I’ve got an Android in my pocket

On Friday morning, I picked up my shiney new HTC Hero from Best Buy.  It had been nearly 4 years since my last new cell phone, and the tech at Best Buy was really confused about that.  It was the longest between upgrades for anyone he’d ever seen.  But in 2007, when I became eligible for a phone upgrade, the Open Handset Alliance was formed, with Sprint as a founding member, and I made a decision that I wasn’t going to buy another phone until it had Android on it.

Android is a Linux based operating system that can be used for smart phones (though many folks are looking to put it into all manner of small form factor devices).  Beyond the base operating system it also provides a Java SDK for creating applications, which is one of the cleanest development models I’ve seen to date.

In the past 2 days I’ve been putting my phone through it’s paces, and have to say I’m just down right psyched about this phone.  I was always a touchscreen keyboard skeptic, but the wideform + predictive correction in this phone pretty much washed away that skepticism.  The Sense UI (which is this 7 virtual desktops thing) is just awesome.  Each is configurable with widgets and icons seperately, and you get to have as many saved configurations of those as you like.  My brain is already thinking about widgets I could build to pull in some of the information I want into this UI.  The NFL widget that Sprint wrote and added showed this off quite nicely, as it gives you a heads up on your favorite team, including live play by play updates during the game.

The phone strongly integrates with google services (go figure!).  You feed it your google account info during setup, then your calendar is live synced, as is your contact list, email’s connected, and off you go.  You can break any of these links if you want, but having it all just work is great.  There is also strong integrate with facebook, myspace (which I don’t use), and twitter.  Enter you account details into the phone for facebook and the first thing it does is cross reference your contact list with your facebook friends and say “I think these folks are the same, want me to link them?”.  From there on out you get people pictures from facebook for those contacts, as well as their birthdays in your contact list.

While the app store is still a little light at this point compared to the Apple one, I suspect getting Sprint online this month, and Verizon next, is going to change that.  Application development is one of the reasons I was most excited about the phone.  While the iPhone looks cool, the combination of Objective C, having to own a Macbook Pro, and the random whims of Apple application approval, was just a no win situation for me.  With Android there is an eclipse environment + simulator that works on Windows, Mac, and Linux.  The code is Java… or python, javascript, jruby, lua, etc via the Android Scripting Environment.  A checkbox in the phone preferences lets you download and install applications from anywhere.  Typically people are using QR Codes to encode their app installation urls, and there is an app on the phone that just scans those to install.

The phone just feels great.  With all the android phones that are about to come out, I was hesitating earlier this week about whether I should wait until the end of the month for the Samsung Moment with the hard keyboard.  I’m glad I didn’t.  This phone just feels awesome, and I can’t wait to start hacking on mobile apps later this week.

3 thoughts on “I’ve got an Android in my pocket”

  1. Hey Sean – Nice to hear about your new phone. I’m waiting on Verizon to bring Android to my side of the spectrum – should happen this month. We should get together to hack on some apps.

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  2. Not quite Java(tm) of course but a subset using Apache Harmony (and they are contributing fixes upstream which is very cool). I’ve got a Samsung Galaxy and it is a great phone. I’ve already written scripts in Perl to switch on my kettle and control other things around my house. Scripting is a little slow to start up though so I’m now writing a full app. Make sure you install the voice search and voice text apps if you don’t already have them.

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