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October 13th 2011 9:02 pm

Why I don't use an iPhone

People always want to know what phone I'm using -- which is one big reason why I started gdgt -- and I often get asked why I don't use an iPhone. The launch of the iPhone 4S this week presented me with yet another opportunity to pass over Apple's offering, so I thought I'd lay it out my reasons for sticking with Android.

Let me preface all this by saying that this is not a criticism of your choice of phone. If you like your phone I am really happy about that. Seriously. There's a reason why we call it "personal technology" and that's because it's stuff that is an intimate part of our lives and anything that is that important by definition has to be a personal choice. I should also mention that my decision to use Android isn't because of some particular devotion to it as a platform, I'd switch in a second to something that I thought better suited my needs (and it's been promising to see all the improvements in Windows Phone, they just need to hit more of the very specific things I'm looking for). And anyone who knows me knows that it certainly isn't because I have some issue or problem with Apple -- I own three Macs and an iPad, all of which I quite like.

So here's why I'm an Android user:

Gmail - This might be the biggest single thing I like about Android: you simply can't get a better Gmail experience on a smartphone. My work life revolves around Gmail and my entire workflow is based on managing all of my email through the web-based and mobile versions of Gmail. Yes, you can access Gmail on an iPhone via the browser or the mail app, but you can't do the sorting and starring that is critical to how I get things done.

Larger screens - I don't care what anyone says, 3.5-inches is too small for me. I find it easier to type on a 4-inch or 4.3-inch screen and watching video is generally a better experience and I like that there are plenty of Android phones that come in those sizes now.

Replaceable batteries - This isn't an option with every single Android phone, but it is with most and I really appreciate being able to swap in a new battery -- or better yet, replace the one the phone came with for an aftermarket replacement with more mAh.

Better keyboards - I've never loved the default keyboard in either iOS or Android, but the good thing about Android is that I can actually do something about it. I've used a handful of different keyboards over the years, including Swype (which deserves all the love it gets), but for the past few months I've been using SwiftKey, which does the predictive text thing in a way that really suits me.

Customizability - This isn't actually that big of a factor for me, but I do like that I can tweak things the launcher and icons on my phone and add widgets to my desktop.

Google Voice - This is something that means a lot to me that might not mean much to you, but now that I've switched over to Google Voice having it tightly integrated into my phone is a game changer. Yes, you can use Google Voice on an iPhone, but it's not as smooth or as easy to use as on Android.

Is iOS smoother, more responsive, and just generally better designed? Yes, though I think the gap is much smaller now with Gingerbread than it was before and will likely close even further with ICS. Are there iOS apps I wish were available for Android that aren't? Absolutely. But when I think about the things that I most want out of a phone right now -- like Gmail, Google Voice, etc. -- those experiences are better enough on Android to outweigh iOS's other advantages. Maybe someday that balance will change, but so far with the iPhone 4S it doesn't seem to have. (I will admit that Siri is impressive, I just don't think I'd use it all that much.)

The funny thing is that I think the situation is reversed with the iPad and Honeycomb tablets. I have both the iPad 2 and the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and feel like Honeycomb's shortcomings (especially with respect to UI) are glaring and that the iPad is a significantly better product in the things I look for in a tablet (which are mainly consuming media). I also like having a foot in both camps, I think there's something healthy about not relying entirely on one ecosystem, and it also helps you better evaluate the qualities and shortcomings in each. When it comes to smartphones, Android fits better into what I want and need -- and I think that ultimately gdgt is about each of us finding the gadgets that suit us best.

I'm always a little hesitant to post stuff like this, but I have a lot of faith in the awesomeness of the gdgt community to have a good, respectful discussion about these things. I hope your responses to this will be thoughtful and positive. What is important to you in a gadget might not be important to someone else, so please keep that in mind when replying!

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150 replies

Wow. This is the first post I've ever read on gdgt (just discovered the site today via Reddit) and already I am super-impressed. Much better than most of the other tech sites out there - well-written content and a civil community. I love it.

Great post, Peter.
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Thanks! I think you'll find the best gadget community on the web here. Tons of super smart users with useful stuff to contribute and who know how to intelligently talk about gadgets.
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Because of people like Peter and Ryan, I got into not just technology, but discussing technology and having an informed, objective opinion. That's why, against my better judgement, I started dual wielding. I have an iPhone 4 on AT&T, and original Moto Droid on Verizon. Both have pros and cons, but when my friends and coworkers need help deciding, I can provide examples of what they're in for. My iPhone is my daily driver, but mostly because the OG Droid is unusable at its age. I'm hoping that the new Samsung ICS phone will get me back into regular Android use.

I also have an HTC HD7 running mango, no service, just so I can get experience using WP7. At this point, those three are platforms are all that matters.
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You get an upvote from me for the use of "dual wielding" in a non-video game context.
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Peter, I just want to reply with a "ditto" to your entire post. You have echoed all of my thoughts to the letter! (How did you do that?)

When someone asks me why I use Android, the easiest answer for me is: GMail.

I always say just what you did: no other platform I've ever seen handles GMail as well as Android. I also do all my correspondence out of GMail for work and personal stuff, and GMail is essential for me. I want my threaded conversations, I want my stars and correctly-colored labels. The only thing I'd add to your comments is that Google Calendar is also handled better than other platforms I've seen, and that's of the utmost importance to me.

I also agree with your philosophy of "if you like your phone, that's fantastic." I hate these religious wars now. I hate the negativity of it. Every time I've tried to express to someone why I love my phone, it seems to turn into a "but your phone sucks because it doesn't do ____ the right way like my phone does." I hate that and I'm tired of it. I like my phone, you like your phone, lets all just enjoy the devices we're using and use them to their fullest extent possible, right?

Anyway, I love Android. It has its faults, but I'm a big fan. I'm just waiting for the new Nexus phone now :)
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Thanks for this post Peter. It's nice to see a comparison of the two dominant mobile operating systems said in an objective manner.

I have used a couple of Android phone since my first iPhone (a 3G), and I've generally enjoyed the experience. I'm not a huge fan of any of the skins that are put over stock Android, and there are only a couple of things about Android that keep me coming back to the iPhone.
  • I really don't want a file system on my phone. I deal enough with Windows Explorer everyday to have to worry about whether or not I'm saving a file in the SD card, or making sure that my pictures default to the SD instead of the internal storage. I don't like having to pay for an app like TitaniumBackup to ensure that the data on my phone is safe in case of an accident.
  • I'm in love with the retina display. I've used both the Atrix "4G" and Galaxy S II for about a month each. Each time I've loved the increase in screen size, but I hate how pixelated the text is on non-zoomed website. I like being able to go to Engadget and read the page without zooming in on a story.
  • iTunes makes it too easy to manage my phone. One of the biggest problems for me when it comes to and Android phone is getting my personal data (music, especially) synced to the phone. Things got a little easier with iSyncr, but I returned my SGSII right before Google Music came out.
Things that make me want to come back to Android:
  • I LOVED dictation that came with Android phones, and I'm psyched that it's now coming to the iPhone in a debatably more potent way.
  • I absolutely loved Android's notifications too, and while I think iOS still has some work to do (like when you pull down the notification drawer/clear notifications, I want the number tag on my application to disappear).
  • I don't like how my home screen is an eternal panel of squares - having widgets on Android really broke up the monotony that came with a bunch of different applications.
  • Finally, Google integration. Before iCloud came out as a part of iOS 5, I was heavily relying on Google for many services (Mail, Calendar, Contacts, Chat). So it was really awesome to see such great Google integration (especially Google Talk and Gmail) as a part of Android phones. However, now that iCloud is out, I've migrated to its email, calendar, and contact system and am loving it.
In the end, I really enjoyed this post Peter, and I definitely reminded me of some of the things I love about Android. I'm going to be keeping a keen eye on the ICS/Nexus Prime launch. If they wow me over with ICS, I may just have to get the new Nexus instead of the iPhone 4S (which I'm planning to get unlocked right now).
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So I was thinking about writing a counterpoint ("Why I DO use an iPhone") until Peter said to me in email: "The funny thing is that I wrote this because it seems like no one needs to explain why they use an iPhone. It's the default now, so it feels like as a gadget expert I need to explain why I don't use one."

Man, so true. What do you think, should I even bother writing my counterpoint?
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I think it would make for an interesting read even if it's not really necessary.
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Actually, amid certain crowds, you DO need to explain it since some of us see it as the phone for average users who need the latest games more than things like really good ssh clients, sftp clients, wifi analysis tools, heavy duty Google services access, etc.... ;) So, go for it.
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Sshhhh. You're not supposed to say that where they can hear!!

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The old line "no one ever got fired for buying IBM" should be updated to "no one ever got fired for buying an iPhone"
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What's funny is that line did occur to me! I just wasn't sure people would get it...
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Or Salesforce. Or MS Office.
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when Android is on over 50% of the world smartphones and growing rapidly - you can't call the minority "the default"

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I've been taking my own point and counterpoint notes over the last week as I try to make the decision to switch back or not. Unfortunately iOS is winning - especially since my fiance has an iPhone. Facetime, iMessage and Find my Friend are compelling iOS only features that are useful in a relationship.

Below is my current shortlist of PROS and CONS to switching back to iOS. It is nowhere near complete. There are many many great things on each side. This list only covers the things that I care about and how they compare to Android on the Nexus S.


- FIND MY FRIEND - I'll always know where my fiance is and vice versa
- FACETIME (though Skype can do the same thing, not as easily on Android). It's just easy to use. Much easier than Skype
- iMESSAGE (I hate paying carrier SMS and MMS fees)
- PHOTO STREAM: Will no longer have to sync devices to get photos on my PC. Nothing else in iCoud interests me as a Google Apps Sync user. Also, we can't get the music part of iCloud in Canada - what else is new
- 64 GIGS- Yay! Finally I'll have enough space for my entire media collection!!
- DOWNCAST APP finally provides a 1st class podcast player in the iOS ecosystem - I currently love both BeyondPod and Dogcatcher on Android. But until Downcast, Android had clearly won on the podcast app front.
- WEIGHTBOT APP -not available on Andrdoid and found nothing as good)
- DUAL ANTENNA - I'm 'hoping' Apple's claims are true and that the 4S truly takes better advantage of Rogers HSDPA+ for greater speeds.
- CAMERA: Faster camera / lockscreen camera. I know there are better camera apps available for the Android but I never got around to testing them. The stock camera on my Nexus S is too dang slow
- DIGITAL ZOOM: Digital Zoomable camera lens. Yes, other Android phones have this but my Nexus S doesn't and the iPhone 4S does. I want this for the magnifying glass app (for my old eyes) and for the camera
- READER!! Finally! I find it so hard to read articles on either Safari in iOS or the built in or Firefox browsers in Android. Reader solves this. Get rid of the junk plus an adjustable font for my 47 year old eyes
- NOTIFICATIONS: The new notification system is better than the one one Android. Especially the ability to go directly from the notification on the lock screen to the app. I love that.
- BETTER CALENDAR - I hate the ugly as sin calendar on Android
- BETTER MAIL: I'm a Google Apps Gmail user. The mail app on my Nexus S also looks ugly as sin. When entering contacts in the To:/CC: lines it just ends up with a mish mash of ugliness. Then there is only a couple lines left over to enter the text of my email. The email app on iOS is so much more elegant - and now allows some structuring and formatting.
- VOLUME MANAGEMENT: I never had volume be an issue on the iPhone. In Android, my email or SMS notification sound volume is often lower than system volume. I can be playing a podcast at normal level and not hear email/SMS notification sounds. I have never figured out why in the Android world that I can never get my volumes reliably functioning
- WIRELESS SYNC: FINALLY I can keep my iTunes library in sync with my device wirelessly. Up till now manual syncing was a HUGE negative for the iOS platform.
-MINDSHARE: YOu can't argue that the iPhone still get's the lion's share of consumer and developer mindshare. There will always be more software choices and much more support choices for the iPhone platform. For example, every time I have a problem on the iPhone I can always google it for a quick answer. But with the plethora of Android devices with so different OS versions in use, its MUCH harder to find answers to questions/problems for my Nexus S than it ever was on the iPhone.
- HEADSET JACK: As silly as it is, I prefer the headset jack being at the top as it is on the iPhone compared to on the bottom for my NEXUS S. This is especially the case when putting the device in a cradle.


- LAUNCHER - On iOS you are stuck with the original launcher. I much prefer the options available in the Android world. I use Luancher Pro and love it.
- ONLY FOUR ICONS IN SYSTEM TRAY - compared to 5 on Launcher pro and the fact that I can slide/swivel the tray on Launcher pro and get more
- NO WIDGETS - 'nuf said
- 'NOT APPROVED BY STEVE' PROBLEM - So many apps not available in the iOS world due to silly Steve-imposed restrictions
- MAGNIFYING GLASS BITES - When selecting or editing text in Android, its ever so much easier with the orange triangular selectors than using that silly magnifying glass in iOS.
- SMALL SCREEN: I want a bigger screen. Even the Nexus screen is larger (lengthwise) than the iPhone Screen
- DEVELOPMENT: I'm a hobbyist developer. Developing for the iPhone is so much harder (for me) than developing for the Android.
- NO TURN BY TURN DIRECTIONS: Yes, I could pay money to buy a third party SMS app (Garmen) but I really like the built in turn by turn navigation on the Android. UPDATE: I have since found this free turn-by-turn GPS app for the iPhone. Haven't tested it yet though: www.navmii.com­/iPhone/
- NO FREE HOTSPOT: On Rogers, I have to pay more per month to allow an iPhone to be used as a wireless hotspot. ON Rogers, my NEXUS S just does that for no extra charge
- NO REPLACEABLE KEYBOARDS: Like Peter, I use the SwiftKey keyboard on my Nexus S. It is far superior (for me) than the iOS keyboard. It remembers what I typed in the past and makes it really easy to type. I'll miss that. As far as I know,you cannot switch keyboards on iOS

Anyway, that's by no means a comprehensive list, but those are the things that come to mind as I try to make my decision. Still waiting till Next Tuesday's Ice Cream Sandwich announcements before I make a decision.
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Is "friends and family" better than Latitude? Latitude is a major disappointment to me because you have no control over how frequently it updates, and it only uses cell-tower triangulation instead of GPS. So basically, if you want to know where someone was an hour ago (within 5-miles) it's great, otherwise it's useless.
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I think you mean "Find a Friend". I've not used it yet. Based on the promos, I thought it worked in real time. Ask to locate a friend and it tells you where they are right this minute. I never used Latitude so I can't compare. Sorry.
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I think it would be interesting.
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That says more about the tech press than anything else.
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I would love to read a counterpoint.
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No Counterpoint Needed IMO
Counterpoint? Not really. Lots of folks use an Android based phone because either they could not get an iPhone from their carrier, cost was an issue, hate Apple, or just plain like the geekiness of Android. I have never had a single person explain why they have an iPhone as opposed to an Android based phone. It has always been the other way around. In fact, it has been mostly apologetic as to why they had Android. :)
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I for one would like to read a counter to this article. Default or not it would be useful for people who are undecided which phone to get to read the pros and cons of each from different perspectives.
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I think the counterpoint would illustrate why people choose iOS over Android and not just because it's the default for smartphones and we're all lemmings that go from iPhone to iPhone.

Android works great with gmail, but what about if you have Exchange at work and Gmail at home? I also prefer the way that iTunes will selectively sync your media to your iOS device rather than have to find a 3rd party sync tool that works outside of your music/movie management application.
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It's not the default for very many people since (until perhaps today) getting any iPhone was at least $199 plus a pricey contract. My brother loves what my iPhone and iPad do but went with a cheapo $0 Android simply on cost.
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Does anyone in your office use WP7?
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Would be interested in reading your counterpoint. A lot of the replies here include the words "rooted it" or "once I put ___ on it". Even the most core nerds don't feel it necessary to jailbreak their iPhones which means they are rolling untweaked with standard apps from the AppStore. A true head to head should be the Nexus S v. iPhone. True Android v. true iOS without the layer of crap the manufacturers and carriers throw on.
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This may just depend on who you know because pretty much every iPhone owner I know has jailbroken their phones.

I have an Android phone and have not found any need to root it. I'd say the people I know who use Android are 50/50 on rooting.
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If I had a carrier phone I would have totally rooted it. Since I have a N1, I don't have the need. That may change soon though if I need to expunge some pre-loaded apps to make internal space.
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it seems to me that no amount of proof could make someone who does not use an iPhone or is anti-iPhone change their mind. on the other hand, its always interesting to read. Actually its really only interesting if its not drowning in the slowly fading away RDF...
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I'd be interested to hear your reasons why.
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I'd love to read it anyway :)
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Please do. An Android user like me is interested in a counterpoint.
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I'd love to see a series of articles on specific day in the digital life of Peter/Ryan tasks. Going off of Peter's preference, that I subscribe to also, of having a foot in both camps start with the iPhone 4/S and iOS5 and how it goes if one would/n't run Google services via Exchange or go whole hog with iCloud, and those compared to Android. do the same thing with an iPad2 vs a Honneycomb tablet. it'd be from an experiential standpoint not a hardware spec-fest. i just think you guys could really do a case study like this justice.
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This post has been removed.


I'd love to see a counterpoint post, so that I can email it to every Android user I know. :)
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Hopefully it is not because of his insecurities. I wonder if he would email both points?
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Yeah, that's what I was wondering... If people are happy with their gadget choices, who am I (or anyone else) to be judgmental about it?

I'm glad we have options in terms of interfaces/hardware, etc. Everyone thinks a bit differently and being able to find what works best for the individual ultimately benefits us all.

Crap... I sound like a gadget hippy.
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Thank you for writing this post, Peter, and for everyone sharing in a respectful and thoughtful manner.

As an Android user I agree with most of Peter's reasons. I've yet to commit fully to Google Voice, so I don't share that reason for sticking with Android. Everything else Peter mentioned I'm in full agreement with.

Among the reasons that Peter didn't list, one of the huge selling points for me with Android is managing podcasts. My experience with iOS in the past was that I could not keep my podcasts subscriptions up to date from the device. I either had to be subscribed on my computer, then sync my iOS device to load the latest podcasts, or manually download new podcasts from the iTunes store. Google's Listen application, and several others available through the market, make managing podcasts much easier. It could be that by now there are similar apps in the iOS ecosystem that do the same, but now that I'm in the Android universe it is hard to go back.

As someone who has a terrible internal compass, the free Google Navigation service has also become an indispensable tool. Again, I know that there are apps in the iOS ecosystem that can be purchased to give similar functionality, but the fact that Google Navigation is integrated into the system and interfaces with other applications seamlessly is huge.

Lastly, there are little customization details that simply make the Android experience better for me. When I place an application on one of my screens, I can pretty much put it wherever I want within the predetermined grid. In iOS, all application icons or folders are set to left-justify, so no matter what, everything will line up the way the device wants to do it, not the way I want to do it. In iOS, I would always have to include icons to apps I didn't want on my screens just to make things look nice and even. I realize that this probably has more to do with my anal retentiveness and OCD tendencies than with shortcomings in iOS. Regardless, having that level of control in Android for how I want my device to look is important enough for me to stick with the little green guy.
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The podcast issue was what drove me away from iPhone in the first place. Google Listen makes me happy. Also, I will never again consider a phone that does not allow me to click and hold a link to a file and get a menu with an option to save the file directly to the phone. I don't want to connect my phone to a computer.
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As an Android owner who's on the fence about switching to the 4S, the whole podcast thing has me discouraged. It blows my mind that the company that essentially invented the podcast doesn't allow me to easily subscribe to podcasts. (unless I'm missing something)

I was hoping iCloud might make that all easier but apparently it doesn't?
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ooh, maybe I spoke too soon?

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Hey Eagle 63. I use BeyondPod on the Nexus S. It is so superior to the the built in podcast player in IOS 4 and earlier. Being able to subscribe to podcasts on the device, skip forward over commercials and create playlists were its three biggest advantage over the iOS podcast player.

However, I discovered the iPhone App DownCast last week and have been testing it on my iPad and my girlfriends iPhone 3GS.


It's pretty dang marvelous. It replicates most every advanced feature of BeyondPod. So, as far as podcasts go, I have a podcast player that would satisfy me on iOS5, should I go back to the iOS camp.
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Ooh, looks nice, thanks. Yeah I'm a big BeyondPod user on my EVO but this looks nice.
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There is a great app for that. Podcaster allows iPhone users to find podcasts in the iTunes Store and subscribe there, or to add podcast feeds via link. Each time you open up podcaster, you can have it set to check all of your subscriptions and download them automatically. You have the option to set to download only when you're connected to wifi (which I do) so you don't eat through your data plan.
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Hey Roberto, as I mentioned in another comment, I'm a BeyondPod user on my Nexus S for podcasts listening. IT and Dogcatcher are fantastic podcast apps. But there now is a top notch podcast app in iOS called Downcast:


I've been testing it for the last week and it does everything the top-rated podcast players do on Android

You are right that the free Navigation system on Android is still a big plus over iOS. I also agree with you that it's nice to be able to place my icons anywhere I want.

And don't forget Widgets! Still no Widgets in iOS.

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That was annoying, until I discovered Instacast. It's now pretty much a moot point.
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That's exactly why I prefer Android as well. If you're a Google user (Gmail, YouTube, Reader) Android will likely be a better fit than iOS.
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Google services and its tight integration with Android is the #1 reason why I'm with Android.
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