Now on Android

HTC HeroAlmost exactly one month ago, I made the switch from my old, 2g, jailbroken iPhone to a brand new fully legit android phone: the HTC Hero.

My reasons for the switch were varied - it's a platform I'd like to support, hack on and one I generally find interesting. I've also grown increasingly frustrated with my suite of Apple products and, in general, am looking to "live open" (more on that later).

Treats

There are some things that I absolutely love about the Hero: way more than the iPhone:

  • It is an aesthetically pleasing device. This is one thing that has kept me on Apple gear for a long time. I appreciate quality design - particularly in the products I use constantly every day. The Hero is a good looking device and feels good in my hand.
  • Multi-tasking. Yeah, this is the big "killer feature" over the iPhone, but it's really handy. I consider my phone primarily a communications device and I can see instantly and easily who is emailing, texting, IM'ing or mentioning me on twitter all without quitting the app I'm currently running.
  • Contacts a central. On a contact's record, I can see all phone calls, emails and texts with that person - and even their Facebook status (or birthday - nice touch).
  • Really great sync. Now, let me start by saying - I'm a google apps user. That said, all I did was add my gmail account information and instantly I had all mail, contacts and calendar entries seemlessly sync'ed to my phone. Oh, and (unlike "mobile me") there was no additional cost.

Frustrations

This isn't quite the ultimate phone yet. Here are my top gripes:

  • No paid apps in the Android Market in Canada. I'm confused as to who is really to blame here - whether it's the big US companies or the Canadian government or a combination of the two, but living in Canada can be a real drag sometimes.
  • Lag. It's not a blazingly fast phone and when you add running multiple simultaneous apps, the interface can get laggy after a while. A good "task killer" app on Android seems to be a best friend. (I'm currently using TasKiller, FYI).
  • Lots of the apps just aren't as good. Twitter apps are a significant comparison - there just is not a tweetie 2 comparable app. That said, there is a google voice app ;-)
  • Version lag. This seems to be particularly bad on my HTC Hero (which currently uses Android 1.5), but in general handset manufacturors seem to be slow to roll out the latest version of android for their handsets. Doing so yourself, requires rooting (how is that an advancement from iPhone?).

Conclusion

Overall, though, I'm happy about the switch. I think the Android future is bright and hopefully I'll have some spare time here and there to hack on some things in support of the platform.

James Walker

James Walker (a.k.a. walkah) is an independent developer and hacker. He is a long time Drupal developer, but these days spends more time in Python, Ruby and Javascript.

You can follow him on twitter or github.

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