Guest Commentary: Colleagues are often surprised when they realize I own an Android phone. With my career now centered around iOS development (e.g. iPhone and iPad) people just assume that I own an iPhone. Granted, I do own a number of iDevices (which would be too embarrassing to list) but the iconic mobile device is not one of them.
Originally, my decision to acquire the Google phone had more to do with my phone carrier than personal choice since the iPhone had yet to come to Verizon. However, that was months ago and my attitude about the phone has changed. Here’s why I’ve decided to keep the device.
A Year In Review
A lot has happened in the past year in the tech industry. The iPhone has come to Verizon, Spotify has come to the United States, Apple surpassed Microsoft as the largest computer company and Google+ has been introduced to the mass market. In addition to new technologies, new business models such as movie streaming, ebooks, group discounts websites (e.g. Groupon) and collaborative consumption have ignited new industries while leaving older, more traditional models in the dust.
While tracking these changes I’ve noticed some interesting trends. Folks nowadays would rather use the cloud for information storage than a CD or harddrive. When it comes to data management, applications and services that can help users decide are taking the lead (e.g. Google, Bing, Pandora). And, of course, more and more people are loving their mobile devices.
Apple remains the darling of the tech industry. People love the products, the commercials, the stores and the commander-in-chief. “Passionate” doesn’t begin to describe how folks feel about their nifty devices and the company. When it comes to producing apps, the tools and language have made big strides in making mobile development more streamlined and accessible. While companies such as Microsoft continue to partner with hardware companies (so that it can sell its software), Apple controls the entire experience — software, hardware and everything in between.
From the beginning, Google’s business model has been different. Their revenue is tied to advertising. Through its ecosystem of free (and very useful) online services they’ve created a worldwide brand and millions of adoring fans. Now with Android OS in the mainstream, Google has positioned itself to mimic the Microsoft business model of partnering with hardware companies to promote software. Since more mobile devices now run Android than iOS this strategy seems to be working.
The crowing jewel in this model is Google+. With more Americans now owning a Facebook account than a passport it’s pretty clear we spend a lot of time online uploading photos, tagging friends and posting our status. With the introduction of Google’s own social platform, the company can now associate any number of services to create experiences people now anticipate. Here are the few that stand out.
Google+ Instant Upload Photo Synchronization
While I don’t have the statistics on hand I am confident most of us use our phones for taking pictures. I am one of them. Along with photo taking comes the annoying problem getting the photos off your device. While a Facebook app for Android exists I’ve never really liked it. Uploading photos is usually a hassle and it’s usually a hit or miss experience.
With the Google+ app for Android, users have a feature called Instant Upload that will automatically upload, index and organize any photo taken. So if you’re at the big event you can still take your pics and you’re done. Once you get home the pictures you took are waiting in your Google+ account, available to share or download – awesome.
Google Apps Content Synchronization
Like many small business owners, I have dumped the bulk and inconvenience of Microsoft Outlook for the web-powered email and scheduling services offered by Google. One of the obvious benefits is being able to access your email, calendar and contacts from anywhere.
Now with much of that communication being managed on the go, being able to sync content from your mobile device with the web is what people expect. Android does this handsomely by keeping your email, calendar, contacts and other content perfectly organized. Since Android OS provides complete content synchronization with Google Apps, the smallest details can be viewed or initialized by your phone. This includes everything from supporting colored email inbox labels to saving contact information generated from your phone directly to Gmail — awesome, awesome.
Beyond OS features, the other reasons are more subjective. My Google phone is the Samsung Galaxy S – voted one of top 10 gadgets of 2010 by Time Magazine. One thing that has come as a surprise is its weight. When compared with the iPhone 4 it is noticeably lighter – weighing in at an amazing 119 grams versus 137 grams with the iPhone 4.
Lastly one of the best reasons is a matter of perspective. Being immersed in the world of Apple is great but even they have borrowed concepts from Android. As many of us know, maintaining a career in technology involves constant learning and being aware of subtle changes in the marketplace. Using Google products improves my skills in iPhone development by providing a different perspective on implementation, features and design. So there you have it — my reasons for owning an Android phone.
Wayne Bishop is a longstanding member of the Seattle technology community, specializing in website and mobile application development. These days you can find Wayne creating innovative solutions for iOS. His most recent project, named Art Collections, allows people to browse art, photographs and other museum content for the iPad. For more see his site, www.waynewbishop.com, where this post first appeared.