Adventures with Android

May 11th, 2010 19 Comments

About a month ago, Google announced they were giving away Droids and Nexus Ones to Google IO (@googleio) attendees, which is next week.

Droids go to attendees registered with US addresses. Nexus Ones go to international attendees. The Droid comes with 30 days of complimentary 3G service on Verizon, so it’s fully functional.

Android will be a big focus of IO this year, and the goal is to get attendees using the phones and familiarizing themselves with Android prior to the conference to allow them to get more out of the content. Pretty smart idea.

In timely news, Android phones are reportedly outselling iPhones for the first time, which may or may not be accurate. They say 87% of people are influenced by random statistics.

Anyway, we’ll be attending, so Rich (@rmanalan), Anthony (@anthonyslai) and I (@jkuramot) are all proud new Droid owners. Rich was ecstatic at the news, albeit a bit bummed he wouldn’t get a Nexus One, and when his Droid arrived, he dumped his Palm Pre completely.

I suggested he put his thoughts into a post, since he’s now used each of the major smartphones available, and no, I don’t include Blackberry, mainly just to mess with the loyal fanbase.

After some prodding from Rich and another friend, I finally got mine out of its box today and took it for a spin.

A couple important things to note: 1) I’m in love with my iPhone, and 2) I hate carrying multiple gadgets.

That said, I’m favorably impressed with the Droid, even more so with Android in general.

It didn’t start out that way though.

Any Android phone is little more than a paperweight without a Google account, e.g. you need one to download apps from the Android Market, and for some reason, I wasn’t able to sign in to my Google account on my Droid.

I banged my head off this issue for a long time. It made me, unhappy.

I use 1Password, and the only thing I can of is that one or more special characters in my secure password caused Android to vomit.

I finally had to reset my Google password, and subsequently, Google on all my other devices (grrr) to get it working. Not happy about that.

Anyway, here are some general impressions from several hours of tinkering.

Hardware

The hardware itself is fine, but it feels clumsy, especially the slide out keypad. The battery has impressed me so far, keeping a nice charge; not really hardware related, but there’s a settings dialog to see what’s been consuming battery, which is very useful. I haven’t tried the camera for pictures, but it works well for scanning barcodes.

I’m curious as to why they went with both physical and soft keypad, very confusing and not terribly user friendly to have both. Although, I must say both are very accurate, more so than my iPhone’s soft keypad. Maybe they’re more forgiving. Whichever, I have fewer typos as a result.

Android

I like the OS quite a bit. It’s snappy and pretty smart, although not as spartan as you’d expect from Google. Like the hardware, it’s hard around the edges, much like the marketing campaign for Droid, i.e. pitched at dudes as a tool, not a toy.

It’s weird that I don’t have to sync to anything on a laptop, a la iTunes. Not bad, just unexpected. I’m wondering how I can get music onto it. Apparently, I have 14.8 GB free on the SD card, but no way to use that for music own.

One annoying thing is how chatty the OS is by default. Always letting me know I have mail or @ replies or something else. It’s a bit maddening, and one thing that tells me multi-tasking needs to be closely controlled, unless you want your phone to distract you all the time.

Apps

Android’s apps are very nice, and there are plenty to choose from in the Android Market. I’m liking the Twitter app, like Rich.

My favorite apps so far are ones that the iPhone doesn’t have, namely the Google ones, i.e. voice enabled directions, turn-by-turn navigation, voice dial, voice search. They all rock. Hard.

I didn’t really believe they were that good, but here we are. I’m a believer. And of course, now, we’ll never, ever, ever, ever, ever, until pigs fly, see that level of awesome on their iPhone cousins.

One caveat that isn’t too surprising, based on experience with Google, is that official apps for Calendar, Docs, Reader, Picasa, Analytics and other Google services are noticeably absent.

I’d really like those to come OOTB, and frankly, wouldn’t Google include them by default?

So, would I switch from iPhone to Droid. No. To another Android phone? Maybe, but unlikely.

That’s an improvement really. I have a lot of time and money invested in my iPhone holding me back, but it’s actually quite comforting to know there are very capable alternatives out there, if need be.

Anyway, thanks Google for the Droid and for pushing Apple. Competition is good. It breeds innovation and lowers costs, among other things.

Come see us at Google IO next week if you’re in the Bay Area.


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19 Responses to “Adventures with Android”

  1. topperge Says:

    Hmm, now you have me thinking. Should Google implement oAuth as the authorization mechanism for your phone so that you can disable access to your gAccount if you lose it? Will have to noodle some more on how that would effect usability.

  2. Jake Says:

    Sounds good to me. You're the expert in that arena, so maybe a post is coming?

  3. joel garry Says:

    If competition lowers costs, why are my telephone bills the same order of magnitude as my car payments?

  4. manalang Says:

    Great idea… you should float that over to @timbray

  5. Jake Says:

    Price-fixing? I think that could stick on the major telcos.

  6. bex Says:

    I have a 'droid for my phone, and an iPod Touch for fun… I prefer the 'droid to the iPhone for multiple reasons, but I think they need to work harder at hardware acceleration for the graphics. jQuery Touch rocks on the iPhone, but is a big ol giant hog on the 'droid. Review here:

    http://bexhuff.com/2009/09/get-iphone-like-anim

  7. Jake Says:

    Interesting. Did you replace an iPhone with a Droid or are you anti-iPhone (i.e. ATT)?

  8. bex Says:

    Neither… it's more a philosophical thing: I prefer open platforms. Even if they are clunkier and less sexy ;-)

    The 'droid is only my second cell phone. I didn't own one until 2007.

  9. Jake Says:

    Thought that might be why, which leads to the obvious question about your MBP vs. a Linux laptop :) Or are you running Linux on it. Couldn't resist.

    How did you manage to avoid a cell phone that long? More importantly, why?

  10. bex Says:

    The Mac Book is the most “open” of the functional desktop operating systems… and I run Linux in a VM Ware machine when I need it ;-)

    I used a cell phone for a while in the early 1990s — one of those big analog bricks — but decided I just didn't need it. I also didn't like how having a mobile phone altered my behavior, because I stopped actually making solid plans, and instead relied on the phone too much. I bought one reluctantly in 2007 because I started my own business, and needed a phone line that worked in Europe.

    Mobile phones are cool and all… but I can stay connected just as well with email… Especially now with Google Voice and all…

  11. Jake Says:

    Wow, so Ubuntu isn't functional enough for you to use on a laptop? Another nugget in there, VM Ware over Virtualbox, ahem open source. You're a riddle wrapped in an enigma.

    Ah yes, good old analog cell phones were such a novelty. Your usage patterns sound like a borderline iPad user.

  12. bex Says:

    Unfortunately, no… Ubuntu isn't good enough for my needs as a primary desktop. I've bumped into too many issues running open office with microsoft styles and presentations. VM Ware is a standard, for better or worse… and the player is free. I've had issues running databases on open source VMs…

    I'm no enigma… just a pragmatist with specific needs ;-)

    iPad? Maybe in a year or two… I'm waiting for it to have a built-in camera.

  13. Jake Says:

    OK, just trying to get some depth on the preference for open platforms remark.

  14. Jake Says:

    Thought that might be why, which leads to the obvious question about your MBP vs. a Linux laptop :) Or are you running Linux on it. Couldn't resist.

    How did you manage to avoid a cell phone that long? More importantly, why?

  15. bex Says:

    The Mac Book is the most “open” of the functional desktop operating systems… and I run Linux in a VM Ware machine when I need it ;-)

    I used a cell phone for a while in the early 1990s — one of those big analog bricks — but decided I just didn't need it. I also didn't like how having a mobile phone altered my behavior, because I stopped actually making solid plans, and instead relied on the phone too much. I bought one reluctantly in 2007 because I started my own business, and needed a phone line that worked in Europe.

    Mobile phones are cool and all… but I can stay connected just as well with email… Especially now with Google Voice and all…

  16. Jake Says:

    Wow, so Ubuntu isn't functional enough for you to use on a laptop? Another nugget in there, VM Ware over Virtualbox, ahem open source. You're a riddle wrapped in an enigma.

    Ah yes, good old analog cell phones were such a novelty. Your usage patterns sound like a borderline iPad user.

  17. bex Says:

    Unfortunately, no… Ubuntu isn't good enough for my needs as a primary desktop. I've bumped into too many issues running open office with microsoft styles and presentations. VM Ware is a standard, for better or worse… and the player is free. I've had issues running databases on open source VMs…

    I'm no enigma… just a pragmatist with specific needs ;-)

    iPad? Maybe in a year or two… I'm waiting for it to have a built-in camera.

  18. Jake Says:

    OK, just trying to get some depth on the preference for open platforms remark.

  19. Beginning Android | Hello Tech ! Says:

    […] colleague Jake has been writing some good posts in his blog http://theappslab.com/ about android as […]

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