When the iPhone launched in 2007 on AT&T, I overpaid on eBay in order to get my hands on the device in Australia.
Since 2007, I have owned every model of the iPhone and iPad to be released.
Some may call me an Apple fanboy, iSheep, whatever. I have simply wanted to use the best mobile experience available which I believe iOS delivers.
In saying that, I have been watching Apple’s biggest mobile competitor, Google’s Android, very closely. I have watched as the platform has matured from ugly duckling to not-quite-beautiful swan. Call it a case of the other side being greener, but I have always been interested in the customisability of the open platform.
On a whim, I purchased the Nexus S device over the weekend and have been furiously using it over the past two days. The Nexus S has replaced my iPhone as being my primary phone.
My friends and family are still recovering from shock.
Although the Android experience is still fresh and new to me, I have some initial thoughts on the platform.
Android on the whole feels as though I’m more connected to the neural network of the internet. It could be the notification drawer, or the way it seamlessly connects with my Google services. However, it’s more of an intangible experience that I can’t quite put my finger on, but it’s as though I’m receiving up to the minute updates from around the internet in a way the iPhone didn’t.
In a way the iPhone and iOS in general is about silo’d apps, on Android the services and people I connect through the cloud are ever present without having to dig into apps to find.
Right off the bat, it’s clear the Android Market does not have the breadth, depth or quality of the App Store. While I could find most of the main apps I used on iPhone, the quality of some of the apps was behind and some I had to resort to 3rd party clients - such as using Everpaper instead of Marco’s own Instapaper.
Some apps are sorely missing, such as Camera+ and Instagram. I used these extensively on iPhone and they are no where to be found on Android - not even good quality replacements. These two missing apps may almost be a deal breaker for me.
On look and feel
Stuttering swipes and inconsistent menus are often jarring in Android.
Swiping webpages or lists in iOS is like gliding your finger across butter, I am surprised that Android is yet to get this right. The Nexus S has a 1ghz processor and 512mb RAM, so the specs of the device are not the issue. Even in the first iPhone with a measly processor by today’s standards, iOS has always had smooth scrolling across the platform.
The options/menu key on Android is like playing Russian roulette - you just hit and you never quite know what you’re going to get. In some apps it holds contextual options such as settings, while other apps have settings options within the actual interface of the app. It’s clear that the human interface guidelines that Apple app developers adhere to, are not present with Android.
Google would have have a problem creating their own interface guidelines as Android is used on a variety of devices with different specs, screen sizes and physical keyboards. Some manufacturers even change the positioning of the four main hardware buttons.
Although I have been generally negative on Android, I still enjoy using my Nexus S. I also don’t think I’m going to go back to iPhone - at least for a while.
It has been a refreshing experience, I am really enjoying widgets and deep Google integration. The connectedness of the platform is what really reels me in, and perhaps it’s an area that iOS 5 is going to improve in with the notifications bar that Apple has blatantly copied from Android.
While this iPhone lover has cheated on Apple and switched to the dark side of phones, you’ll still have to pry my iPad from my cold, dead hands.
Last week I wrote a piece on why Google would probably not succeed with their new social networking product Google+. Late to the game with no real benefits over competitors and a copy cat look and feature set were same of the main reasons I listed as to what was wrong with the product.
While I still think that these reasons hold true, Google+ does a whole lot right. In fact, I enjoy using it more than any other social networking platform.
I concentrated on Facebook as initially this seemed like their biggest competitor. However, after using the network for a few days, it’s obvious that Twitter has the most to lose from Google’s success.
Google+ is built around asynchronous connections, as in, you can follow someone without them needing to follow you back. Unlike Facebook where a connection is made through mutually accepting each other into their networks, Google+ removes the perceived intrusion of making such a request. This allows for more public and more fluid conversations akin to Twitter.
I am connecting and making content like I do on Twitter, however engaging like on Facebook.
However, the conversation flow is far more like Facebook. Through a comment thread, you can easily track and contribute to a conversation being made. On Twitter it requires work to track a conversation using hashtags and @replies, not so with Google+
Google has created a service that combines the best elements of Twitter and Facebook into one product. I am connecting and making content like I do on Twitter, however engaging like on Facebook.
Through Circles, where you can separate different groups such as your friends, colleagues or online celebrities, this opens up the possibility for Google+ to replace both Twitter and Facebook.
It even provides a more real time stream of activity than Twitter, something that service is known for. You don’t need to refresh your page to see new comments and posts streaming down your page. It’s actually quite addictive to watch, and makes you want to join the conversations.
It’s still early days for Google+, and while it has attracted the attention of many techies and social media expert types, I still don’t know whether it can attract the general population. The concept of Circles, Sparks and Hangouts may go way above the heads of many still trying to grasp Facebook’s feature set.
Google+ is not yet ready for normals, but if you’re a techhead, check it out. I think you’ll like it.