Random musings spurred by folks comparing the iPhone with Android
10 Jan 2010 Charles Choi
Throughout the press and blogosphere folks have been comparing and contrasting between the recent Nexus One/Android phone and the iPhone. Here's some of my musings on this:
- The big story here is the social move to pervasive computing, where you get access to information in many different contexts. Mobile devices and cloud computing are fundamental building blocks to providing that and the fun part is that they are both now coming into forms that are usable by people.
- Apple has always focused on getting the user experience "right" as far as Steve Job's idea of what the right thing to do is. IMHO this hurt Apple when it came to getting people to adopt personal computers (users want flexibility) but has been full of win getting people to adopt digital music players and cell phones (users want ease of use). Aesthetics in consumer electronics (and design in general) matters: people can and want to be emotionally attached to the things that they use everyday. This is not to say Steve Job's aesthetic is the best; however it is coherent enough of an aesthetic to make sense of using digital media as opposed to the design-by-committee free-for-all aesthetic (meaning really no aesthetic) that pretty much everybody else outside of the Apple ecosystem is providing to people.
- Android is pushing "openess" (this is still TBD) in developing apps but so far has much to go in having a coherent user-experience. The platform strategy on paper looks like a huge winner but fragmentation is a huge concern: MicroSoft pushed a platform strategy with Windows CE and Sun with J2ME and look where it got them - No good 3rd party dev support because verification across multiple devices turned out to be practically impossible.
- Why do Android apps look so bland compared to their iPhone counterparts? Because you have to code to a least common denominator to ensure compatibility across as many Android devices as possible.
- Google is dominant in providing the "cloud" components; so much so that people will sacrifice their user experience just to get access to their data. As far as "openness": if you are a competing cloud service provider you probably won't feel Android (and Chrome) is going to be all that "open."
- 3rd party dev opinion: Right now nobody is making money off of building Android apps, and I'm betting there won't be any progress on this until at best Q4 this year. This is not to say this is bad - it's really a numbers game: there are not that many Android handsets out there yet so not a big enough audience. This will change over time.
- As far as power consumption - all the new phones suck because we want to use them like the computers they are. I carry a USB power pack to help out my iPhone during the day. I don't expect this problem to go away soon.