Mid-afternoon yesterday, at the close of Mobile World Congress, several awards were announced. Of those awards, one of them sort of surprised me, as it did many others as well. At the Global Mobile Awards for 2011, Apple's iPhone 4 was dubbed “Best Mobile Device." The iPhone 4 originally launched on AT&T's network in late June of last year. Eight months after its release, it is still being named “best device” and taking home awards to a company that didn't even attend the event. So how is it that the iPhone still takes home the crown?
The iPhone 4's specifications – which are hard to directly compare due Apple's unwillingness to release technical info – aren't groundbreaking. They weren't groundbreaking when the device launched, save for the Retina display (326 ppi) and bringing on the front-facing camera revolution in the States. The display is tiny in comparison to many Android and Windows devices and with a non-replaceable battery, fixed internal memory, and a proprietary charging port, there were few improvements over the previous versions. It isn't likely these things are ever going to change, but my guess is the iPhone will remain popular for years to come.
Even the software has lost a lot of luster over the past year. Apple's iPhone operating system, or iOS, is starting to become dated among all of the other rapidly improving mobile platforms. It has an archaic and obtrusive notification system, a mediocre form of multitasking, and an overly bland, icon-only user interface. The one benefit to iOS is the 300,000+ applications in the App Store. To be honest though, that number is just a gimmick. Once you enter App Store, you will find hundreds and hundreds of duplicate applications and thousands of pointless, low-quality apps, much like other mobile application stores.
Up until last week, I wasn't a big fan of the iPhone. I had one before, but I was still too captivated by Android and the limitless customization options to worry about iOS. Then, I would have been up in arms over this award. After buying a Verizon iPhone 4 and giving it another go, my perspective has changed.
What it ultimately boils down to is quality. Quality in the experience you have when using the iPhone and the quality in the build of the hardware. Its beauty lies within its simplicity and the consistency you get out of using it. By consistency, I mean that in a week of use, the device has yet to slow down or show any lag, nothing has crashed on me, and I've experienced no random reboots. These issues don't really bug me anymore, but they exist on Android, more so than on iOS.
I've used a lot of Android devices (nearing 30) and none of the hardware compares to that of the iPhone. The only Android phone to date that I would even say comes close is the Nexus One (and its next of kin the Desire), but even it had cheaper aspects like the display, sporadic capacitive buttons, and multi-touch issues.
I expect a lashing from all the Android fans that will read this. Don't get me wrong, I love Android. I've been using it for a year and a half and I don't plan on stopping now. The software is undoubtedly more functional, more powerful, and more fun to use. But it isn't as polished or smooth as iOS. The same goes for hardware. More buttons allows for more functional use, but the hardware of Android devices varies and doesn't quite stand up to the quality of the iPhone.
The iPhone may have taken home the crown for MWC 2011, but if Apple doesn't bring the heat this year, an Android device may steal the "Best Mobile Device" title in 2012. The build of flagship Android devices is improving and specifications are undoubtedly surpassing those of the iPhone. It's tough to say how this year will pan out though. We've already seen several bizarre phones and the iPhone 5 still isn't here yet. Next year's title is up for grabs, which manufacturer and OS is going to step up to the challenge?