The launch of the device will happen on the Orange network here first, but there’s an interesting addition in the marketing.

As you can see “with Adobe Flash Player for an enhanced online experience” represents basically the only feature other than the tariff. So in itself Flash support has become a marketable feature item, that’s great progress for the Flash Platform.

I believe this is the first time that we’ve seen this with mobile phone advertising, so keep your eyes out for more of this!