So a while back I got one of those Android phones. The ones running that system that google develops, Android. More precisely, I got a white HTC Dream – The T-Mobile G1. From the outset, let me say, this phone’s a classic, in my opinion. It really started the modern smartphone era, where we’ve seen the rise of mobile operating systems, the race to and beyond 1GHz and multicore processors in mobile devices, and companies redefining themselves. It’s been great to watch as a technology enthusiast!
Okay, this may be an exaggeration… Before the G1 and Android hit the market, we had Windows Mobile, PalmOS (or what was left of it), Blackberry and the recent entrant of Apple with the iPhone. But PalmOS was dying and being killed off, Windows Mobile was entrenched in the emerging market, but lacking in innovation or much thought on user experience and RIM’s BlackBerry ecosystem was slowly evolving, but at no great rate. Only the iPhone, it’s appealing design and user interface and breakthrough user experience had really changed how people looked at these higher end smartphones. All credit to Apple, it really shook the market up.
What made the G1 so special then? It debuted another new mobile operating system, again designed from the ground up to be poked at by fingers, designed to add functionality to phones, not keep the stagnant market afloat. It also brought in a new way of working with mobile systems – while custom BlackBerry and WinMo Roms had been made before, this was the first time that people were able to go deep into the system and poke about the insides, really making it their own, as far as I know. The community surrounding that – places like the android forums at XDA-Developers and CyanogenMod - have enabled enthusiasts to really get involved in the cutting edge of mobile software development is pretty exciting and interesting, as a nerd.
Why did I get a G1? So I could experiment! Why else would I get a toy? It works pretty well as a phone, but as a plaything it’s unsurpassed. Not only do I get to experiment with the latest and greatest in the world of android, I get to play with the possibilities of these tiny and powerful computers. The G1 is clocked 5x faster than my first (Windows) computer, and has bags more RAM, not to mention built in GPS, accelerometer, digital compass, camera, gigabytes of storage and loads of connectivity (GPRS/3G/Wifi)… As a programmer and digital toys enthusiast, that’s a lot to play with!
First off, I’ve not put it to good use, yet. I’ve used it as a phone and played with Android 2.2 and 2.3. Let me say, first off, Android is ace. I think it’s brilliant fun! It’s so configurable, you wouldn’t believe the number of options available! Don’t like your home screen? Add widgets, or change the interface entirely with programs and skins. Don’t like your text messaging application? Swap it out for a new one! The list goes on and on, it’s fantastic. It’s also incredibly cool that there are enough people still dedicated to the phone to keep pushing out updates of El Goog’s latest and greatest.
As a nerd, Android makes me smile loads. As an end user, though, it’s not so good.
I appreciate that I’m an exception, running experimental software and this must be treated with caution, but even when running the ‘approved’ software, I’ve hit some challenges. My biggest gripe is “Force Close”. Things just stop running for seemingly no reason. Even my home screen has crashed, making it impossible to do anything. Why does my phone have to crash?! Why can it not, y’know, be a phone and be stable?
Here’s another one… not having enough RAM to complete the requested action, or something along those lines. My phone won’t make a call because it’s ran out of RAM. Isn’t that useful. And it won’t respond well these days because the processor isn’t fast enough! How is a machine that exceeds the basic requirements for Windows XP (Ignoring the fact it’s an incompatible architecture) unable to run a just-for-mobile system well enough to… well to be good at what it was originally sold to do?! If Apple have taught us anything, it’s that things “Just Working” makes end-users happy. I’d agree here… and this is my problem. My next phone won’t be Android based, solely because I want to keep my tinkering for when I’m tinkering on my computer or with my circuits, and my phone calls for when I want to make them, not 2 hours afterwards.
At the same time, though, when I’ve finished my android-controlled robot project, life’s going to be totally awesome. Just because I can look at it and smile. And because Android let me tinker.
What a fickle man I am.