Initial observations on Google AndroidTuesday, September 1, 2009
I’m a huge fan of Google, it’s no secret. I finally found the opportunity to play with an Android device. I’ve used a first-generation iPhone exclusively since March 2008. I like change so I’ve taken a HTC Dream for a spin (using Cupcake 1.5) for the last two days.
I have a few quick observations that may or may not have been covered elsewhere:
- The hardware is awful: I don’t know why phone developers are so terrible. They have been for years. Apple shook up the scene with a top-of-the-line expensive device and now it’s mainstream. It’s been over a year, why does everything still fall short (design, speed)? Just copy everything and at least pretend like you’re trying.
- The software is awesome: I’m jumping into the game mid-stride with Android so what I saw out-of-the-box is very impressive (push notifications, background processes, video recording, etc.). But it’s arguably right on-par with Apple at this stage. Things like the notifications bar (I can see I got an email and text message and missed a call) and widgets (I can see the weather or the score of the Rockies game on the home screen) are like a breath of fresh-air coming from the very tunnel-visioned iPhone.
- Slow slow slow: I don’t know if it’s the device, the software, or some mixture of both but it seems memory and speed are lacking. I’ll sit and wait for 5 seconds at a time just to watch an application pop open. Perhaps the background processes need a way that help the user protect them from themselves (yeah, I should open up 10 things at once, sure).
- Awkward clicking instead of tapping: as of the writing, no pinch to zoom makes weird zoom levels that require a lot more tapping than a simple pinch would. This is software and hopefully Google will decide it’s worth sticking it in. It’s important to keep in mind, not all Android devices will have touch screens (televisions?) so it’s understandable.
- The browser is hard for users: zooming, changing windows, opening bookmarks: all things I do often and require at least two-too-many clicks.
- Application offerings are so-so: I’ve found a lot of great applications (tools, games, widgets) and I’m really impressed with what’s out there. There is a lot to be desired and lots of empty space to fill. Now is probably a good time to become a big player in a growing space.
- No good media sync off-the-shelf: you have an SD card (awesome, removable storage!) but you lack the ability to sync with something like iTunes. You are forced back to the drag-dropping of files onto a drive. But if you don’t use this as a media device, no worries
- The applications are as bad as the developer makes them: a huge criticism is the lack of polish on Android phones and in the applications. Sure, Apple hands you everything you need with their SDK, thus, you get a lot of nice UI elements for free. But, you get stuck with a closed system, an application “review” process, and a bunch of hoops. Android says ‘do what you want’. Think Facebook and MySpace: that profile page on MySpace looks only as bad as someone chose to make it.
- More buttons means more depth: a lot of people look at the iPhone/iPod touch and see two buttons: ‘power’ and ‘home’. Though it may seem cluttered, the additional buttons on most Android devices (‘menu’, ‘back’, ‘home’, scroll ball, etc.) means more application depth. I can quickly scroll around a list with the ball. I can click and hold the ball (or my finger) to bring up more actions. Each screen can respond to a ‘menu’ button which allows you to stick things like “Settings” and “Refresh” somewhere where the user isn’t always faced with it.
- Virtual keyboard and touch-screen is so-so: the original Android device only offered a keyboard (arguably much nicer to type on, I forgot about mobile keyboards! The tactile response virtual (on screen) keyboard is nice but the overall size seems small and tight. Oh, and the way I use my thumb on Android seems to ‘hit’ right below where I always intend to. Apple must do some calculating to shift those touches upward. (Put your thumb against a flat surface, the curvature means the top usually hits first and is immediately recorded as opposed to the overall footprint of the finger)..
- Integration with Google Voice is nearly perfect: it’s not seamless, but close enough. I can send text messages from either my cell or my Google Voice number. I can set my calls to do the same. Maybe this way I’ll get everyone ‘switched’ over to my new, preferred number.
- Additional Google integration: I don’t even know where I would to go change which Google Account is associated with the device. All I know is my calendar, contacts, and GMail are all there. No settings page, no picking ports.
As of right now, with a mix between the hardware offerings and software, I’d give the overall experience a 7/10 (iPhone is an 8, Blackberry Pearl is a 5).
It wouldn’t take that much to knock Apple off it’s throne; in fact, it’d be better for everyone. I’m rooting for Android but likely sticking to Apple. We’ll see if the costs outweigh the benefits in the next few days.
Originally posted at posterous