Android At A Glance: Part 2 - Software & Store

*Follow-up of Dan K's review of the T-Mobile G1. I heard from the first post that it was some pretty advanced stuff. Fun that a smart tech geek would let us post his stuff on DumbTechGeek, eh? Enjoy!

Now we get into the nuts & bolts of this piece of work.

Android OS
The Android OS is extremely well put together. A linux based OS, has a large emphasis on being lightweight and user friendly. In terms of multi-tasking, it does not disappoint, even after opening 7-8 browser windows, I can still smoothly navigate through the phone, so it’s good to see that it’s very efficient in managing available resources. The OS has a lot of nifty little tools to it, my particular favorite is the notification area, or what some refer to as the “window-shade”, which is a white bar at the top of the screen, showing information such as the time, battery meter, as well as reception. When a certain even happens, such as a text message or email, an icon appears in the white bar, and you can actually drag it down with your finger, which shows you more detail about the notification i.e. “New Email” “New Text Message” and pressing that link will open the appropriate app.

While on the topic of email, you HAVE to have a gmail account in order to use the phone, no way around that. When you first power on the device, it asks you for your google ID. Basically what that does is that it links that google ID to that phone, meaning that it will sync with google contacts, gmail, google calendar and so on.

The home screen is another thing I like a lot on Android, in reality there are 3, by dragging your finger to the left or right you can navigate between the two screens. There is a small tab at the bottom, which by pressing or dragging it upwards reveals the list of all applications on your phone. Moving shortcuts is easy, you press and hold your finger on an application and you’ll fell a slight vibration and then you just move it to one of the three home screens, done. It is also the same process for deleting shortcuts.

Web Browser
The web-browser works very well. The browser app is a webkit based application, which is the same tool used in Apple’s Safari web browser, the iPhone’s web browser, as well as Google’s Chrome web browser. It’s a full HTML browser that supports HTML, PHP, ASP pages, as well as javascript. Web pages are rendered very well and the text is clear and easy to read. One downside unfortunately is that the browser does not support flash, but I will be explaining later why it’s not so bad. Navigating is a little sluggish at times

Misc Applications
There are plenty of nifty applications that come with the G1, obviously Google Maps is included and functions just like it would on the website, just type in a place to search for or get directions from point a to b, it does it all for you, basically all features that the website had, the G1 has. The Amazon MP3 store is a nice addition, think of it as T-Mobile’s version of iTunes, you browse by album or song, you can also listen to samples so you can try before you buy. Another nice thing is that the songs are DRM-Free, basically meaning you buy it, you OWN it. Unfortunately Wi-Fi is required to use the mp3 store, though I see it being done over 3g once T-Mobile’s network matures a little. You also have all your basic apps: an alarm clock, calculator, IM clients, email (for POP clients like hotmail, yahoo and that junk),music, pictures etc.

The Android Market
I’m not gonna lie to you guys. The Android Market makes up about 80-90% of the appeal for this phone. This is without a doubt the best feature for a phone. A much less restrictive version of Apple’s App Store, the Android Market allows developers to publish their custom applications to be downloaded. Just the variety of applications you will find in the market will blow your mind, and to prove that, I actually found an application called “Lolcat Builder” and it works really well actually, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, go to www.icanhazcheezburger.com and you’ll know what I mean.

Then there are some apps that are amazing, two I can think of are Shazam and ShopSavvy. Say you hear a song that you really like, and don’t know the song or who it’s by, run the Shazam application, and have it listen to the song, once it recognizes the song, and it usually always does, it then gives you the option to either look it up on YouTube, or look up the song in the Amazon mp3 store.

ShopSavvy is another amazing application to have especially in these tough economic times where saving money is crucial. When you run the application and select “look up a product” you are taken to camera mode with a red line that you need to use to scan the barcode of an item, after scanning it, it will lookup both websites and local stores depending on your location that carry the product and list prices for each, helping you find a better deal, you can also set it up to alert you when the item reaches a specific price.

Now there are some things that Android does not have that the iPhone does have: Video playback, out of the box support for Microsoft Exchange, for starters. But the beauty is, thanks to the Market, there’s nothing stopping developers from making applications to fill those gaps. Actually a few days after the G1 was released, the Video Player app was released on the Market, and works great, although it only plays .mp4 files, but I won’t be surprised when I see apps that play more formats.

The Market pretty much represents the heart and soul of android, putting the development of the android platform into the hands of the open-source community.



Issues aside with the hardware, the G1 is a pretty resounding success, getting past the minor inconveniences with the hardware will reward you with a simple and easy to use platform with limitless potential. While this isn’t the ideal phone for heavy business users, RIM holds the crown in that area forever, for those that want to stay connected wherever they go, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better device than the G1.