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Tuesday
Nov202012

Late Adoption to Android Pays Off - Part I

I can say with equal parts pride and embarrassment that I am an early adopter across a range of technologies. Some of this is driven by passion for technology; some is driven by professional interest; some is driven by my impatience for my gadgets to do what I want them to do. (Here’s where I insert a plug for my friend Daniel Wilson’s book “Where’s My Jetpack?”). I’m here to tell you it’s finally time to try Android.

Android Used to Feel Like Linux

While I purchased several mobile devices the day they launched (Palm Pre, iPhone, iPad), I resisted the siren call of Android. After a cursory examination of an early device, I decided I was holding Linux in a phone, and I’ve already been down that road at home. The problem with Linux is that it’s still a very technical experience: chock full of features, customization options, tweaks, and powerful utilities. What it doesn’t do for the average person is just work. I’m not a UX designer or OS developer, so I have no ability to fix these things.

You might wonder why I didn’t head to Apple machines if design and user experience are such priorities. The answers are found in other, perhaps deeply American (read: common) parts of my personality. I insist on choice, opportunities for personal expression, and competition. Despite Apple’s campaigns to the contrary, their device ecosystem offers limited choice, limited customization and no competition. That’s not a criticism, for this approach certainly has benefits. It’s my way of saying that they are building products for customers who don’t mind embracing an Apple experience, rather than customers who want to choose their own experience.

The Alternatives Were No Better

Unsurprisingly, I loved iOS for about 6 weeks, and then started chafing at the constraints. I flirted with a Palm Pre, only to watch that house of cards tumble to the ground. I returned to Blackberry for several months, reminded of the beautiful messaging experience it offers…and then starkly reminded of how badly RIM fumbled the whole Internet thing. What was left? Ah, right—those Android devices which felt like Linux, which is to say they didn’t just work. They offered so much power in customization, utilities and tweaks that I couldn’t enjoy just using them as smartphones.

The fragmentation problem got worse and worse because of all this choice; many app developers simply ignored the OS as a result.

I’ll go one further here, and say that like earlier versions of Windows, the Android OS was designed by engineers, who think hierarchically. The user interface is a shell over a file structure. Want to know how to find your photos, which might be saved to your SD card rather than the memory of your handset? Invoke your File Manager, and drill down through directories. Apple doesn't think this way.

Enough on the past. In Part II, I'll tell you why I think things have changed.

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