'There's an [Android AND iPhone] app for that.'

Deciding between an Android and an iPhone is easier if you know that many important apps are available on both smartphones. Here's one writer's list of his cross-platform app faves.

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Deciding between an Android and an iPhone is easier if you know that many important apps are available on both smartphones. Here's one writer's list of his cross-platform app faves.

I'm a big app fan.  I enjoy browsing the Internet to see what new and intriguing application software is available for my two smartphones: a Motorola Droid X Android phone and an Apple iPhone. (For my wife, it's shoes; for me, it's apps. Maybe it's a guy thing.)

It's become clear that the differences between the iPhone and Android smartphones are dwindling, and as proof I'd like to share with you my personal list of identical or near-identical Android and iPhone apps.  

I know I'm courting danger here. I'm stepping into the belly of the beast where fanboyz live to defend and loudly do battle for their favorite technology. But I suspect that's not you. You just want to know if you're limiting or shortchanging yourself by buying either phone/operating system. From my point of view, you'll do fine with either.

Make no mistake: Apple's app store is larger than the Android store — three times larger, according to Apple CEO Steve Jobs. The iPhone store also offers a greater number of unique games and esoteric applications. (A random example: the iPhone store exclusively offers a water polo coach's clipboard app. Price: $1.99). But Android phones now offer enough practical apps as well as enough variety to satisfy all but the most avid app lover.

Apple also had a two-year head start in developing apps, but as Android sales continue to boom (Android phones outsold iPhones two-to-one in this year's third quarter, according to a ComputerWorld article) developers are seeing more profit in Android apps, and the market is sure to grow. 

All these apps are available from your respective system's store (except for the rare Android app that may come directly from a developer). Some apps are free, some are paid; still others are subscription based. For the record, many are also available on Blackberry, Windows Media, Windows 7, and Palm smartphones.

While most apps contain unique content, others such as news and music apps may be accessible directly from a browser. 

So here’s a list of apps I like, with links for the less well-known ones. (If you don’t know what Amazon.com, The New York Times, and YouTube are, go directly to your room with no supper, and no Facebook for a week!)

Business and productivity: Documents to Go and QuickOffice. Both allow editing of Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents. Documents to Go also reads PDFs.

Book e-reader apps: Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, and Borders Kobo. Books bought from one store can be read cross-platform (i.e., Android, iPhone, your PC/Mac laptop). But if you bought a Kindle book, you can’t transfer it to read on the Nook.

Games: Angry Birds, The Sims 3, Geocaching, Bejeweled, Tetris. (Obviously there are tons more; these are just games I like.)

News: New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Time, NPR News, Huffington Post, AP Mobile. The Salon app is available only on Android; the Slate app is only on iPhone.

Music and radio: Pandora, Rhapsody, Slacker, Last.fm, TuneWiki, SoundHound, Shazam and Jango. Live365 is only available on the iPhone. Both Shazam and SoundHound allow you to identify music simply by opening their apps and letting your phone "listen" to the selection. Your phone will tell you what it is.

TV, movies, video and related: IMDb, Turner Classic Movies, Justin.tv, Babelgum, Qik, YouTube, and SlingPlayer. Subscriber-based Hulu Plus, with paid access to many past TV episodes, is on the iPhone but not the Android. At the same time, a good variety of TV shows (NBC, CBS, Fox, etc.) are on Bitbop on Android, but not on iPhone. Netflix, only on iPhone now, is promised for Android in early 2011.

Social networks: AOL, Facebook, Twitter.

Utilities: Google Docs (now editable on both systems), Google Apps, Google Talk, Google Earth, Google Maps, Skype, Orb Live, Vlingo, Layar, Evernote, Dropbox, Bing, Yelp, WeatherBug, PriceGrabber, Dictionary.com, Roboform, White Noise, Fring, and Meebo. Evernote is my favorite utility of the bunch because it lets me make a text, visual, or voice note on any device or operating system, and it automatically synchronizes to any/every device I have. It's also free.

For those of you looking for a big-picture, evenhanded view of the attributes of both smartphones, they’re hard to find, and they’re pretty technical. Nevertheless, try this article from Lifehacker. For a multi-platform smartphone comparison, check out this blog from Adrian Vintu.

The two platforms will never be identical. They shouldn't be; the individuality of each will foster initiative and continue the fun of having something unique in each gadget. But with these and other apps in common, the smartphone user experience is richer, and it lets you communicate even better with other machines — and the people who use them.

Please feel free to share your own list of favorite apps with other Crosscut readers in our comments section below. (No flames allowed; this is a conversation for adults.)


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