Android vs. iPhone: Which Does a Better Job Syncing to the Cloud?
The Reviews of the Android G1 Phone on T-Mobile are out and the verdicts are generally as follows: Partly Cloudy1, but forecasting big things to come. We're not going to try to hit every point just yet, but there's one point where this "Sidekick for Grownups" has what appears to be a real advantage over everybody else: dead-simple cloud setup.
So compared to the iPhone, just how good is the setup on the G1? The answer is: Depends on whether or not you're a Gmail type of person.
Yeah, "depends" isn't exactly a clear answer, so follow us after the break for a bit more on whether the G1 is PIM Push Paradise compared to MobileMe's Mechanized Movement of information.
(1Sorry, could help myself with that pun)
Android vs. iPhone for Gmail Users
Gmail and the G1
With the G1, you simply punch in your Google credentials and wait a few and boom, you have push Gmail, Push Contacts, and Push Calendar. If you're already a Gmail lover, this is pretty much la creme de la creme. The Gmail client on the G1 is getting very high marks, works just like Gmail on the web, and is generally tops.
Unfortunately, the other two parts of Gmail's Sync -- Contacts and Calendar -- aren't as hot. Engadet notes that what Google does to your contacts is a crime: it mucks them up by first being difficult to work with on their web-based contact manager and mucks them up double-time by automatically adding email addresses of people you've sent mail to more than a couple times.
The result (and I know this from personal Google Contacts Syncing experience) is your address book pretty much becomes a hellacious mess. Your only options are to either be eternally vigilant about the state of your contacts or to just let the darn thing go and hope that you can search through it fairly quickly.
The calendar app on the G1 is also getting mixed reviews, as folks are finding it better for viewing than they are for data entry. In this sense, it's not all that different than the iPhone.
Gmail and the iPhone
We'll start this with a caveat -- we're not going to count Google's excellent iPhone-centric web interfaces here, just the native stuff. Although I still think that the G1 won't stop Google's iPhone fixation and that means continued iPhone support and improvements, we want to compare (ahem) apples to apples.
Up until the introduction of the G1, the best mobile email client for Gmail has been the iPhone -- bar none. Gmail's famously wonky IMAP rarely gives the iPhone fits (though it certainly does happen from time to time) and the iPhone's rather clever method of only loading a folder when you enter it (and only loading the most recent 25 at that) mean that it doesn't suffer from the tragic "All Mail" problem). In all -- Gmail on the iPhone is great.
Except, that is, if you're looking for push email.
Pushing Gmail to the iPhone is basically an invitation to suffering because there are only three email systems that push email to the iPhone: Yahoo!, MobileMe and Exchange. If you want your Gmail pushed, you need to forward a copy of all messages to a Yahoo!, MobileMe or Exchange account and then set that up on your iPhone. There are then nasty hacks to get your "from" address right, but still no good way to deal with folders/labels.
Now -- contacts and calendars are also a world of fun. If your stuff lives in Google, you are going to need to find solutions to sync them to your desktop. Once that happens, however, you're golden as you can set up MobileMe on both PC and Mac to push the info out to your smartphone. It's not an ideal, direct-push solution, but it works pretty well for most people.
On a Mac, you can sync the address book directly to Google (with the above-mentioned pain) and for Calendar you need to use something like the excellent Spanning Sync software for calendars.
On a PC, check out OggSync for calendars. For Contacts iTunes itself will let you sync to Google.
In both cases, where you really need to start is at our how-to article " Switching to iPhone: How To Move Your Contacts, Calendar, Email, Bookmarks, and Photos to the iPhone"
So as you can see by the length of this section, if your data lives in Gmail, the G1 is a lot better.
Android vs. iPhone for MobileMe or Exchange Users
MobileMe or Exchange and the G1
Okay, we've said it before and we'll say it again: one huge advantage the iPhone has is that while Google loves the iPhone and provides a huge number services for it, the G1 gets nothing in return from Apple. So, in a way, every iPhone user gets the best of both worlds (four worlds if we count Exchange and Yahoo!). That's a pretty compelling competitive advantage.
So, if your data lives in MobileMe or Exchange/Outlook and you want to get it onto the G1, things are going to be dicey for awhile. There is no default sync client out yet, though 3rd parties like Funambol are creating ways to sync In the short term, here are your options of you don't want to just switching everything over to Gmail:
With email you have two choices:
- Forward to Gmail for Push, but use Android's IMAP email program (yes, it's separate from the other email client) to send. You may also be able to use the G1's Gmail program to send if the Gmail program works with Gmail's "Send As" feature (we don't know yet).
- Just settle for Android's IMAP email program for both receiving and sending. In this case, you're giving up push email.
So that's not ideal. For contacts and calendar, you're actually going to be in the same boat that iPhone users are in with regard to Gmail -- namely finding a way to sync your desktop information up to Google so you can sync it down to the G1.
MobileMe or Exchange and the iPhone
Despite the well-known early issues with MobileMe, everything's pretty-well shaken out now. You enter in your sync information, you wait a tic, and boom, everything from Email to Contacts to Calendar is sync'd and pushing.
Now, setting up either MobileMe or Exchange on the iPhone isn't as simple as the one-time process on the G1, but it's still pretty straightforward. Once again, TiPb has your back:
Android vs. iPhone for Everybody Else
What, no push email solution for you? Love Yahoo? Love Hotmail? What's the over/under in this competition?
Everybody else and the G1
Basically your best options for email are the ones we laid out for MobileMe or Exchange and the G1: Use the G1's sub-par IMAP email client or forward stuff to Gmail. To sync the other stuff, find a way to sync it from your desktop to Google as described above in the Gmail and the iPhone section.
Here's the notable thing with the G1, though: since it's a completely open platform, there's no reason that Yahoo or Microsoft or, well, or anybody couldn't create push and sync solutions for the Android Platform. It's entirely feasible that Yahoo could create a version of Yahoo Go! for Android that would seamlessly sync your email, contacts, and calendar the G1. It hasn't happened yet, but don't be surprised when it does. (Though we won't hold our breath waiting for Apple to develop a MobileMe solution for the G1...)
Everybody else and the iPhone
Here the situation is also not great, but it's pretty good. Yahoo users can get their email pushed out to the iPhone, everybody else can just set up email manually. Those folks won't have push, but thankfully the iPhone's email client is pretty good.
For contacts and calendar, well, you're either going to have to sync manually via iTunes or buy into MobileMe or Exchange in some way.
We're going to call this one a Tie with a possible KO in the future if Android sync apps come out. Syncing desktop to Google can be a pain for some whereas the iPhone at least gives you the option of wired sync.
Advantage: Tied (for now)
For Google-lovers, the G1 clearly offers better cloud and sync. For MobileMe and Exchange, the iPhone clearly wins out. If you want the trifecta of Google and Exchange/MobileMe goodness, the iPhone also has that edge. For the rest, it's a bit of a (ugly) tie, but the way things look platform-wise the G1 has more potential there. In all, the best way Apple can close that potential gap is to open up the iPhone to more syncing solutions from other companies. We're not holding our breath. We are holding out a little bit of hope, though: if Andoid really does take off, Apple just might feel compelled to respond by opening up their platform.
One last footnote: Why do Apple and Google hate ToDo and Notes? Back when Palm invented the Palm Pilot, Personal Information Management (PIM) was a 4-legged table: Contacts, Calendar, ToDo, and Notes. While we're more than happy to see that Email has been added to that equation, when are we going to get those forgotten PIM essentials on modern platforms?