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Why Android is more interesting

Posted 8 years ago in Tech by Rod Drury
Posted by Rod Drury

Wouldn’t you know it, on the day my new iPhone four arrives and I can ditch the BlackBerry, I get to play with a Dell Streak running Android. Suddenly I’m not excited about my iPhone anymore.

And it’s all about Widgets. Look at the screen of the Streak. You see information.

I first saw the Dell Streak about 3 months ago and I pretty much laughed it was so big. You can’t be serious that thing is a phone.  It’s huge. But since then I’ve had an iPad and I’ve got used to tablet computing.  I like the space on the screen.  When I do calls it’s often in the car on Bluetooth or I can easily use a Bluetooth headset or the speaker phone so big doesn’t worry me so much anymore, if you get screen space.

The big difference is how the Android Operating System uses widgets. That is, each app can have its own dashboard that can be displayed directly on the desktop(s), which can be easily scrolled through. This is fundamentally different to how iOS works on Apple devices. iOS is an app centric interface. You have to launch each app to use it. I didn’t realize how broken and limiting this is until I played with Android. With Android you just view widgets. Clocks, Stocks, FaceBook feeds, your CRM system, Tasks, your bank balance – whatever YOU want. Anything you want to drill into you can, which then launches the application. That truly is information at your finger tips, being able to see at a glance the key information YOU need without having to think about applications.

Already there is talk of iOS5 and a smaller iPad device. iOS5 has to have widgets, and Apple has to get there soon. Widgets are such a better metaphor than apps that the iPhone seems kinda pointless without them. And if you are going to have one mobile device, this bigger form factor is better. Maybe Dell were right with this sized device.

Apple has kept such tight control of the phone experience. I thought I would value being on the one platform. Today I feel quite different. Already I’ve noticed that notifications are too restrictive.  I feel locked in by my music in iTunes. I feel restricted on a tiny screen. (I also miss the BlackBerry flashing red light.)

Android isn’t perfect. Exchange integration is still not good enough and the UI seems a bit clunky. But having a huge screen phone where you can assemble the information you need to run your day felt a lot closer to information nirvana than where the iPhone is right now.

This is why competition is so good. I really had thought that Apple had won. Not anymore.  Android is much more interesting now. The possibility to craft a mobile information portal, where you can see at a glance the things that matter to you without having to dive in, feels much more magical.

We’re seeing so  much innovation in hardware and software. I hope we see some standards in Widgets between iOS and Android (hopefully HTML5) so that developers don’t have to fragment their energy.

I’m surprised by how much I’ve swung on this. I wasn’t interested in Android at all before. But now I get it. Apple’s control and app centric design don’t make sense anymore.

What do you think?


August 9, 2010 at 11.35 pm

Try TouchDown for Exchange support.

The most annoying thing about Android is vendors pulling support for software updates very soon after releasing phones. A lot of people are stuck on old versions because of this. At least iPhone 3G owners can use iOS4. HTC Dream owners (a phone released 6-12 months after the 3G) are stuck with software that is 4 versions old.

Mark Appel
August 9, 2010 at 11.39 pm

I fully agree. I am an enthousiastic Android user (Magic & Nexus One) for a year now and also own an iPad. If you work with both you really experience the difference between those 2 platforms. Android much more open and flexible then the the Apple OS.

nik sargent
August 9, 2010 at 11.55 pm

Not sure I totally agree – as your being so black & white about it. I’m new to iphone and I’l be honest, I felt the lack of widgets could be a problem, I’d had a taste of it on my sony and I felt my new phone had to have it. But, in my survey for a new device I found that the concept was very much lacking when applied to the regular form factor..
cramped, clunky, sony doing their own “skin” on android etc. Not really very mature and in use, not actually that useful when it comes down to it. But, I’d like this if it worked well and of course the bigger the form factor the more likely that will be..

So – i went with apple – why? apps.. apps and more apps.. i realised I don’t want/need a phone any more, i need a mobile computing platform that integrates my world – not just my social streams, but my home automation, my lifestyle & health data, my shared documents, my blog control panel, photo editing, movie editing and so on and so on..

In this context, widgets, while a nice to have, become less “make or break” and Apple’s implementation of multi-tasking and push is actually pretty satisfactory as a helpful and workable design compromise for “must have now” data.

It has to be said, getting the iphone for the above reasons is the best choice I ever made. I’m not a fanboi at all – but the device meets my expectation and provides exactly the utility I need without frustrating me.

improvements can always be made – i’m even creating my own list – but this doesn’t consign the iphone to the scrap heap even though you make it sound like that is the case.

I actually think you’re equating the additional benefit and utility of the bigger screen of the dell directly with android itself and I’d say this is why there is more grey area here than you make out..

iPhone App Blogger
August 10, 2010 at 2.18 am

So, eventhough you now have your iPhone 4, if you had the choice again which one would you go for?

August 10, 2010 at 6.55 am

That looks huge. How do you plan to carry it – are you a man bag user or does it actually fit in your pocket.

Rod Drury Xero
August 10, 2010 at 7.08 am

A man bag user! How could you think such a thing? While big it is thin and does fit in a pocket. Just.

Keith Nicholas
August 10, 2010 at 8.53 am

Perhaps the next business opportunity is making tech compatible clothing…..

plus size pockets for the larger gadget guy 😉

Richard Penny
August 10, 2010 at 8.55 am

Interesting thoughts Rod. Horrifying to think there is a world beyond Apple…
Hope you don’t mind, i’ve referenced your piece in our blog

Nic Wood
August 10, 2010 at 9.38 am

I’ve gone from blackbery pearl, to a Bold, then to Android with a HTC G2, and then in the last week got a Samsung Galaxy S which by the way is fantastic! I still think Blackberry with the physical keyboard and email software makes a better email device, But the power of the samsung and the large screen side makes it a very powerful portable computer!

I use it for a huge number of things including writing this post 🙂

Mike Deam
August 10, 2010 at 10.19 am

Hi Keith,

Tech compatible clothing check out ScottyVest – you to can have a jacket with 24 pockets! Even lets you fit an iPad.

John Woodbridge
August 10, 2010 at 11.27 am

As I recall, Android was about 18 months behind iPhone OS, and I doubt that Apple will have wasted that time advantage, so I expect Apple will keep iOS competitive moving forward.

Andy Chilton
August 10, 2010 at 1.41 pm

I think it was obvious from the start that Apple was controlling and Android was open. I can’t believe people still think so much of Apple after all these years of brainwashing people into thinking they are the best. And seriously, that’s what it is, brainwashed uses blogging about Apple and about how you too should become brainwashed.

It has been shown time and time again that if you let the user do whatever they like and give them the power, then they’ll like it and use it more than something that is restricted in arbitrary ways. Surely you have seen this with Xero and the API?

Rich Chetwynd
August 10, 2010 at 4.16 pm

Good point about standards for widgets although standards take for ever and a day to go through so devs should just focus on the HTML5 spec.

I believe were on the tipping point of a mobile web app/widgets explosion. Weve seen the native app life cycle before on PC and now were seeing it again on mobile. It seems so unnecessary to download and maintain native apps when they can be delivered on-demand. Its only a matter of time….

Xero works great on iPhone & iPad, is mobile a focus point for the company or just a bit on the side?

Rod Drury Xero
August 11, 2010 at 6.46 am

@Rich, you’ll see us add more mobile features, we think the mobile will become an increasingly common access method for cloud services. Now we have the engine it makes sense to invest in more mobile scenarios. This is quite exciting for small business applications where the business owner is operating from anywhere.

Dermott Renner
August 11, 2010 at 12.48 pm

Interesting comments Rod and it shows that technology is becoming more centric for individuals depending on their needs or desires.
I saw the Dell Streak recently in the UK and thought it was too small for a tablet but your point about Bluetooth etc is correct. Unless you are a real estate agent on the phone 24 x 7, a large thin phone still works. And the iPhone size is too small for constant browsing, the Streak will be much better without being too large.

Saw the Windows 7 phone in the US and that looks promising plus saw some very small thin Win 7 slates which I think will fly off the shelves. 2 weeks ago in Apple store in Regent St no one was around the iPhone 4 tables. The latest HTC Android phones look very good and as you say, all of this stuff does not have the Apple control factor …

August 30, 2010 at 10.51 pm

I’m completely agree with Rod’s view on this, just read out you latest entry regarding, i really like this thing.

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