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Web Browsing, iTunes Wi-Fi & AmazonMP3

So back to some commendable strengths on each side.

It may not be Chrome just yet, but the stand-in Android browser more than holds its own when compared to similar offerings on Symbian, BlackBerry OS and Microsoft's woefully lacking Pocket Internet Explorer (6 on 6 or otherwise). Sensibly WebKit based, it does a commendable job of scaling most web sites (TrustedReviews.com being a notable exception) and while it may lack Flash support it notoriously isn't alone in this regard. Scrolling could be smoother though and it is clear the browser is only marking time until the likes of Chrome and an inevitable Opera port both land sometime in 2009.

By contrast what is there to say about mobile Safari that hasn't been said? Flash support would indeed be most welcome (depending on the performance impact) and copy and paste would again be a fundamental improvement but 18 months of optimisation has seen the industry's best handset browser comfortably retain its number one spot. Sites render flawlessly and at terrific speed (even over EDGE mobile Safari outperforms many rivals) and a smart searching navigation bar, integrated Google or Yahoo search and numerous clever touches - such as tapping the top of the screen to race back to the top of a page (invaluable when reading blogs) - add an extra gloss.

Then there's that game changer again: Multi-touch. Pinching two fingers together to zoom out of pages and reversing the action to zoom in is a wonderful way to navigate the web, as is finger scrolling and the superb use of double tapping to smart zoom into text columns and images. Until Android - or any other platform for that matter - manages to recreate or better this level of usability then sadly they are left scrapping for second place.

iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store v Mobile Amazon MP3

With the frustrating delay of the Amazon MP3 international roll-out Android arguably lost one of its biggest mobile OS X counter attacks outside the US. I did get the chance to try a prototype of the service on an early G1 sample but it would be unfair to compare that directly with iTunes Wi-Fi on mobile OS X as it clearly lacked both polish and download functionality. Look for an official appearance in Q1 2009 and we'll judge again.

As for iTunes Wi-Fi its layout is typically slick, sharing the same look and navigational feel as the rest of the platform. 30 second previews are available for every track and purchasing and downloading over Wi-Fi is effortless while its ability to automatically sync purchases with your existing iTunes collection is beautifully implemented.

Against this, the scope of iTunes Wi-Fi is narrow and its inability to download podcasts (allegedly another firmware 2.2 fix) or audiobooks are obvious shortcomings while support for the store over 3G (ditto, firmware 2.2) needs to be rectified too.

Until AmazonMP3 arrives this one's a TKO.

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