Android Experience: A Month on

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In my last article on this subject I concluded that with any new device “the key aspect with any new technology if to keep on experimenting. Fiddle here, fiddle there, try this, try that, then become the expert”. Tinkering is certainly something that I have done for much of my life, ever since taking apart and putting back together my mother’s typewriter in the 1970’s.

One of the ‘problems’ with this new technology is that at times you can forget that it is even a phone – the Android operating system that runs the phone is so smart and capable that the phone aspect of the device almost seems an add-on, a last minute afterthought (which I know it is not), which actually demonstrates how powerful the device is, in a way it is the essence of a smart phone the fact that you forget it is a phone at all.

The Essence of a Smart Phone

Google has with the use of the Android Operating System empowered the user to be able to do so much more. I purchased my first mobile telephone in the late 1980 and aside from being large it had a poor battery life. Those devices enabled us to stop opening the door to a telephone booth, that tended to look be in dire need sanitisation and phones were hardly ever attached to the dialing machine. I have no recollection of that first mobile phone, but know it was not one of those Motorola ‘bricks’ that most people talk about.

A smart phone is taking that dialing device and doing so much more with it. As a comparison this phone has 2Gb internal memory and 32Gb of Storage on SD cards, versus the first work computer I ever used which had 64Kb of memory and a 5Mb hard disk drive. The Android clearly has sooooo much computing power it is hard to think of it as simply a phone. But of course it is not simply just a phone, just think about a few things it can do:

* Tell me all my upcoming appointments
* Organise the things I have to do
* Gives me a calculator
* Take high definition pictures (widescreen)
* Connects me to my major Social Networks
(LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, FourSquare and others)
* Search Google
* Write notes and ensure they are available on my PC (using Evernote)
* Allows me to listen to Audio books
* Allows me to read eBooks
* Look at a dictionary, the weather, etc.
* Lets me see newspaper headlines and articles
* Look at a map of my local area
* Navigate to a destination
* Record a meeting or my own thoughts
* Transmit to a television
* Gives me access to hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of applications
* Access my account Information
* Manage my files

So the essence of a smart phone is that it can do so much more than make phone calls. Android makes life so much easier by having the ability to download widgets directly onto your display that allow you to get information without starting the application.

Poor Battery Life

One of the biggest gripes that I have is about the phone is about battery life, this is very poor – even with phone brightness turned down to the maximum extent. I use the phone on 0% brightness, yet I get the impression that somewhere is an application that will allow me to make the display dimmer still.

Occasionally I am doing things that mean I can be away from any charging capability for more than 12 hours. I have to limit phone uses at these times because it will deplete the battery if I am not careful. Even with the display off, no incoming calls, and the phone being holstered for 3 hours took the charge from 100% down to 90%. By comparison a similar amount of non-use on the Blackberry would at the most have cost 1% of charge.

Battery technology and power management still has a long way to go. We need to double the lifetime at a minimum. I recall that the first mobile I owned used to have a 5 day battery life (when it was new); of-course it only had a basic orange screen.

Applications

Applications are key to smartphone success and ultimately became the reason for becoming dissatisfied with my last smart phone. Whatever smart phone you decide to use you will be driven by applications. I found that of the applications that I needed on a daily basis I could not load all of them onto the phone because of main memory limits. Eventhough I had a 16Gb external SD card this could only be used for storage of pictures, songs, or notes, not for applications. This was one of the key drivers of the move to Android.

The thing about applications, despite the list above, is that they are entirely personal and what works for me does not necessarily work for you. I am a big user of Evernote because it is great for collecting ideas I can do this wherever I am phone, PC, Evernote has applications for Android, iPhone, Blackberry, Browser application, PC application and more. This ensures that the information that I am storing is always available for me. I am convinced you will find all the applications that you need on this phone, just use the “Application Market” icon to find them.

Also you will find that it is the applications that define your personal smartphone experience, yet which applications we use will change over time as new services become available. I have tried four to-do list managers in this short while and now think that I have found one that works for me, I am not yet 100% convinced this is the right one, but it is growing on me because it follows the Getting Things Done philosophy.

Do I need to have a mind-mapping software? This is something that I have only just, this second, thought about and will have to explore.

The Future of Android is Bright

I have concluded with my playing with this operating system that it is very powerful and there is no reason why it cannot be used for a great deal more than running mobile telephones, indeed it is at the heart of some very successful tablet PCs right now. What is important about Android is that it is multi-vendor which has been one of the reasons why Windows was more successful than the Mac line of products.

Ultimately I can see Android competing head-to-head with Windows, but right now it clearly leads in the mobile phone and perhaps the tablet market.

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