Friday, January 8, 2010

Goodbye Blackberry - Hello Nexus One and Android

I've been a pretty devout Blackberry user these past 10 years, starting with the original, clunky pager-looking model and ending with the Curve 8900. And between that time I must have cycled through half a dozen other models including the 7100T, 8700 and 8320. The main reason I've stuck with Blackberry so long is because it does a few things really well, push email being at the top of the list. And if you happen to be using the combination of Microsoft Outlook/Exchange on your desktop then the integration with Blackberry is rock solid and hard to beat.

So...what's finally gotten me to make a move after all these years? Well, three things really. First off, the popularity of the iPhone and other newer smartphones has certainly made me think of all the functionality I am losing out on by sticking with Blackberry. Though the Blackberry has made good strides to close the gap, I feel it's quite stuck in the stone ages by comparison. Secondly, as I mentioned in my last blog post my dependency on all things Microsoft has been drastically reduced over the past few years, corresponding with my increased dependency on Google-based apps. And finally, one year after the launch of Android there's finally a device cool enough that captures my imagination and allows me to migrate without having to switch cell phone carriers - that device is the new Google Nexus One.

I ordered the Nexus One on the day of the official launch and received it promptly the next morning via FedEx. Setting up the device was an absolute breeze, especially since I am a Gmail user. I entered the credentials for both my work and personal accounts, and it automatically began syncing all my email, contacts and calendar with my new phone. No software installation, no tethering of the device in order to sync...very painless! I then configured some of the preloaded applications such as Facebook, Google Voice and Google Maps...the latter is simply awesome, BTW. Finally, I downloaded a number of my "must have" applications including Yelp, OpenTable, Pandora and an RSS reader. All were downloaded and installed painlessly from the Android Market. I was actually quite surprised (in a good way) at the abundance of good applications already in the Android Market.

How do I like the phone? Well, I have to say that I love it and I'm never going back to the Blackberry! In addition to do all the normal phone sorts of things the apps themselves are highly functional, and the built-in browser is quite good as well. I'm one of those types that always likes to be near my computer in case I need to have access to something, and with the Blackberry I never felt that it could replace much of the functionality of my computer except when it came to email. But with the Nexus One I feel that I'm not compromised much, if at all, when using its browser or applications in lieu of my PC. In fact, being less dependent on my PC now feels quite liberating.

Inevitably there will be questions regarding the Nexus One and whether or not it is an "iPhone killer". There is plenty written about this already, so I'm not going to even make an attempt to tackle the topic. I suspect that most people will feel right now that the iPhone is still a better device, mainly because of the thousands upon thousands of cool apps that have already been written for it. But I also think that with the emergence of Android, along the hype surrounding some of the latest Android-based phones such as the Nexus One and Motorola Droid, that the gap will start to diminish rapidly. But there are a number of other reasons why I feel the Android platform has a good shot at beating Apple in the long run:
  • Carrier independence - In the US you can already purchase Android phones that work on the T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint networks. And AT&T just announced upcoming availability of several Android-based phones by this summer. With the iPhone your choice is currently limited to AT&T and AT&T...lousy 3G and all. Yes, there are rumors floating around about some deal being cut with Verizon, but nothing official just yet.
  • Device manufacturer independence - If you're an iPhone user you've got just one single handset choice. Yes, it's a great handset. But what if your requirement is that you need a hard keyboard, or maybe a flip-style phone? Sorry folks, you're just out of luck. But with Android you can already purchase handsets made by a variety of manufacturers such as HTC, Motorola and Samsung...and more are on the way. Device independence also allows for things that we sometimes take for granted, such as the ability to expand memory or replace the battery. Sorry, you can't do either of these on the iPhone.
  • Developer frustration - The iPhone application approval process has been a source of consternation for many developers, and many have expressed their disdain over the sometimes draconian attitude that Apple seems to impose. As an open source platform I feel that Android is much more developer friendly. Yes, being more open can have its drawbacks too, but overall I think in the long run both the developer community as well as the end users are better served by an open model.
  • Background applications - Being able to run Pandora in the background while using another Android application is pure joy. Part of the reason Google Voice works so well on Android is because it also runs the background. Apple claims that background applications can negatively affect the user experience, so that's why they don't allow it. Well, I say screw their lame excuse and tell them to get on board with every operating system that's been in existence since the 1950's.
Apple is this decade's version of the "Microsoft Monopoly". That monopoly has started to crumble apart, and I can foresee the same thing happening to Apple if they continue with this display of arrogance. It's good for them that their products are the ultimate in "cool" at the moment, but at some point the luster will wear off and they will have to start playing some ball.