Android: First Impressions

04 Jul 2010
Posted by Kiran

Early this year, I was looking out for a new phone. After looking around for quite a while, I finally decided to go with the HTC Desire.

Before the Desire, I had another HTC phone — the HTC TyTN running Windows Mobile 6.0. Given that I have always been — right from its Pocket PC days — a Windows Mobile devotee, my PIM is mainly based out of Outlook and Exchange. Windows Mobile 6.0 integrated beautifully with Outlook and using both of these together was extremely convenient.

Hence, moving to Android wasn't an easy decision. However rave reviews received by the Desire and the fact that I was unconvinced about the suitability of future Windows Mobile Platforms, made me take the plunge into Android.

Now that I have had my Desire for almost three months, I thought I should write about my first impressions.

What I liked about Android

1

The touch interface came to me as a very refreshing change from the primarily stylus based interface that I had to contend with on the TyTN. I know that Microsoft is making very good progress in this field with Windows Mobile 6.5 and 7. However, having played around with the HTC HD2, which runs Windows Mobile 6.5, I can say that the touch interface in Android is much more touch friendly and easier to use all over.

I must accept though that my opinions may be biased by the extensive experience I had fiddling around with the TyTN's stylus.

2

The browser on Android is a winner! It is fast, crisp and rendered all web-pages fluidly and without issues. Add the pinch-to-zoom feature and text re-flow, and the browsing on Android turns out to be pure pleasure. I have never had such a great browsing experience out of the stock Windows Mobile browser. I must say that ever since I got my Desire, the frequency with which I open my Laptop for pure browsing has reduced significantly!

3

The Android Market consolidates all applications for the Android platform into a single location. By browsing the market users can easily find interesting and useful applications that enhances functionality of their Android device.

I do have some complaints about the Android market, which I will discuss a bit later.

4

The System stability is another thing that was immediately apparent to me. When I was on Windows Mobile, I had to soft reset my device every week at the least! Having now switched to Android, I have rarely faced the need to restart my device! The system just works!

5

The Developer community working with the Android platform is extremely enthusiastic and innovative. This passion, which is evident if you visit some of the established Android forums such as Modaco, Cyanogen or XDA, can only be good for the platform as a whole.

 

What I disliked about it

1
The simple things that you would assume would work on a device, sometimes don't! And that can be extremely frustrating. Let me illustrate with a few examples:
  • No File-manager out of the box! There is an excellent File Manager application available free of cost in the Android market though — Astro
  • The Bluetooth stack on Android does not support voice dialing using a Bluetooth headset. I was surprised to note this and immediately started googling for a solution. It was then that I realized that the Android Bluetooth stack doesn't support this feature yet!
  • Calendar reminders can only be snoozed by 5 minutes! In Windows Mobile, I was accustomed to being able to snooze reminders using options such as '5 minutes before the event', '15 minutes', etc. These options just aren't present in Android. Thankfully there is an application you can buy from the Market — Calendar Snooze — that introduces this feature for you. However, I would've still expected such a feature in stock Android and not have to pay extra for this.

Many of these features are easily supplemented by adding applications from the market. However, features such as a file-manager, bluetooth voice-dialing, reminder snoozing are far too basic for a smartphone OS to ignore!

2

No support for tasks. Android does not support Outlook tasks as part of the PIM. This is very inconvenient for people like me who have extensively used Outlook tasks to manage our day to day activities. I am yet to find an effective alternative to manage tasks on my Android.

3

The Android market isn't open to users in all countries for making purchases! Users in countries other than a select few are limited to only the free apps. Sure there are alternatives. However, I would have assumed that the official channel established by Google would be available for users in all countries where Android based phones are being actively sold!

4

No out-of-the-box support for Microsoft Office is a real let down. There is an excuse of an application called QuickOffice which allows users to view Microsoft Office documents.

As always, there is a rather expensive application — Documents To Go — that helps you solve this problem. However, you will have to shell out the $14.99 cost of this application. For a smartphone OS, I would have expected Android to have basic support for viewing and editing office documents.

5

The need for Rooting and Apps2SD. Android has many limitations; some of which I mentioned above. However, the biggest of them is probably the inability to install apps into the SD Card. Unlike Windows Mobile, stock Android will install all applications into the phone memory, which is usually in short supply!

This problem has been solved by the Android developer community with a system called A2SD. However, to implement this system you need to have root access to your phone.

The need to root arises out of the limitations such as these. In effect, this is similar to jailbreaking an iPhone. It will void your warranty and you also run the risk of bricking your phone.

 

All in all, Android is a great platform with amazing dedication and passion from its community. However, Android still has some way to go in terms of ironing out the small details of what should be catered for by a Smartphone OS.

I think you knew that I would

I think you knew that I would comment :)

For the dislikes

1) As you said, most are resolved by Market
2) http://www.sprinxcrm.com/SprinxCRM%20OutlookSync%20for%20Remember%20The%20Milk/index.html .. This might help. This will sync with Remember the Milk and there are lot of RTM clients for android to use on your phone
3)Not a full fix available but alternative markets allow to buy. To enable buying in Android market there is a hack available http://code.google.com/p/market-enabler/ but I think that requires rooting
4) QuickOffice connect which allows editing is a bit cheaper. Also, Google docs is supported on Android browser which can edit all office docs.
5)As of now, rooting is the only option but Froyo (2.2) support apps on SD


Yes, I was expecting a comment from you

Hi Vinod,

Yes, I was counting on you to comment :)

1. Yes, the market does have a solution for most problems. However not everyone is savvy enough or patient enough to go through the pains of searching for the right app to solve their problems. For Android to really compete for the Enterprise User market-share, I think they have to get such basics right and it should be available out of the box.

2. During my hunt for a solution I did come across Remember The Milk for tasks. ActionComplete is another excellent application that provides tasks on Android. However, I am still wondering if I should distribute my personal information across more and more websites — Google as well as RTM or ActionComplete.

3. Yes, the Market Enabler requires rooting.

4. Did not know about QuickOffice Connect. I am not sure about Google Docs. Don't know if, after my email, calendar and contact details, I want to share my documents as well with Google.

5. Apps2SD on Froyo gives the choice of installation on SD to the Developer. The user still does not have an option when he wants to force installation onto SD. Hence, unless and until the Developer modifies the application code to allow it, the users don't have a choice but to install the application onto the Phone memory.


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