Over the weekend I got a new phone. And started loading up some new apps. Later that day I saw the following tweet from Robert Cole:
A couple of comments. First I love how I’m perceived as an Apple fanboy. I just happen to think they’re doing a lot of things right — and their revenues, market share and profitability seem to indicate I’m not the only one.
But to be clear, I’ve never owned an iPhone before. Actually I upgraded from a (painfully slow) Palm Pre that had barely any apps available for it. I do have an iPad though which I bought on the very first day, so maybe I’m a bit of a fan.
But I wouldn’t say I’ve gone over to the dark side. Maybe it’s more akin to Luke fighting himself/Darth Vader on Dagobah during his tutelage under Yoda.
I got my HTC Thunderbolt for two reasons. First and foremost I wanted to experience Android first person and draw my own conclusions of what’s good and bad about it. It’s very easy to get caught up in “religious debates” and wanted to ensure my objectivity.
More and more we’re working with clients who want to support multiple platforms and not just build an iPhone app, so I kinda had to get more familiar with the environment. Plus I still have my iPad which allows me to participate in the Apple ecosystem. So I’m covered there too. Secondly I definitely wanted to move to Verizon for better coverage (although Sprint was pretty good), but really I wanted to experience LTE 4G. Sprint’s WiMAX service has been pretty good, but the numbers I’ve heard about LTE are pretty great and LTE is being built out in Europe too, so I hope it’s kind of a world phone for me.
But let me take a little aside here before I continue. Robert’s tweet kinda upset me for another reason – a breach of trust by TripIt. I never personally tweeted that I downloaded the TripIt app, nor was I ever prompted to do so. Apparently, TripIt automatically tweets when a user downloads their app. That’s not cool. I share a lot about what I do and what I think, but I do it of my own volition. I don’t appreciate companies making those choices for me without my consent. I do love TripIt, but I hope those guys fix this issue ASAP.
To begin with the performance of the device — both the phone itself and the LTE network is a major step up. As is access to a large number of apps that I was heretofore jealous of everyone else using. But I’ll just touch on a few specifics:
- The HTC Thunderbolt: the build quality is excellent and while it’s much bigger and heavier than I was used to, I became acclimated pretty quickly. In hindsight, perhaps a 4″ screen is a better choice for comfort and battery life. But if you want an LTE phone, there’s not much choice. The huge screen is beautiful. Though not on par with Apple’s Retina Display, it’s very crisp and bright…until you go outside. For all the complaints that Apple’s iPad gets for not being able to use it in the sun, the Thunderbolt is equally useless in good weather. But while the iPad is primarily used inside, mobile phones are “mobile” and very often used outside.
- User Experience/UI: They say that HTC”s Sense UI is the best of the Android bunch and I will have to say I like it better than Motorola’s MotoBlur. I was tempted to get the upcoming Sprint Nexus S and experience the unvarnished Android interface, but I’m pretty happy with it. Now in comparing Android to Apple’s iOS interface, I think Apple still wins by a large margin, owing in many respects to the consistency between apps. Even the keyboard can be very different. And you have a mix of apps that take an “Android-y” interface approach and others that mimic the Apple experience. I also prefer the use of the “Tab Bar” in iOS rather than the reliance on the “Menu” button on Android devices. These are difference that I’ll probably get used to over time, but still think the iOS approach is more refined.
- Status Bar/Notifications: I like how this works but I will say that I feel the WebOS notification approach is much better.
- Widgets: Some of them are OK, but while this is held out as a superior feature of Android versus Apple, I’m not that excited. The most useful ones are those that let you turn certain battery-eating services on and off.
- App Selection: There are hundreds of thousands of app as opposed to the < 10,000 apps that were available on WebOS, so that’s good. Many of the ones I was hoping to use (Dropbox, Twitter/Tweetdeck, TripIt, Skype) were available, but there were definitely some that were not. So no major issues here.
- Impacts of Android Fragmentation: I have written about the challenges of incrementation of the Android ecosystem before from a developer perspective, but let me make a few small points from a consumer perspective:
- OS Updates: Boy I wish I had a clue when and if this phone will ever get Gingerbread or Honeycomb updates. With Apple you know that when an update is available for one phone it’s available for all. With Android you kinda have to feel comfortable with the version you have because you never know if another is coming. And that’s too bad.
- Little Differences Matter: As soon as I got the phone I wanted to figure out how to do different things. One of the simple ones was how to take a screen shot of an app so I can use them in presentations and such. With Apple you just hit the Home Button as you hold down the power button and you’re done. Lo and behold there is no way to do that natively on the phone without rooting the device or hooking it up to your PC and downloading the SDK. That’s too much effort for such a simple thing. And none of the paid apps worked on my phone (With so few paid apps in the Android market, this needs to be one of them? Ridiculous.). Apparently the reason why it’s not so simple is because each OEM’s phones are different so you can’t count on having the same button combinations available to create simple shortcuts. Ugh.
So that’s my initial reactions. Do you have an Android phone or an iPhone? Do you agree with my POV to the Android? Please let me know in the comments below.