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?