In Praise of Android
Now I haven’t been using converged handsets for as long as the true old school folks with an IBM Simon in their collections, but I did wear a Treo 600 — arguably the first modern smartphone — into the ground, so I feel like I have at least enough history with the category to wax philosophic. And having recently picked up an Android device after a long stint with Windows Mobile and a shorter one with the iPhone (while having also played around with Windows Phone, webOS, and BlackBerry to varying degrees), I’m finding that Google’s operating system — at least the Ice Cream Sandwich iteration — does the best of any of the modern platforms at really tapping into the full potential of these devices. Put another way, I feel like Android, and not WP7, has actually become the spiritual successor to WinMo, a platform that offered (at the time) unrivaled power and endless configuration options.
This “revelation” probably won’t come as news to anyone who frequents XDA Developers, where Android clearly draws the most interest — although one can feel Windows Phone gaining some steam now that Nokia has entered the game with a pair of hot devices, and promises of even more desirable hardware to come. Still, in a world mostly dominated by iPhone — an amazing product/ecosystem in its own right — I think it’s worth noting that my sense of exploration has been piqued again after months of being quite satisfied living within a very polished and structured ecosystem. In other words, I’m excited to flash a ROM.
To be quite blunt, anyone who regularly disparages platform B in favor of platform A at this point is a fool. All of the major operating systems offer fine mobile computing experiences, and any unhappiness with one’s current phone is much more likely due to imperfect or aging hardware than it is to systemic problems with the top platforms. That being said, however, there is a certain type of person who really enjoys tweaking their phone — the same type of person who is probably a PC and not a Mac, but only because the building and modding scene is geared almost entirely towards Windows machines. So in my mind, the only real difference between today’s mobile platforms is the degree to which they allow the end user to make configurations, and not their inherent capabilities or shrinking list of limitations.
This isn’t a review, and I’m not going to get into the various ways that Android allows you personalize your device — most of you know those already. Rather, I wanted to share my general sense of excitement at returning to an “open” platform, at all of a sudden having dozens of ways to make my phone look and feel and behave. For some people this is pointless, wasteful activity: a phone is a tool, and it works just as well whether the display remains at a stock 320dpi or gets tweaked to 240dpi (expanding screen real estate). Thankfully, that type of user has plenty of choices in the marketplace. And, I’m pleased to say, the tinkerer has one great choice again as well.