Love it, Hate it: Google Android
I was reading Game Informer magazine the other day, and the Letter from the Editor was basically a shout-out to everyone who's ever accused him of favoring one platform over another over the years. He did this by running through a list of what he likes and dislikes about every major gaming platform currently on the market.
Dealing with accusations of bias is a sad, annoying truth when you make a living reviewing *anything* for a living. While I'd be the first to tell you that I have my personal preferences when it comes to mobile devices and applications, I also do my very best to remain as objective as possible - and to view products from multiple perspectives - when reviewing a phone, accessory, or service.
That said, I'm stealing that gaming editor's idea here by offering a run-down of what I love and hate about the major smartphone platforms we've been spending so much time covering this Summer at PhoneDog. Take it for what you will, but I'm tellin' ya, there are things I love and hate about every device out there, and I really mean it when I say that just because I like a particular phone doesn't mean you will, or should, as well.
Now if only I could get YouTube commenters to stop yelling at each other (and me) for a minute and come read my blog ...
Love it, Hate it: Google Android (HTC G1, Magic, Hero, myTouch 3G)
- I love Google's sorta-open source, sorta-we push our services on you approach to Android. Seriously, if you're a GMail/Google Apps user you wind up with the best of both worlds: Tight integration with the killer apps you already use and a burgeoning community of developers churning out more and more neato apps every day.
- I hate how Google's sneakily drawing Android users deeper and deeper into the realm of targeted advertising opps. No, I've yet to encounter ads in my Inbox on a G1 like I do everyday on GMail's web interface, but I fear the day is coming. At the least, I know Google's tracking my mobile phone usage and putting that data towards their goal of world domination. Or at least my paranoid twin thinks so.
- I love that Google partnered with HTC for the first round of Android phones. HTC makes excellent hardware, and they've done a bang-up job building custom software for their TouchFlo 3D-enhanced Windows Mobile phones. Capacative touchscreen AND a trackball on the G1? Amazing that nobody else had thought of that combo before HTC and Google did.
- I hate that Android's been on the market for almost a year now and there's still only one phone that runs the thing in the US, and only two world-wide. What is that? Consumers like choice! A single Android phone to satisfy all would-be US users smacks of an Apple-esque arrogance that the G1 simply isn't worthy of. Let's face it, it's not exactly a sleek, sexy device that captured the mainstream imagination like iPhone did. Also, while I love their value and customer service, T-Mobile isn't the leading carrier in the US - so why can't I get an Android phone on any other network in the States yet?
- I love Android 1.5, or at least love it a lot more than I did the 1.0 release. 1.5 ain't perfect, but it's a huge step forward in terms of usability, and the virtual QWERTY/spellcheck system is great. 1.5 got me to spend a big chunk of quality time with Android, and I'm more and more impressed with the apps, customization/skinning options, and widgets available to Android users.
- I hate that Google can't or won't release a truly marketable operating system. Android 1.5 is better than 1.0, but it lacks iPhone's blatant, novice-friendly ease-of-use and WebOS' multitasking-meets-eye candy innovation. Apple-haters harp on the "dumb grid of icons" and lack of true multitasking on iPhone, but the iPod, Web browser, and Mail apps are dead easy to use and full of consumer-friendly details. WebOS on the Pre is still in its buggy infancy, but it's got an enormous upside. Android? We're coming up on a year now and 1.5 still kinda feels like it's more of a developers' sandbox than a consumer-friendly platform.
- I love what I've seen of the new Android handsets rumored to be launching this Summer and Fall. HTC Hero, with a 3.5mm audio jack and TouchFlo-like custom UI? Awesome! Samsung Galaxy with an AMOLED display and 5 MP camera in a 12mm thin body? Amazing! Motorola Morrison, a full QWERTY side-slider made for the messaging masses? Clever! Android will really come into its own during the second half of this year, and there are more devices on the way than those three I just mentioned.
- I hate that Android's first handset was boxy, clunky, had a big chin, and lacked a standardized audio port. Is it so hard to use rounded lines and a 3.5mm headphone jack when building a smartphone? Apple and Palm can do it, so why can't HTC and Google. (Note: Check back with me on this one after HTC's event this week) Android's first device should have been an absolute home run in terms of form and function - or at least form. Instead, the G1 was a double at best. Seriously, how are you going to compete with Apple when your premiere device feels twice as thick and heavy as the iPhone and music lovers have to plug their earphones into a dongle to use the thing?
- I love Android's push GMail support and subtle notifications system. Unlike Apple's iPhone OS, Android doesn't bring everything to a screeching halt whenever a new message or other push notification comes in. Like Palm Pre's WebOS, Android simply places an icon in the top-of-screen status bar to let me know when I've got a new voicemail, message, email, or download; I can flick the status bar down to see the details, or ignore it entirely until I'm ready to deal with the new information.
- I hate Android's mail app. You might like the whole GMail conversation view thing, but I prefer a standard message-by-message Inbox, or at least the option to view Email that way if I want to. Maybe I'm being ridiculous, but Android's mail app just annoys me. And isn't it odd that Google just released improvements to their Android-compatible GMail web app? It's like they want you to use the Web app instead of the Android app because they know the webmail experience is a better one.