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updated 5/10/2011 9:18:41 PM ET 2011-05-11T01:18:41

It's a daunting task to compare Android and the iPhone simply because there are so many Android smartphones. And yet, consumers still want to know what makes them different.

It's impossible to compare every Android smartphone against the iPhone, but we've put together a comparison of some of the latest Android smartphones (as of early 2011) and the current iPhone model (iPhone 4).

Hardware

When comparing iPhone and Android smartphone hardware, it's actually easier to point out what the two phones lack compared to the other. For instance, most Android displays are larger than the iPhone 4's screen. The Android standard seems to be moving towards 4 inches and above, while the iPhone (for now) remains at 3.5 inches.

However, the iPhone 4's Retina Display technology still trumps any Android phone's screen resolution. With a pixel resolution of 960 by 640, the iPhone 4 features 330 pixels per inch of display. The highest Android resolution is only 960 by 540 pixels spread over 4.3 inches of screen, taking the total resolution down to 256 pixels per inch. In other words, the iPhone screen may be smaller, but it's still sharper.

Another important hardware comparison is the processor. The iPhone 4 uses the Apple-designed A4 processor, which is quite powerful, but starting to show its age. The newer Android smartphones have a temporary edge because they use a new generation of dual-core processors. That being said, they aren't that much faster than the A4, and Apple's processor seems to keep up quite nicely with current apps.

For those who love physical keyboards, there are options among the many Android smartphones. But there's no such option with the iPhone.

In almost every other way, the hardware of Android smartphones and iPhones differs only on a case-by-case basis. There's Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, accelerometers, proximity sensors, volume controls, headphone jacks and more. Some Android phones also include a few perks that aren't appealing to all users, but are nevertheless not present in the iPhone, including an HDMI port and FM radio.

Android cameras are starting to provide more resolution (8 megapixels to the iPhone's 5 megapixels) but image quality has little to do with the resolution, so results vary by device. Almost all phones are capable of recording 720p video as well, and front-facing cameras for video chat are quickly becoming standard. Even so, FaceTime for the iPhone still seems to be the most user-friendly and reliable video chat platform.

Apple provides 16GB or 32GB of storage space in the iPhone, whereas various Android phones can feature anywhere from 16GB to 48GB of storage thanks to microSD cards (the iPhone doesn't accept any memory expansion).

Increasingly, the iPhone is falling behind in the 4G race. While there are still only a handful of 4G capable Android phones, the iPhone is lagging behind on the 3G networks. There's also the matter of the finicky antenna that caused much alarm when the phone launched, but that seems to be less of an issue lately.

Finally, battery life for the iPhone is technically rated lower than many of the latest Android phones, and yet still seems to perform better in real-world situations. Apple has taken great care in designing both the hardware and software in the iPhone to use battery power as economically as possible. Even though many Android smartphones have bigger batteries, they struggle to keep up with the iPhone, especially the new 4G phones.

Software

This is where the real comparisons can be made. Ultimately, the battle of Android versus iPhone really has nothing to do with hardware. It boils down to a competition between the Android and iOS operating systems. And in that race, the iPhone is still winning.

The current iPhone runs iOS 4, and most Android phones are running Android 2.2 Froyo (with a few promising future upgrades to 2.3 Gingerbread). The iPhone experience is standard across all devices, whereas the open nature of Android has made it possible for manufacturers to customize the Android interface on their phones. There are valid arguments from both sides explaining why this is both a good and bad idea. It allows customers to tweak and customize their phone as much as they want, but it also introduces fragmentation, compatibility issues and power management problems. Ultimately, this is a matter of preference. Would you like to treat your phone as your own and customize it how you wish, or would you like the consistency and reliability of Apples "walled garden"?

In many ways, the iPhone's operating system has informed the interface design of Android. Even though there are myriad differences in how menus are displayed, the touch screen motions and overall design is very reminiscent, so much so that users can switch between the two and still find their way around.

Perhaps the single most important consideration is the apps for each platform. While both Android and iOS are powerful, they are really nothing without the hundreds of thousands of apps that can do, well, just about anything.  The iPhone is the clear winner here, with well over 300,000 apps. Android got a late start and has played an admirable game of catch-up, offering more than 100,000 apps for Android devices.

And yet, even though the Android Market offers much the same variety as the iPhone App Store, it's widely accepted that the iPhone still has a definitive lead in quality. Both stores have the essentials, and both have useless junk, but overall the iPhone apps are generally of higher quality across the board. Android's problems with fragmentation have also made it hard to keep apps compatible with the dozens and dozens of phones with various manufacturer skins and tweaks.

That doesn't mean that Android is behind in all areas. Most Android 2.2 devices are compatible with Adobe Flash, which is a huge advantage for those who want to view the millions of videos, animations and interactive websites on the Internet that require it. The iPhone simply can't view them. Of course, there are trade-offs: Flash affects battery performance and security.

Another Android advantage is the notifications system. Even die-hard Apple fans admit that the Apple notification system is far too intrusive, especially when users are in the middle of using an app. Android's notification system is much more subtle and easier to interact with. Android also has tighter integration with Google services, including navigation, mail and docs.

Summary

It's okay to be stumped by the decision between an Android smartphone and the iPhone. They both have some incredible features to recommend them and a few shortcomings to ponder carefully. There's no clear winner, so pick the features that you want the most. Are apps most important? Battery life? Customization options? 4G? Only then will you know if an iPhone or an Android smartphone is right for you.

© 2012 TechNewsDaily

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