The iPhone is tres cool, no question about that. It looks great, it feels great, and (for the most part) it works great. The size of the screen and the auto-rotation feature, not to mention the multi-touch interface, makes Web browsing and photo viewing almost as appealing as on a desktop, and puts it miles ahead of any other mobile device so far. Apps like Shazam — which identifies the music you’re listening to on the radio or your stereo, or pretty much anywhere in the immediate vicinity of your phone — make the phone a pleasure to use. Unfortunately, Apple won’t let iPhone users install certain apps, even when they sound really useful.
Google, by contrast, is taking an expressly open approach with its phone, which runs the “Android” operating system and is part of the Open Handset Alliance,” and boasts a platform so open that developers can even replace the software that dials a phone number. Will the apps function as well as iPhone apps do? No way of knowing really. Open source can be somewhat chaotic sometimes. And don’t get me wrong — I know that Apple maintains rigid control of the way its hardware and software work together because it believes, with some justification, that doing so improves the user experience. I don’t think it’s just because Steve Jobs is a control freak.
That said, however, the prospect of an open phone from Google is an appealing one, and seems to have many people excited. Will it be as sleek and sexy as the iPhone? Unlikely. But the ability to run many different apps and services might just make up for that — assuming, of course, that Google doesn’t try to set up its own little walled garden.