March 04, 2010, 9:51 AM — Can Google Android phones compete with the Apple iPhone? A few weeks ago, Google loaned me a Nexus One smartphone for experimentation, and I've spent the time since downloading applications and writing my own code. The good news is that the platform is not only competitive but is often a better choice than the iPhone for many programmers and the enterprises that employ them.
The Android line is now competitive enough that the casual user may look at the two platforms and assume they're twins. Both let you call people and fire up a number of apps by mashing your finger into one of an endless matrix of square icons. Both let you pull up Web pages. To my unsophisticated eye, the iPhone interfaces still look a bit prettier, but for most basic uses, iPhone and Android are as similar as Ford and Mercury or Coke and Pepsi.
[ A number of handy tools help you make the most of the Linux at the root of your Google Android phone. See "Android apps for developers and IT pros." ]
The differences become apparent if you want to do more than make a few phone calls and iFart around. The iPhone app marketplace is dramatically larger and deeper, but there's already a palpable difference in the style. While iPhone developers have found that one path to success is playing to our baser instincts (until Apple shuts them down), a number of Android applications are offering practical solutions that unlock the power of a phone that's really a Unix machine you can slip into your pocket.