After several weeks of surfing with the alien# living with the Android, I’m comfortable declaring any build 1.5 or higher as a suitably modern, powerful mobile OS that will meet the needs of most. In addition to carrying Sprint’s rendition of the HTC Hero (along with my iPhone 3GS), I’ve also had the opportunity to play with a few office Droids. While Android (even 2.0) isn’t nearly as polished as the iPhone OS, there are several compelling enhancements that ‘droid does.
Multitasking is the most obvious. And something many like me have been effectively managing since the Windows PocketPC days. Being able to continue streaming Slacker while checking email? Priceless. Unlike the iPhone home screen, in addition to application icons, Android also provides support for folders and widgets (as shown above). Lastly, Android conveniently collects various configurable system/app notifications in a drop down bar.
Compared to the iPhone ecosystem, the Android Market app store has many fewer options. More importantly, even the top apps don’t exhibit the same level of quality found in the iTunes App Store. Twitdroid is no Tweetie. (And Facebook is no… Facebook.) On the other hand, new apps and updates are continually flowing without a gatekeeper like Apple gumming up the works. But that sometimes results in flakey, crashy, error-prone apps. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. However, I expect the app situation will quickly improve as Android’s footprint explodes, drawing more companies and professional developers into the game.
Specific to the Sprint Hero, I dig HTC’s slick Sense UI skinning. Some of their pre-packaged apps are attractive and useful as well. But, on the hardware front, I can’t say I love the design. The chinny European version has more personality and the front metal plate seems a bit incongruous. However, I do appreciate a nice backside. (What?!) And the minimalist soft-touch finished rear, barely blemished by the 5 megapixel camera surrounded by speaker grills, appeals. Overall, I had excellent reception and coverage. As you might expect from my unscientific testing, Sprint’s network seems more accessible in more places than AT&T’s.
As much as I enjoyed Sprint’s coverage and Android on the Hero, I’d advise power users to consider picking up a Motorola Droid (Verizon) at this point. While I find the Droid’s flat physical keyboard useless, its processor is significantly more powerful than what’s found in the Hero, Eris, and myTouch – all of which are a step too slow. (I ran a few side by side tests – the differences were most clearly apparent when flipping the screen orientation.) But, if you can hang tight a little longer, between CES (early January) and the Mobile World Congress (mid February), I anticipate seeing quite a few new Android device introductions– many running on the superior Snapdragon platform.
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