Three Weeks With an Android: Part ONE

Google of the DecadeJust before Christmas, I was given the chance to test out the brand new Samsung Galaxy on Bell’s brand spanking new HSPA+ network. This was a really cool demo opportunity too.  Basically it went like this:  No Strings Attached, I get a Galaxy for my personal use, unlimited local minutes, unlimited SMS and most important of truly unlimited data usage. The latter totally sealed the deal for me, these days there is no way to know how a phone is going to perform in the real world without suing it in the real world. There is no way you should ever base your phone buying decision on the fake unit they try to show you in a store and most of these place have some really strict return policy that usually means that the minute you turn it on you can no longer return it.

After being a long time BlackBerry user and avid Apple Fan-boy, I had some pretty big apprehension about using an Android device. My fear was that this would be the first time that Google would actually let me down. This coupled with the fact that over the years, I have become accustomed to two types of  geek-out excitement:

  1. The jaw dropping visual stimuli most associated with watching a Steve Jobs keynote or fondling just about any Apple product.
  2. The feeling of your mind opening to a brand new possibility or way of thinking that you just know will change the game.

The first time I felt the latter was when I first laid my eye on Google’s almost blank all white home page except for a little white search box and button. Google continue to do this to me time and time again, first with GMail’s just an inbox and massive amount storage concept, then again with the creation of the Google toolbar that simply cut through all the crap surrounding how Google indexes sites with it’s green Page Rank meter. Any they never stopped innovating outside of the search box, Google Labs allowed you, the web user, to test their sweet beta suites. Soon after came the acquisition of Blogger and the launch of Maps which evolved into Google Earth, essentially putting atlas software out of business. They made open source software cool in an almost mainstream fashion with the And things just got insane, Adwords, Analytics, Adsense, Mapping APIs, Google Talk and Chat, Google Reader for RSS feeds, and then the acquisition of YouTube, Feedburner, Grandcentral, and Jaiku; the development of Google Docs, Google Calendar and let’s not forget the Picassa that lowered the price of decent photo management to free, regardless of the camera your using or the fact that you might be shooting in RAW and not JPG. Innovation after innovation Google just kept dominating whatever space they moved into, sure some products like Picassa don’t have all the features of Adobe’s Photoshop and Lightroom  or Apple iPhoto and Aperture but Google was the first with facial recognition and even if Flickr has become the standard the Picassa Web feature are very decent and integrate very nicely into all of Google’s product. It’s also the only Photo management software that works across all  Platforms, YES Linux too. Simply put, Google rocks and made everyone feel better about the InterWebs with their do no evil ethos.

Even with all of their Googley Goodness, everyone knew that Google would let itself get pushed around or would miss out on the opportunity to move into a fast rising space like mobility, they made a bid to secure the newly available wireless spectrum left open by the analogue TV signal. Along the way Google had released mobile versions of many of their Apps like GMail and Maps and allowing third parties to integrate their API’s into other apps like Chat and some mapping tools. Slowly they crept on to all kinds of devices like WinMo smartphones by HTC and even RIM’s BlackBerry handsets. The biggest coup was getting Maps and YouTube on the Apple iPhone. To this day I tend to think that this was the tipping point in the public’s mind to Google’s acceptance as a mobility player. They were already making outstanding mobile applications, how long would it be before they launched their own devices. The usual rumour mills and technology pundits began seeding the Googleverse with the idea of a Google branded phone. When Google finally announced the Android in November 2007, the big handset manufacturer where all put on Red Alert: Google was now coming for them. Either get on board the Android revolution or innovate like Hell, because there was no more excuse to sit on 10-15 year old platforms, roll out the occasional java update and hope no one notice. As a result, HTC practically throughout Windows Mobile save a few devices, RIM hurried to make BlackBerries less corporate by adding cameras, WiFi and GPS, Palm literally crapped their pants, Nokia jumped on to their own Linux mobile distro almost forsaking the Symbian OS to their “dumb phones” and Motorola did the only thing it possibly could do, finally put away the Razr/Rokr/Krzr and bend over for bow down to The Google. Anybody else was sadly left on the side of the road like disused lawn furniture and broken play structures. If you feel insulted by this last sentence, please go and by a new  phone, you have obviously had yours for far too long even by North American standards.

The first device, the G1,  was cumbersome to use compared to the iPhone but was actually really well received by the Geekarati due to it’s openness and full support for home-grown apps that did not require an official Google stamp of approval like the Apple had imposed on it’s only newly opened App Store. But it was a step in the right direction and still far exceeded the capabilities of the other smartphones. Proof is they all picked up their game and truly started innovating. Ok some of them just blatantly copied Android features but efforts were made all around, even Palm finally released their own non Palm OS4.xx / WinMo handset.

So after tempting the waters with the Android platform, Google, proceeded to update it’s 1.5 cupcake release through doughnut and straight on to éclair before finally being happy enough with the platform to finally rubber stamp one of the HTC devices with Google logo and calling it the Nexus ONE. It’s still very early days, but the reviews so far are very positive and specs are truly impressive, I’m not going to repeat all the details here you can follow one of the links below and see them for yourselves. But after seeing demos of Google Goggles and witnessing voice search first hand along with having the Samsung Galaxy read out the names of incoming callers from my address book as I’m driving along was enough to impress on me how much of a player Google will be in the mobile phone market. Just like they dominated the Web over the past ten years, expect Google to make a serious play to dominate true wireless in the ten years to come.

Nexus ONE Reviews:

Official Google Blog: Our new approach to buying a mobile phone

ArsTechnica: Google’s biggest announcement was not a phone, but a URL

Walt Mossberg: Google’s Nexus One Is Bold New Face in Super-Smartphones

Boy Genius Report: Google Nexus One will have Flash 10.1

Boy Genius Report: Google Nexus One hands on

iFixit: Nexus One TearDown