First Impressions of My New Android Phone

By Brian Redfern
October 22, 2008 | Comments: 3

I got myself an iPod touch a while back, but I avoided the iPhone. I didn't like dealing with AT&T, and am glad I waited.

The Android isn't the same as the iPhone. It's got a different philosophy behind it. You can use it like a touchscreen, or flip the keyboard out and use it like a sidekick with the keyboard and thumb roller.

I like a hardware keyboard better than a touch-pad, but when the keyboard is retracted I can use the touchscreen to place a call.

Phone quality is good down by the beach in Los Angeles where phone service historically is poor. The 3G support in LA seems to be very good. I'll have to try it up by Magic Mountain to see how it works in the "boondocks."

However the real reason I waited is that its much easier to write software for Android. You use regular Java, not Objective C. I've been using Java since 1995, so its a lot easier to look at writing a Java app, even using the command line with Ant, than it is to write Objective C, even with the wonderful tools in Xcode.

Objective C just looks weird, if you're a Java person. I deal with Java and Python for the most part, though I learned C about 11 years ago. However Objective C just feels more clunky than Java. As a developer I can open up Java code and immediately know what is going on. the Android documentation is all standard Java doc, so it's stuff I'm used to seeing and dealing with.

Now if I had been using NextStep since 1995, then I'd probably be churning out Mac and iPhone code. I'm still learning those, but it looks like the app will get written for Android first and then go through a long and painful re-write for the iPhone.

Well, not as painful as it would be without Xcode, and just command line gcc, but its still painful compared to writing ordinary Java code, especially for complicated OpenGL code. I don't want to have to use Objective C for that. Fortunately my app won't be using OpenGL, but my future 3d project may need to be Android only just for that reason, it's going to be too hard to write it as effectively in Objective C.

Maybe for C++ people Objective C is really easy and Java feels like being a pit bull with a muzzle, but for an experienced Java person I'm glad I don't have to write C++ for Android.

Now Android doesn't do "the pinch" like the iPhone, but then I can't play Ogg Vorbis files on the iPod touch either.

I would bet the pinch is patented by Apple, so it's unlikely to move over into other smart phones beyond the iPhone.

But I don't really miss the pinch. The little pop over zoom controls do the same thing, so that's not a huge loss.

It's also not as solid a piece of hardware as the first generation iPhone or the iPod touch, but it's just as solid as the 3G iPhone.

So far I haven't switched off of 3G yet, I'm going to go out to the "boondocks" to see if I can test that.

Unlike the Blackberry, the T-Mobile Android phone can charge off of a USB cable. Unlike the iPhone you don't need a special application like iTunes to manage files and music. You can just dump files in like its a regular USB disk.

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I'm loving my G1. I too am very glad I waited and avoided breaking down and going the iPhone/AT&T route.

I guess L.A. has better 3G coverage than Atlanta. I have 3G at my office Downtown. However, my home in Reynoldstown (1.5 miles form Downtown) falls back to EDGE (though at either place, I keep it on the local Wi-Fi).

Before I got my G1, I used a BlackBerry 8100, which I was pretty fond of. It did actually have a micro USB port for the charger. Perhaps some of the other BlackBerry phones did not - no big deal.

As a Java developer, I also feel MUCH more comfortable working around the Android SDK than with the Objective C stuff, I guess it's just a matter of preference really (and also what you're used to working in, as you mentioned).

I'm fortunate enough to be in a really great city for 3G (Philadelphia), and I'm definitely happy that T-Mobile is building up their 3G network finally - hopefully as late bloomers in the 3G realm they will not repeat the mistakes made by other carriers along the way.

I can say that you are dead on though, as far as the G1 being a different philosophy than the iPhone. I think the general mentality for us G1/Android early adopters is about the same: Though it's a smartphone, it's a different beast than the iPhone is really. It's a jump off point for a great number of really exciting new things, and while the hardware may not be as satisfactory, and the OS may not be so polished, there is so much potential for the future of Android, and it's really a great thing to be a part of.

The pinch may be patented by Apple but I can pinch without a computer, so looks like Bilski knocks that out. Even if it didn't it's the kind of obvious thing that movie makers have been using in their sci-fi visions of control devices for years, there has to be prior art from Hollywood.

I'm looking forward to getting a G1, like a lot of people I know. Though the freerunner is appealing the hardware seems a little dated and the software is still a work in progress. What I don't know about the G1 is whether I can rip out the android stack and run some other linux based stack in the way I assume people will be running android on their freerunners in the near future.

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