Not just theory, or second hand knowledge. I wanted my own, direct, practical knowledge – obtained by using an Android device “in anger” (as the saying goes).
Playing with a device for a few minutes – for example, at a trade show – fails to convey many of the real-world strengths and weaknesses of that device. But it’s the real-world strengths and weaknesses that I want to experience.
It’s important for me for work reasons. Accenture Embedded Mobility Services are involved in a stream of different Android projects. (Among other things, I want to be able to install and use various experimental Android apps that some of my colleagues have been writing.)
It’s also important for me for personal productivity reasons. If an Android phone turns out to be a smarter phone than any I’ve been using so far, I want to know about it – so I can use it more often, and become a smarter person as a result.
But there are sooo many Android devices. Carphone Warehouse had a large selection to choose between. For a while, I struggled to decide which one to pick.
In the end, I chose a Nexus One. That’s because it is the device most likely to be quickly updated to whatever the latest version of Android is. (Other Android phones include customisation layers from device manufacturers, which seem to need to be re-done – and painstakingly re-tested – whenever there’s a new Android version. Unsurprisingly, that introduces a delay.)
For help with a Nexus One, I owe a big debt of gratitude to Kenton Price of Little Fluffy Toys Ltd. I first met Kenton at a recent meeting of the London GTUG (Google Technology Users Group), where we both listened to Google’s Wesley Chun give an upbeat, interesting talk about Google App Engine. Later that evening, we got talking. A few days afterwards, Little Fluffy Toys became famous, on account of widespread publicity for their very timely London Cycle Hire Widget. Kenton & I exchanged a few more emails, and the outcome was that we met in a coffee shop next to the Accenture building in Old Bailey. Kenton kindly leant me a Nexus One for a few weeks, for me to find out how I get on with it. Just as important, Kenton quickly showed me a whole raft of fascinating things that the device could do.
But then I got cold feet. Did I really want to stop using the Nokia E72, which has been my “third brain” for the best part of a year? My fingers have learned all kinds of quick, useful methods for me to get the best out of this device. (Many of these methods are descendents of usage patterns from even earlier devices in the same general family, including the E71 and the E61i.) I also heard from many people that the battery life on the Nexus One was poor. What’s more, during the very first proper phone call I did with this phone, the person at the other end told me several times “you’re breaking up – I can’t hear you”. (Of course, a sample size of one proves nothing.)
It was the transfer of all my “phonebook contacts” from the E72, to be merged (apparently) with my email contacts on the Nexus One, that gave me even more reason to hesitate. I wasn’t sure I was ready for that kind of potential restructuring of my personal data.
So I’ve compromised. I already have two SIMs. One lives in my E72, and the other usually sits inside my laptop. Well, I’ve taken the SIM from the laptop and put it into the Nexus One. For the time being, I’ll keep using the E72 for phone calls and text messages. And probably for lots more too. But I’ll use the Nexus One for lots of interesting experiments. (Like showing friends and family members Google Goggles…).
I expect this usage pattern will change over the weeks ahead. Let’s see how things evolve!
Earlier this evening, I used my E72 to take the following picture of the Nexus One perched next to my “second brain” – my Psion Series 5mx. Hmm, that Nexus One battery indicator does look worryingly low. (Maybe I should turn down the screen brightness…)