I’m now on my second Android phone and I have to say that Android has come a long way. When I first got my Nexus One, it wasn’t an iPhone killer by any means (some of my early thoughts on the Nexus One can be found here). In reading a few posts, this one by Robert Scoble, this one by MG Siegler, and this one by Joe Wilcox, I’m reminded of a key thing about competition. Sometimes you don’t have to be better to compete effectively – you just have to be good enough. That’s how I would describe where Android has gotten. The iPhone is still the best overall device experience. The one major advantage it still has over other smartphones is that it’s got tight integration with the iTunes ecosystem, and that’s where all of my media lives.
You know what strikes me as funny? I would never have felt the need or desire to even try an Android device at all if not for the spotty phone performance of my iPhone. It’s not a lack of compelling features that made me want to try Android – it was the inability to simply complete and maintain a phone call. With something approaching suitable phone performance, I would have remained a happy sole iPhone owner. Below are a few observations from my time using the Android platform:
Google Voice has allowed me to use the HTC Android device without having to go through the trouble of switching my number or blasting all of my contacts with my new number. That makes it a lot easier to test out the phone without the personal switching cost of getting the word out to my contacts.
About 60-70% of the applications I have become accustomed to using on my iPhone are now available on my HTC Incredible. There are usable versions of Foursquare, TripIt, Twitter, Pandora, Mint, Facebook (not quite as good as the FB version, but usable), and the New York Times. Gmail works great, as does the calendar. I’m missing ESPN Radio, XM Radio, and all of my favorite games. I suspect that will be remedied as Android grows.
Developers go where there is usage and volume – developers are unlikely abandon Apple regardless of what it does in terms of platform policies. However, as Android grows, developers will follow.
Getting media on my Android devices still feels broken, especially compared to the iTunes sync experience. But I’ve found that DoubleTwist is serviceable and up to the task. That makes my Android device more fun – I can actually take some of my music with me on the go.
Overall, I think Android has a pretty bright future. Despite all of the free vs closed debate, I think Android stands to be a strong competitor not because it’s open (whatever that means) but because it’s free. Having a very good, competitive free operating system that isn’t bound to one carrier or device should allow the platform to really reach scale. I wouldn’t have believed how much the gap had closed had I not played with devices myself.
Feel free to leave me thoughts or comments below.