Thursday, 12 August 2010

The Rise Of The Robots

No, I'm not going to talk about the game (even if it was quite good, especially for its time). And, you should have guessed that as soon as you saw the image to the left, too.

Yes, it's that cute newcomer to the wild, wild world of mobile phones - the Android. It's been variously praised and criticised, but it is in clear and present ascendancy. Another important fact about it - well, at least for me - is that I am absolutely, positively loving it!

I've recently been experimenting with a few phones running various versions of Android. Namely, T-Mobile Pulse Mini, T-Mobile Pulse, and finally Motorola Droid (also known as Milestone over here in Blighty). My impressions have varied as much as the three phones. The first two lacked a hardware keyboard and proved once and for all, that for me this is a must have on the phone. Interestingly, the much larger Pulse proved to be the more difficult to use without the keyboard. I actually liked the Mini very much, but mostly for its small size (aka pocketability).

The absolute winner proved to be the Droid, and not just because it has a very good hardware keyboard. It could be that its capacitive touch screen is much better than the other two (I think it is), but I was finally able to control the phone without making silly mistakes - something that until now kept me with the more precise, but less swanky resistive screens. Also, this high usability and controllability made it possible to fully assess Android as an operating system.

A word of warning: If you haven't thrown your lot with Google and its various services (like I have) then you may find Android a bit less of a perfect solution. But, if you are heavy user of Google Mail, Calendar and a few others, you will find that the only proper way to use them on the mobile phone is in Android. At different times I've tried pretty much everything: from Windows Mobile, through S60 to Maemo. Nothing comes close to Android when it comes to setting up, and synchronising with, your Google accounts - especially if you have more than one!

Another feature I've been using a lot, and pretty much exclusively, on mobile phones is SatNav. I will happily concede that in this area, and especially when it comes to free voice guided navigation, Nokia Maps still lead the way. Google Maps on Android lack the ability to download maps to the phone so you don't need Internet connection (very useful when in roaming), and the voice guidance leaves a lot to be desired (one thing would be British voice actors - note to Google: it's called a roundabout not a traffic circle!). Still, when it comes to searching for locations and providing information over and above simple coordinates Google Maps on Android work absolutely wonderfully.

I could go on and on and on, but what you really need to do is give it a go. Ask a friend to lend you an Android device for a few days. More likely than not you'll like it. And when it comes to comparisons to Apple - there can't be one really. Unless, of course, you are happy with Fischer-Price styled, walled garden for minors limited, antenna under-engineered device with early twentieth century idea of multitasking. Sure, you may get more sex, but will it be better?

PS
I need to update this page, now that I've relegated my N97 mini to SatNav duties outside of Blighty.

PPS
Can't wait to see the just announced Motorola Droid 2 - they kept the hardware keyboard so it can't be bad at all!