Last weekend I finally took the plunge and bought myself a smartphone. I didn’t want to sign for an expensive three year contract, so I opted for Wind Mobile and paid up front for an Optimus LG 2X.
I’m no stranger to mobile operating systems (you know the rules, and so do I). I own an iPod Touch and an iPad, and have a history with pocket sized devices that goes all the way back to primitive PDAs from a decade ago. That said, this was my first modern smartphone.
My first impression, contrary to a lot of what I’ve read online, is that Android is a remarkable operating system. I’m sure my experience would have been much less positive had I opted for a cheap, old device and not a state of the art, blazingly fast dual core smartphone. With proper hardware though, Android is a beauty to use.
I’ve been putting the phone to the test for the past few days and not once I experienced a lock up, screen freeze, reboot, connection dropped or any of the problems I read about months ago while researching Android smartphones online.
Everything runs extremely fast and is responsive without any glitches, from applications and games to 1080p HD content. (I compared my model’s playback capabilities with those of a colleague’s Nexus S, and we found his device to be choppy when playing HD content.)
The quality and quantity of applications I tried so far has been remarkably good. There are no doubt fewer apps than at the Apple App Store, and the ecosystem may currently be less profitable for developers; nevertheless, I have not felt left behind by the Android Marketplace so far. My bank doesn’t have an official app for Android yet, but that’s about it. (They do for iOS.)
The operating system feels organized and well thought out, and its integration with Google’s services is really the killer feature for me. Having tried it, I’m not sure I’d be willing to give up this level of integration if I had to switch to an iPhone in the future. (Assuming it wasn’t possible there as well.)
Things like the ability to edit my contacts in Gmail, and have them automatically appear as my phone contacts (including avatars) are small details that ensure the experience is very pleasant, and they’re making me grow fonder and fonder of the OS. Everything is very configurable. For example, I’ve set my phone so that it only shows me contacts for which a phone number has been stored.
The touch screen keyboard works flawlessly with extreme accuracy, despite my chubby fingers. Surprisingly, I make less errors with Android than on my iPod Touch, despite both devices being roughly the same size. Even my ridiculously complicated passwords were relatively easy to enter.
To be honest with you, I went into this thinking that Android was a runner up I was forced to choose due to the limited number of mobile carriers that support the iPhone here in Canada. Now though, I’m becoming ever happier that I was coerced into trying Android.
It’s amazing how quickly I’ve become accustomed to having this little computer in my pocket. I was afraid it would go unused, that the screen would be too small to read on, and similar concerns. Thankfully, be it the sharp display or the internet in your pocket factor, I’ve not been into anything so much since I switched to Mac a few years ago.
I feel like I have only explored 10% of what Android lets you accomplish, and it’s continually surprising to find more new features and plenty of nice, elegant touches.
Owning this device has allowed me to experience what Android is really all about firsthand, and having done so, it’s darn near impossible not to become enthusiastic about it.
A lot of what I’ve read in the past is puzzlingly different from my own experience. It was either FUD, second-hand opinions, or perhaps Android (and the devices’ hardware) have drastically improved in the past few months so as to significantly affect the user experience.
As more people try it out, I have no doubt that Android will become pervasive, and not just on smartphones and tablets, but also in new environments like your TV, home and car. The prospective of making such environments programmable is very appealing to one’s inner hacker, too.
Android gets two big thumbs up from me, and I have to say, things are looking pretty good for Android right now. Pretty, pretty, pretty good.
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Antonio Cangiano is a Software Developer and Technical Evangelist at IBM. He authored 'Ruby on Rails for Microsoft Developers' by Wrox (2009) and 'Technical Blogging' by The Pragmatic Bookshelf (2012). He is also the Marketing Lead for Cognitive Class, an IBM educational initiative which he helped grow from zero to 1 Million students. You can follow him on Twitter.