Android – Hype, Hope or Reality

image Android recently has enjoyed tremendous hype as the latest, greatest OS. At CES Android was the OS of choice for phones to notebooks to … microwaves? BGR (aka Boy Genius Report) provides a less sunny opinion in Google Android Personal Thoughts. Summary and then my thoughts after the break.

Summary of BGR Article

“Android still feels half baked even after two years.” BGR gives several examples, ranging from lack of uniformity of icons and touch areas on icons, inability to copy text from a non-editable field, etc.

OS also buggy. “Why does the VNC application I bought and paid for crash on the Nexus One with a Java.IO error? Because your entire OS is fragmented, poorly driven, poorly policed, and because in typical Google fashion, you’re already on to the next thing before making this an absolutely flawless experience for users. What happened to ferociously making sure the absolute core applications in your package were 100% perfect before shipping? BlackBerry’s email application is flawless. Apple’s web browser is flawless. But there’s not a single application on Android that doesn’t have carbon spots in it.”

Lack of quality applications. “I’m talking about quality — re-read the word quality — applications, here. The best VNC and RDP applications on Android are a joke. There’s not a single enjoyable Twitter application, and any application that’s on Android that is available on the iPhone pales in comparison.”

Lack of … well, pizzazz. “[T]here’s practically no human emotion with Google when it comes to technology … People would die for their iPhones, people would die for their BlackBerrys – and they feel like their lives are in there. People feel connected to their BlackBerrys. Some sleep with them next to their pillow. No one gives a crap about their Android phone, there’s zero emotional attachment.”

Perhaps one reason for the lack of pizzazz: “[C]oders aren’t designers …  That’s why Apple’s entire developer ecosystem is different, because believe it or not, Apple’s developers are amazing designers that make beautiful things, and they happen to know how to code. That’s entirely different from someone who’s the best coder in the world and trying to create something that looks, works, and feels great.”

My Thoughts

BGR’s thoughts on Android accentuate the negative. There’s much good to be said about Android. But you don’t need to go far to hear the good. The converse isn’t true; few focus on the problems with Android, as BGR has.

BGR is correct that Android is still rough around the edges and Apple has better QC (quality control) of its OS. But Android is still a relatively new OS. Further, Google is improving the OS at a relatively rapid pace. Contrast that with the more pedestrian pace of Apple’s OS updates (think of copy and paste).

Additionally, Android is open source. The Apple OS is so closed it makes the Kremlin of yore look open by comparison. But having an open vs. closed OS ecosystem has its downside. QC is going to be better when one entity (such as Apple) controls all and is willing to take its time to improve the OS.  Indeed, RIM also has tight control over the Blackberry OS, which as BGR correctly observes does a wonderful job with email.

Similar considerations apply to applications. Apple’s tight control over its App Store is legendary. Additionally, Apple App Store apps are tightly focused on two very similar devices, the iPhone and the iPod. By contrast, Google’s Android Marketplace doesn’t have a monopoly. Additionally, Android devices run a far wider gamut. Leaving aside microwaves, Android is used in phones, PMPs, MIDs, netbooks, smartbooks, etc. 

RIM is somewhere in between Android and Apple in the continuum of open vs. closed applications. On one hand, RIM is relatively closed in making its API available to developers. But on the other hand, Blackberry App World is not monolithic. Perhaps not coincidentally, the quantity, quality and polish of Blackberry applications are (IMO) in between Android and Apple.

Finally, BGR gives short mention to an issue which is causing me to hesitate leaving Blackberry (and my Storm) for Android; Android’s Exchange Server support is still incomplete. This is a major issue not just for me. Many use their phone as a PIM (personal information manager) and also have one or more computers with the same PIM data. The need for transparent synchronization of this data among multiple devices is critical. Exchange Server mastered this many moons ago, to the advantage of Blackberries on a BES. Google … not there yet.

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