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May 16th 2010 6:31 pm

A mini-ramble on the state of Android, from a Droid viewpoint.

I like the Droid itself as a handset. It's a well-built phone and it has some elements of that old-school feeling of quality that is absent from the iPhone. I like the less gender-neutral lines of the unit. I even don't mind the much-criticised keyboard - it's not (much) worse than most of this ilk and it gets the job done. But I also need to consider it as an Android phone.

And looked at from that aspect, my 'Like' rating for the Droid turns into more of a 'meh' for me. As an 'other' phone, I find the N900 + OS for example - which in many ways could be argued as worse - far more interesting after a few months simultaneously with Android, iPhone, Maemo and WinMo (6.5).

And the more I use it, the more I feel that Android is just an anti-iPhone in almost a literal sense - and my recent borrowing of a Nexus One kind of confirms this, to me at least. To me, it seems to be what you buy when you think you're too leftfield for the mass-market that is now the iPhone, you want more control over the device but you're still not quite sure what you're actually looking for, and ultimately you're mainly buying it because it's not an Apple, yet you don't want something that's completely alien/unusable.

Media handling is worse (codec support may be better in some cases, but that's not what I'm getting at), software ecosystem is worse, hardware ecosystem is fragmented as you'd expect, as a productivity tool I think it's worse, and while the Google services are nicely integrated and there are some interesting niche apps, I just feel that when you strip everything away, it's nothing more than the iPhone done a bit worse but enough to be a slightly different experience, masked with better-spec hardware or a more interesting design.

Really, a lot like many PlaysForMaybe... er, I mean PlaysForSure / MTP media players were. In a nutshell, I think HTC could for example be considered as something of the iRiver of the industry. Unlike PlaysforSure however, with Google behind it it's obviously not going to be a flop because of Google's only-second-to-Apple ability to command mindshare in mainstream media right now - but I also think it's significantly overrated in the state that it currently is.

Casting around, WinMo7 at this moment in time still seems to be quite a bit more compelling as far as a true alternative to iPhone OS - in terms of a balance of 'actually advanced user compatibility', usability and everyday productivity - goes. Taking the MP3 player analogy further, I might say from what I've seen so far that ironically, WinMo7 looks like it might end up sitting in the Rio space - albeit (hopefully) without the horrific bugs / quality problems that plagued Rio's potentially-best products.

It's kind of telling that with Android, on balance the OS itself seems to consistently feature the highest fit & finish. On the iPhone, that is turned on it's head to a certain degree. Why that is, I have a few ideas but there is a core issue behind the notable (in terms of percentage of whole) lack of popular quality apps on Android, one that might never go away.

I'd like Android to succeed and overtake the iPhone without any quibbles over its relative merits - but perhaps there's not enough criticism of the core of it at the moment, with people being blinded by the handsets becoming available, for that to happen anytime soon.

I'm just throwing this out there as how I feel about things at the moment.

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