Two months with Android: the PC of mobile phones


Lucky me. I a few months ago I won a ticket to Google I/O by posting a comment on Techcrunch.

Google gave each attendee an Android phone; the new ones are due out this August. The phone came with a one-month SIM card from T-Mobile, including 3G connectivity. It initially looked like a cheap iPhone: the touchscreen doesn’t respond well while scrolling web pages (I still don’t know if it’s a bad hardware or slow software, or a combination), the soft-keyboard is slightly too small and suffers from the same problem as scrolling pages.

When I took my G2 on vacation in Europe, however, it was the most dependable device I’ve ever had. Although TMobile had expired, I could still use the wifi in Spain, Italy and France (it’s surprising how many people leave their wifi networks open!) The camera takes very good pictures (especially outdoors), and its autofocus lets me take close-up shots of receipts and restaurant menus; very handy. The camcorder also works well, saving the movie clips as standard 3gp files, which are easy to upload using Picasa Desktop to PicasaWeb (surprisingly YouTube doesn’t accept 3gp).

Integration with Gmail and GTalk is seamless. The notifications are also great: new emails, new tweets, new chat messages. Any application can run in the background and notify users when appropriate. Of course the settings are changeable, and after a few crazy days, I for example turned off Twitter notifications!

The phone also comes with a Music application for listening to my favorite Mp3s. Adding more is trivial: the phone looks like a USB drive to your computer, so just drag and drop MP3s onto it and you’re good to go. Just days ago, I also received an invitation to Google Voice. Of course, Android has also an app for that! And trust me: getting free SMS and calls whenever I get wifi (which is almost anywhere in Palo Alto) is a real money saver. Even when I have to pay to call France, it’s 2 cents per minute, slightly cheaper than Skype, and on my phone! To give back to Google, I recently downloaded Eclipe and the Android SDK to test the waters.

The SDK is not as nice as the iPhone (I had developed two applications for the iPhone: PopMath and PopGeo), and I still prefer XCode to Eclipse. But being able to reuse my Java skills feels great, so I’m thinking Android has a very bright future.

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