My Android Impression by Rom Feria


After more than a week using an Android-based mobile phone, the T-Mobile G1 from Manila Bulletin and another from a popular electronics manufacturer whose name I cannot reveal due to an NDA, I think I can say that I have sufficient experience to provide you with my impression of the platform.

First, I love Android due to its open source nature and its Linux underpinning as well as its Java development environment. This is actually perfect for a FOSS advocate and a Java Champion like me.  I have tried a mobile phone that runs on Java as well as a mobile device that runs on Linux and I can honestly say that the Android blows them out of the water. Google has done a tremendous job marrying these technology into a single (and still open source) platform.

Coming from the iPhone, the Android phones have a similar touch-screen interface sans multi-touch (which is coming soon with version 2.0). However, the iPhone’s method of organizing applications into pages is far better than having three pages and a slide-up page that houses all the rest of the applications. Whilst some will say that it is easier to have one single page with all your apps, personally, I prefer the iPhone’s app organization.

The Android integration with Google’s service is similar to how iPhone is integrated with MobileMe. However, Google does not charge extra for such services – calendar and e-mail. I have yet to sync photos to Picasa or documents with Google Docs but I know that there are separate apps for those. So if you are an iPhone user with MobileMe – you will be familiar with how this works.

One feature that tops the iPhone is the Notification feature. Whilst the iPhone has App Push Notification service for third-party applications and Push e-mail, Android provides the same service for practically all apps. All notifications are displayed on a single page (revealed when you do a swipe gesture from the notification bar or whatever it is called) – contrast this to iPhone’s notification service which displays on the the most recent one. I’d say “iPhone FAIL!”.

Another feature is support for background apps. Whilst this certainly is an iPhone deal-breaker, I find that I can only use one application at a time, with the rest providing me with notifications. What I find rather annoying with multiple applications is how to manage it. Apps do not simply quit when you press the Home button – they run on the background.

Sooner or later, it eats up resources and render your phone useless for a couple of seconds whilst the phone kills apps that are no longer in use. A Task Manager is a must-have application on the Android – so you can manually kill apps that are running on the background.

Android phones come with access to the Marketplace, its version of the iTunes App Store where you purchase and download apps. You can enable your phone to allow applications from Unknown Sources – akin to having your phone jailbroken. This is very similar to a jailbroken iPhone – get apps from iTunes App Store AND Cydia App Store.

Non-official applications do not go through an approval process, in which the app is tested for bugs and stability, and some tend to crash a lot. I have experienced this – even from apps from the Marketplace – apps crashed quite often. Another side of this is malicious apps – since you can get apps from anywhere and with Android’s Dev Tools practically allowing you complete access to the phone’s internals – that can corrupt your phone data or worse.

Overall, the Android is feature-rich but the user experience lacks a page from the iPhone. Case in point, open the browser and enter the URL – normally, you look for the Location bar to enter the URL of the site. This is how you do it on the iPhone – tap the topmost part of the screen (with the browser open) and the Location bar appears and you can enter the URL and boom! On Android, you open the browser, push Menu button, tap Open and then enter your URL. Open another browser window requires an extra step compared to the iPhone.

Speaking of user experience, the keyboard design is a little bit frustrating. You’d be lucky if you can get a phone with a physical QWERTY keyboard but new Android models only come with a soft keyboard like the iPhone’s. The Android keyboard has a slow reaction time – making it frustrating when you type fast.

[via Manilla Bulletin Publishing]

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