August 3, 2009

[G1 Report] Android Apps, Stephen Fry’s Review

It’s been awhile since my previous G1 Report. Since then, I think there have been 2–3 system upgrades. With each I was a bit nervous: seeing an icon representing upgrade and the progress bar filling in a few bits at a time. But eventually, in due time, a respectful one, the upgrade was complete. Would have been nice to see a bit count or time stamp besides the icon and progress bar. Afterwards, no summary of changes displayed; but doesn’t matter, because I don’t read them.

One notable change was the added user-interface elements to Gmail, including checkboxes that trigger related controls to Archive, assign a Label, or Delete an email. Also, in its default list form, a smidgen of the message is viewed only if the subject header happens to be a single word. Good little touches of making more controls visibly upfront, and packing more data in an already small space.

I was told, from someone at a mobile product maker, that applications are the value of mobile devices. Sounds obvious (as the iPhone commercials dictate), but I haven’t gotten used to exploring the Android Marketplace. And I should. Strategic News Service forecaster, Mark Anderson, reported his number-two hunch for 2009 which was:
“Similarly, the big news in the mobile world won’t be a slicker, newer cellphone—it will be smart phone applications. We’re talking billions in downloads,” he said. “In addition, because of their low cost and high volume, smart phone apps have the potential to replace mobile advertising – unless it can be ‘dragged through’ on an app.
One of my resolutions for this year is to play more with Android apps, considering there are some 5,000 at this writing, compared to the iPhone’s 25,000-plus applications, which more than justify its tagline “Apps for everything.” There’s only one app that I’ve downloaded and frequently access. It’s “Note Everything.” In creating a new note, three modes are offered: Regular text, freeform Paint, and Voice. Nifty. Double-tapping on a new note, set to regular text input, displays a virtual keyboard—a surprise, because a physical keyboard is already handily available. The virtual keyboard functioned well, but I’m still hooked on the sensation of a physical version.

Another discovery was a review by actor and writer Stephen Fry (with Hugh Laurie of the comedic duo Fry and Laurie). Here a are a few cherry-picked bits:
  • “When I saw pictures on the web I thought, as did many, that the ugly stick had given the G1 a damned good thrashing, but in the hand and up close it’s much better than I expected. It has a gentle, somehow retro form factor that I find comfortable and appealing without eliciting screams of desire.”
  • “The Market is where Android will prove itself. At the moment there is nothing even close to the number of programs that the App Store can boast, but the G1 is all about the future.”
  • “There is a lot wrong with this phone, yet to my mind none of that fundamentally matters. These imperfections may make you delay your immediate purchase of an Android phone, but they needn’t. Chances are that with a good contract (T-Mobile are the G1’s only network in the US and the UK so far) you will be on a free upgrade path anyway. “
  • “Unlocked phones seem unnecessarily expensive in Europe, where customs imposts make the device close to prohibitive for most pockets. One can bet that the G2 and G3 will better bear the luscious fruit of Open Source development before very long. Meanwhile, the G1 stands as a reasonably priced and impressive first shot from HTC and Android. “
  • “The whole system can only improve and when it does it will truly give the iPhone a run for its money. Especially if Apple stays as tightly closed as they are now.”
Fry’s review is informative and a delight to read. It’s especially a good read coming from someone who doesn’t fit the stereotypical bill of a critic of information technology. Refreshing.