Earlier this week, we compared the iPhone and Android in a knockdown showdown of features that matter to us. Upset with the lack of representation for webOS, reader Rothgar repurposed our chart and offered this thoughtful (and sometimes angry) counterpoint.
I understand that the iPhone is the king of the hill (well technically RIM is but they suck anyway and are only ahead because of the giant corporate following) and Android is the new buzz word, but how can so many comparisons just ignore webOS, the most intuitive, productive and flexible platform? Honestly I really am sick of the fact that webOS is left out of most mobile device comparisons simply because the "tech industry" doesn't use it because it isn't cool enough to get headlines (or because you can't buy it in Australia - Oz ed)
The only thing that gets webOS into the headlines is when one of their amazing and thought provoking creators leaves Palm to work for another company. Why is this big news if webOS sucks? The truth is, webOS is fantastic and these other mobile operating systems will benefit from the talent behind webOS. But that doesn't mean webOS is going to lose out because webOS is already ahead of all the competition.
The thing that has held webOS back is the fact that it was only on two phones and one of those phones had questionable build quality. But let's face it, there will be a new webOS phone in the future and I think we can all assume that Palm/HP aren't stupid about what hardware they need to use for the next webOS phone. The thing that finally made me write this rant was Lifehacker's article comparing iPhone to Android. I mean really, I understand that both platforms just announced major updates, (iOS 4 and Android 2.2) but I think that webOS, which hasn't seen a major update for at least 4 months, is still ahead of the game and I think it is about time that people start to recognise it.
I took the liberty to fix Lifehacker's article to actually take into account all three competing mobile operating systems in the consumer market.
Ed. note: We highlighted just how subjective our criteria were in our original post. Where Rothgar completely disagreed with our criteria, he slapped a big Bogus stamp across that category. Here's to an open dialogue!
Ease of use; Winner: 2-way tie This one we can call a tie between iOS 4 and webOS because both interfaces are just as easy to launch and run apps and both have little things that you need to get used to. Double tapping the home screen to switch apps isn't super intuitive and neither is forward/back gestures in webOS. In either case, Android is the loser.
Google also loses by making their "default" apps (Gmail, Maps, etc.) completely closed source and even takes down anyone who tries to share them. Palm on the other hand has written every built in app according to the standards they hold their developers to and made the apps all open source so you could see exactly how they built the app. Android and webOS are both fairly open, but webOS is more open and is the winner here.
Winner: Bogus category
What is this doing here?!? This has everything to do with hardware and almost nothing to do with software. In any case, I think we can agree that Android loses this category with almost zero battery conserving settings and complaints on almost every Android device. This is a bogus comparison when trying to compare mobile operating systems. If this were a debate between the iPhone 4, Evo 4G and Palm Pre Plus this would be a perfectly valid comparison.
Multitasking; Winner: webOS This is a no brainer. WebOS does multitasking better than any other mobile OS available period. Android is the only other one that even can run apps in the background but there is a reason that a task killer is the first thing every Android phone needs. And let's not even get into the difference between running apps and using approved services and fast app switching.
Software Keyboard; Winner: 2-way tie iOS has evolved into the best software keyboard and Android actually gives you options for keyboards, I would call this a tie because if you want to use swype on Android, you can. A software keyboard is only good if you are used to its idiosyncrasies and can use it. Personally, I rarely have to get used to a hardware keyboard, but webOS doesn't even have a proper soft keyboard option.
System-Wide Search; Winner: 3-way tie They all have it, they all work about the same with the same oddities and features. It is a tie. But just for the record, Android and webOS did it first.
Notification System; Winner: webOS Once again iOS is the clear loser here, and while I liked the idea of Android's curtain at first it just plain sucks after using it for a few months. I can't clear a single notification without clearing all of the notifications and I can't have extended controls in a notification. I know it is possible, but in all the apps I have installed, I have never seen actual controls inside the notification, just an icon that always stays there and opens the app when pressed.
Voice-to-text; Winner: Android This works really well 80 per cent of the time in Android and is the clear winner without a doubt. The bad thing is, I only use it 5 per cent of the time I am inputting any text. So it is great 4 per cent of the time I input text but really wouldn't be a missed function and I still would prefer a proper physical keyboard.
Syncing; Winner: 2-way tie Who the hell wants to plug their phone into their computer anyway? iOS loses here because you need iTunes for updates and setup. Android is great as long as you use Gmail and have a Google account. WebOS creates an account for you and stores all of your settings AND apps installed. So with webOS, if you break/lose your phone, you can log in with your Palm account and not only do all your settings from every service (sans Facebook) come back, but the apps you had installed come too.
Non-Google Syncing; Winner: webOS Ever heard of Synergy? You probably haven't, but it wins. Gmail, Facebook, Yahoo, LinkedIn and Exchange are all there, out of the box. There is not contest here.
Tethering; Winner: webOS iOS is just now putting this feature in but because it has the typical Apple restrictions, (no tether in to the iPad, really?) and Android still costs money on any carrier that will allow it, webOS wins because it is available on the Pre Plus and Pixi Plus and is completely free on Verizon. Yes I know if you root your Android phone you can do it for free, guess what, you can do the same thing in iOS and webOS so no one cares. Heck, Windows Mobile 6.1 had this feature and it worked great and was always free, doesn't mean WM is any good.
Release/Update Consistency; Winner: Bogus Category HUH?!? really? What does this have to do with how good a mobile OS is? because you know you will get an update every year? Is Windows better because you get patches every first Tuesday of the month? Or the fact that a new and improved Windows will come out every 3-5 years? NO it makes it worse. This shouldn't even be on this list.
Customisable; Winner: 2-way tie If we are talking about user customisations, Android wins hands down. Widgets are great, icons can be placed almost anywhere, and you can set anything you want as a background image. But if we want to talk about the underlying OS, that is a win for webOS. Just go look up Preware and kernel patches and then come back and see why I picked this as a tie for Android and webOS. Oh and I agree, webOS needs to allow more home/lock screen customisations. Widgets sure would be nice but not at the cost of slowing my phone down like it does in Android.
Apps; Winner: 2-way tie WebOS cannot complete here. Both Android and iOS have >50,000 apps and at that point it just doesn't matter. There will probably be an app for just about everything. I would actually call this one a slight win for Android just because you can still install apps outside of the marketplace and the web store they have announced should be a huge success. Oh ya, and that whole Apple approval process is a joke.
Web Browsing; Winner: 3-way tie
They are all based on webKit so what does it matter. Some will scroll faster than others and some have better resolutions, but that all depends on the phone and doesn't matter for rendering. Android and webOS may have slight wins over iOS because they have embraced Adobe flash but once again, that is a phone specific thing because the device has to be up-to-snuff for playing flash content. A three way tie.
Gaming; Winner: 2-way tie Android doesn't even have a language that enables the rich games that iOS and webOS allow. And besides the quantity, webOS has every bit of the quality as iOS so it is a tie.
Music Player; Winner: 2-way tie Android's built in music player is terrible, iOS' is as good as any iPod's (which doesn't really say much), and webOS' is just OK. The fact that webOS' player is open source makes the player really stand out from the crowd when you install simple things like lyrics, and wikipedia searches straight from the player. I know there are better 3rd party players on all the platforms but that is not what we are comparing here. So it is a tie between stock iOS and stock webOS.
Google Apps Integration; Winner: Android This is like saying iOS has the best iTunes integration. OF COURSE ANDROID IS INTEGRATED WITH GOOGLE APPS. If Android did not have the best app for Gmail I think we would all be very worried. This is one of those arguments that fluffs Androids numbers IMO, but I will leave it in just for the sake of argument. Every mobile OS will integrate with their own offerings, the problem is, Apple and Palm don't have email or web app offerings. This is more a win for Google and less of a win for Android.
Google Voice; Winner: 2-way tie Yes this is a cool feature, I have it (and have had it since it was Grand Central) but I never use it because it is iffy and I don't think the service is quite there yet. In any case, both Android and webOS have native apps for Google Voice and iOS is stuck using a web page. Android integrates deeper into the system, but all of the basic features/settings can be set on either platform so it is a tie.
So what is that total again? This time taking out the frivolous comparisons.
iOS = 8 Android = 9 webOS = 13
Do I own a iPhone, Android phone, or Palm device? No. I have a 4 year old Windows Mobile device (HTC Vogue) running Android 2.1. I have used plenty of iPhones and have convinced quite a few people to buy webOS devices. I just needed to let the few people who read this site know webOS is the best mobile operating system currently available on the market. I just hope other technology sites can finally recognise how great webOS is, and maybe stop focusing on flaws with a phone that came out when the original iPhone was still big news.
You can read Rothgar's original post on his blog.