Android vs Everything else

I’ve been using smartphones since before the word was coined!  Right from the days of the first “palm pilot”, I’ve had the opportunity to use or try out almost every platform out there, from Palm and Symbian to Blackberry and iPhone.  What was missing was the Android experience.

Having tested the Android 2.1 quite thoroughly, thanks to my new HTC Wildfire, I only thought it fit to share some of the learnings I’ve gleaned from it.  As always, this will not be a review of the device (Wildfire) or the OS (Android 2.1), since there are plenty of those available on the wild wild web.  Instead, this post will try to highlight some of the aspects that you may not have thought about in your feature-to-feature comparisons.

The Android Experience

Form Factor – Android phones are available in a large variety of shapes and sizes from the X1 mini to the XL sized HTC Desire / Samsung Galaxy.  You can also choose from devices that sport merely a touch-screen to those that include a full QWERTY keyboard built-in.  Not to mention, a variety of software keyboards for all kinds of needs, including foreign language support.

Hardware – You can choose to buy models with low or hi resolution displays, right upto the gorgeous Super AMOLED screens of some of the newer models.  You can also choose from various processor speeds and RAM/ROM configurations, depending on your budget.  As of today, phones available in the market will sport various versions of the base Android OS, ranging from 1.5 to 2.2, with various manufacturers having different upgrade cycles (and built-in delays), so choose your device wisely.

UI – Since the Android OS is a great platform to build on, players like Sony and HTC have built their own UI enhancements on top of the OS to offer a richer visual experience to users.  Once again, you can choose from a variety of options like HTC’s Sense UI, Motorola’s MotoBlur, Samsung’s TouchWiz and Sony’s UXP.  Think of these as skins for your complete Android experience, and choose based on what works for you best.

Apps – The Android Market boasts over 50,000 apps that you can download, today.  Many of these are free, and include tools, utilities, games and reference apps.  Of course, for all the usual suspects like Facebook, Twitter, etc., you have multiple apps and variants to choose from.  By the way, unlike the iTunes app store which is very tightly controlled by Apple, the Android Market is an open, free-spirited entity with not too many dos and don’ts.

Integration – The Android OS is meant to live “in the cloud”, and offers very tight integration with Google (surprised?!) and other online services like Facebook and Twitter.  That means, your new phone can sync with your Google account for mail, contacts, calendar, rss feeds, etc. etc. etc.  Facebook contacts can be linked to your phone book (but maintained separately), and multiple calendars keep your FB events, Google events and Office events separately.  All this, of course, happens automagically and with minimum fuss, syncing with the “cloud” as per your specified frequency.  Incidentally, the 2.1 version of the OS also offers Exchange Server sync options.

All you need to do is pick up an Android handset of your choice, insert a SIM card of your favorite service provider, and you’ll start living in the cloud in a matter of minutes!  Oh, and did I mention that features like multi-tasking and folders that have only just been rolled out on the newest iPhone (iOS4) have been standard inclusions on Android for months?!

As an example, let’s take a quick look at the iPhone Experience.

– Very tight integration with Apple computers, software and devices
– Excellent, crisp display and silky-smooth touch-screen technology
– Hundreds of thousands of apps to choose from (many of which are paid)
– Almost no options to change the UI experience (unless you jailbreak it)
– Usually tied to a service provider’s talk plans (unless you unlock it)
– Oh, and it features a built-in iPod!

If you’re familiar with Nokia’s Symbian platform, you will know that it’s an extremely stable and capable platform for smartphones, but has lived its life to the fullest.  Blackberry users swear by their email capabilities, but there’s little else to talk about when it comes to a BB device.  It may also be pointed out that the whole “Android” phenomenon is just over a year old, and the technology is nowhere near its maturity.  Already, users are seeing first-hand how their Android 2.x experience is so significantly superior to some of the early alternatives.  I can’t even imagine how things will be when it reaches version 4.0 !!!

Enough said.

Read Also: Moving to Android: Essential Guide

Indiblogger Meet 2010

15th August 2010 was a memorable one for me.  Besides being India’s independence day, it was also the third anniversary of Indiblogger.in, and the date for an Indiblogger Mumbai Meet after a two-year wait!

Enough and more has been written on the event by bloggers that are way more enthu than me about reporting the details.  So I’ll only write about the stuff that left an impression on me…

The Indiblogger team has evolved so much in the two years since the last event in Mumbai.  This one had its own hashtag (#indimum), complete with a hi-tech registration process (just enter your Indiblogger id!) and a live stream that showed tweets and arrival updates on the big screen throughout the event!  In fact, thanks to the tweets, people could “follow” the event live, even if they were unable to make it. 

Many of us got a chance to put faces to names we’d been interacting with for so long.  Activities like the whackiest intro to your self/blog, and writing comments on chart papers hung on each of us, only helped break the ice and make it more fun.  (Your’s truly was chosen as one of the five whackiest intros from the group of over 250, and won a domain name registration which I ended up gifting away to a fellow blogger who had four blogs on four different URLs!)  As if that was not enough, there were also cool freebies for every one, prizes for pop quizzes, and Gul Panag (ain’t she so pretty?) who was invited to join in the festivities and moderate a discussion on the future of blogging.

The energy level in the room was visible and contagious!  It was so nice to meet fellow bloggers passionate about blogging, and spend an entire afternoon with them, just having fun and getting to know each other. 

To cut a long story short, I left with more friends that evening than I’d walked in with!  What more could you ask of a lazy Sunday afternoon?

See also: Reviews by Indibloggers | Pics on Flickr (Thanks, Renie!)

Tools of the Trade

After a long time, I’ve encountered a post on Photography that I just had to share with you. 

Now, I fully realize that the world is divided among those who love Ken Rockwell and those who think  he’s simply over-the-top and downright crazy.  I’ve always found that, just like with any other writing, if you’re willing to make up your own mind on the subject, after weighing in all the info, you will find that Ken makes a lot of sense on the things he writes about. 

This recent post entitled ‘The Pen and the Signature‘ is just one example.  Plus, it concerns a subject that always comes up in conversation when a newbie photographer encounters a more experienced one : “So, what camera do you use?”

If I gave you my pen, would you have my signature? Of course not.  So if I gave you my camera, would you take pictures that look like mine? Of course not.  Why would anyone think otherwise?

Camera makers don’t want you to know is that it’s you that makes a picture, not the camera. A picture is as unique to the taker of that picture as is his signature…

All images are reflections of the photographer who created them. Good photographers are artists who have their own style. Crappy photographers are crappy precisely because they show no style of their own, or spend their time trying to copy the style of others, or simply shoot away without thinking…

Purchasing the world’s finest camera and carefully leveling it on the world’s most stable tripod and carefully color profiling everything and working everything over in raw in Photoshop for six hours afterwards is the best way to make completely forgettable images. Being yourself and showing us your own way of seeing things is the way to make remarkable images.

No one else sees with your eyes. Vision is not a team sport. You have to see for yourself, and show us yourself in your images.

Makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?!