So I caved and am now running an Android device! Here's my thoughts on it - spoiler: I'm pretty happy!
As is usually the case at Tech.Ed Australia, I came back with a bunch of new ideas and an eagerness to write about them. This is the first year I've had a blog to make it happen, and in this case I also came back with something altogether new - an Android-based HTC Desire.
My Blackberry 9700 stopped working properly at all just a couple of days into the week - I had intermittent data (mostly working only via Wi-Fi), I couldn't hear people I rang or who rang me, and it was rebooting randomly. Given that I'm on-call for work and depend on my mobile so much, something had to be done. I manage the mobile phone budget and supply, but even for me it would be hard to justify buying a new Blackberry outright at a Telstra store rather than buying another model (which probably worked out cheaper, too). I was also interested in increasing the functionality I could get out of my phone.
Based on feedback from Twitter, I knew the two current recommended models were the HTC Desire and Samsung Galaxy. Had it been available, I might well have gone with the Samsung - given my mistrust of HTC devices - but all Telstra had on view were Sony-Ericsson and HTC. The HTC Desire was obviously the most functional, so that was easily sorted.
I must admit my surprise at the quality of the HTC hardware. It surpasses even recent Windows Mobile models I've seen from them, and it's quick and responsive. As always, it suffers from poor battery life - some of this is certainly the OS, but I have always found HTC to woefully under-power the battery side of hardware. I'm pleased, though, to find that the micro USB connectors for my Blackberry 9700's USB and chargers will work fine with the HTC.
I do now understand, though, the overall positive opinion that people seem to have of the HTC Sense UI. It's smooth and well designed - didn't take long to get the hang of at all. Very much like the convenience of sliding to another screen for my Agenda, SMS Messages, Exchange ActiveSync, and more, and the quick "overview" screen makes it easy to jump direct.
Other than that, it's clear that what I like is primarily based around the Android features. Let's not get caught up in it being a Google OS - that fails to impress me. More importantly, it's a Linux OS and one done quite well. I love the wide variety of apps and support for it - I even think it's probably the best Exchange ActiveSync experience I've yet had - and it's certainly one for the hacker in me. I've already rooted my phone and upgraded to Froyo (Android 2.2), a task made extremely easy by the T-mod firmware available from http://www.t-mod.org! Phone firmware mods have come a long way since my Windows Mobile days.
Let's be clear here - the firmware that the HTC Desire came with was nice, but not quite up to scratch. It was even more of a battery drainer than necessary, even with turning off Wi-Fi, haptic feedback, GPS, and so forth. The wisdom on Google searches pointed to the Telstra crapware loaded - something easily overcome by loading the T-mod to get all of the good features of the Desire, with none of the garbage. I'm now confident that battery life is as good as it gets, and fully expect to get a day's usage out of the phone at last.
The ability to have a full browser - even if it is Chrome, a browser I'm just not that fond of - is great, and I've already been able to use it with the AuTechHeads site for some quick admin tasks. There's a trade-off here though - I don't get to take advantage of the unlimited Blackberry data that I had, which is a shame. I'm also puzzled as to why proxy settings seem to be missing, which makes it less useful in an enterprise scenario over Wi-Fi.
With my Blackberry, third party apps were a mixed bag. Some worked perfectly, were feature equivalent to other platforms such as iphone and Android, and were happy to work via a BES (Blackberry Enterprise Server) connection. Others - such as the "official" Twitter client - were abysmal and failed to work at all. The best Twitter client on Blackberry - Ubertwitter - has also become somewhat of an unstable and unreliable mess.
It's clear that with Android, developers have an easier time creating apps. So far I've only downloaded and kept Tweetdeck, Twidroyd, and Tumblr - but they're functional, fast, and easy to use. The Android marketplace seems pretty good, with heaps of free and cheap applications available for download.
Android seems to have everything I felt iphone lacked. I actually enjoy using it, unlike every time I've used an iphone! I'm sure it duplicates a lot of functionality, but it seems to me that it's intuitive and user friendly - and the lack of dependency on iTunes speaks volumes too!
Perhaps the only stalling point I've really had is the keyboard. I loved the Blackberry Bold series keyboards, and found them perfect for typing even long emails. An onscreen keyboard took some getting used to, but it's really quite smart in implementation, and I find myself getting more and more accurate and fast as I continue to use it. I didn't much care for the haptic feedback feature - and it seemed to me that this was a battery drain in itself - but without it I can just focus on entering what I want, and the inbuilt predictive text feature is quite good at picking up and correcting the odd mistype.
I did like the speech-to-text feature which was enabled by default on the old ROM, but which seems to have been replaced by international keyboard options in the T-mod ROM. It seemed to be pretty good at picking up what I was saying, although I doubt I'd have used it much in practice.
Overall, I'm quite happy with the HTC Desire and Android. I might look at getting a third-party extended battery for it - which of course will make it less slim but will be worthwhile for battery life - but otherwise it's been a good experience, and I'm almost prepared to concede that HTC can do some hardware well ... almost.
Browse more posts:
Enjoyed this post?
Help us spread the word by sharing with friends and colleagues!