So…I bought an Android G1 a few weeks back; in fact, on opening day (though I didn’t go completely crazy and pre-order. *grin*). I’ve been interested in the phone-as-computing-device/portable-always-on-computer paradigm for a long time; I had a Newton, the original Palm, several of the Linux Palm-wannabes (that weren’t), and a Nokia 770. The notion of welding one of those onto the side of my cell phone has always been very attractive.

Of course, the iPhone has dominated that exact space for 18 months now…but I don’t have one, and never had much hankering for one. I’m not an Apple junkie, and I never swallowed the iTunes pill; all my MP3 players (and I’ve had many) are non-iPods, and I only used iTMS for a little while when it was both a) the easiest way to get “regular” music legally, and b) was easily crackable (via Hymn, back in the day). Don’t need it now…Amie St. and Amazon handle my music purchasing just fine. And I guess I’m a bit of a elitist contrarian when it comes to tech…if The Masses are digging it, I tend to run the other way and look for something with a command line interface. Not necessarily the smartest thing all the time, but it is what it is. At least I understand myself. *grin*

With the iPhone out of play, I started getting a little excited when I first heard about Google’s Android platform. A F/OSS phone platform, with real backing…sweet! I’d been considering the Openmoko phone for perhaps 6 months at that point, but I had a sneaking suspicion that I was getting ready to buy another ill-supported, semi-functional uber-nerd device. This time, I really wanted something that supported a thriving ecosystem, but with F/OSS secret sauce. Android looked promising.

I waited, and I planned. I read spec sheets and Engadget rumors; all seemed mostly well. I d/l’d the SDK when it came out, and though I didn’t submit to the first app contest, I was able to confirm that the platform would be something I could cleanly and easily write code for; satisfying another of my nerd requirements. The mostly open Android Market (not to mention the 3rd party market ecosystem) again soothed my libertarian urges better than Apple’s tightly controlled App Store. It started coming together.

So October 22nd came, and all my requirements for myself had been satisfied. The financial meltdown didn’t fill me with enthusiasm for signing my own cell phone contract (I’ve had a phone for many years, but it’s always been paid for by my work, since I’m an oncall-type support person [database administrator] ). But T-Mobile’s plan wasn’t too bad, and my friends and family had recently had started (mostly productive) SMS use, which wasn’t included in my work phone plan; so I needed to deal with that anyway. In addition, I hope to do some minor app coding, which could eventually pay for itself…so there’s that. Besides, I went in, talked to the very nice lady, saw the phone, and…it spoke to me. Really much like the Newton, so long ago, spoke to me. And I signed.

And I’m totally digging it.

Like I said, it’s been a few weeks now, and I thought I’d drop my two cents. I have no desire to give a feature-by-feature breakdown and comparison of the phone; I’m sure Gizmodo and Engadget have links to that. And for personal reviews, I’ve read the ones that fell out of my subscribed RSS feeds, and found them all worth reading: Jamais Cascio, Christopher Blizzard, esr, and my RL buddy Mischa. So I’m not feeling the need to tread that ground again. But everyone has their own personal twist on what they think, and I’m happy to discuss the specifics of what the phone has meant and done for me. Maybe one or two people might even find it useful. *grin*

Note: I realize that much of this is not G1-specific, and that’s for the most part intentional. I’m really not here to chest-bump Apple fanboy vs. Google/T-Mobile fanboy…this is more about what a new gizmo has done for me personally, and also the emerging ecosystem of nextgen smartphones. So while I can’t stop you from commenting with the iPhone done that for a year, suck it, I’m honestly not trying to play in that pool.

First off, it’s been of tremendous benefit to me with respect to managing towards Inbox Zero. Let me say that another way: before G1, not so much. Now…inbox zeeero. Snap! I have a gmail account, but I initially intended to use the onboard IMAP client and continue keep my gmail and regular (kkennedy@kenzoid.com) accounts separate. Configuration issues, UI challenges (managing IMAP folders, for example; yuck), and missing functionality (notably lack of push notification) finally led me to drinking the kool-aid and forwarding my regular email into the Googleplex. Zoinks!

I have issues with this, but sweet juicy peaches, the email productivity boost has been enormous! And honestly, occasionally one just needs a shakeup. I’ve been a IMAP mutt mail client user for a LONG time…at least 7 years. Yep…a text only email client. In 2008. Which definitely has advantages, but also it’s share of weaknesses. One of the biggest is that it’s been SO easy to ignore annoying junk, like mailing lists that I’ve been on forever, no longer read, but never bothered to remove myself from, that I…well, never bothered to remove myself from them. And while it’s easy to ignore such cruft with a text only client, they’re even easier to ignore if you unsubscribe.

Marry that with push notification, some judicious tagging and REALLY good spam filtering (I use bogofilter on my own box, which is good; but Google is better), and suddenly, my Inbox has gone from 15-40 messages hanging around most of the time to zero. Boom. Me likey. I like it when I get shaken up, when my years-old habits get dragged out into the sunlight, shaken out, and given a once-over for mites and moth holes. Keeps the old brain flexible. So even with some misgivings, I’m sticking w/ gmail as my primary email point for awhile (note to contacts: this doesn’t require a change for you in any way. Keep using kkennedy@kenzoid.com as best and primary contact address; I do the tweaking behind the scenes).

Next: glory be, mobile browsers are now all grown up! Both the iPhone and the G1 have a for-real, non-crippled, modern browser (albeit still w/o Flash support…ick), and it ROCKS. I’ve browsed the web from mobile devices for years, with a Nokia 770, with blackberry browsers, even with WAP from a bar phone. It can be handy (in a pinch) but it’s seldom a preferred, or even really a usable, option. It’s just what you’re stuck with.

On my G1, though, it’s quite nice. Both the G1 and the iPhone use a webkit-based browser: modern, supports AJAX and other Web 2.0 jazziness, and even with EDGE the speed is acceptable (IMO). This means that, for example, I haven’t even looked for an Android Google Reader app…I point at the mobile interface for GReader, and It Just Works. The AJAX interface elements (starring, sharing, etc.) are completely usable, and the page layout is fine for me (I’m in luck, my eyes haven’t gone. YMMV, as the font is pretty teensy). I haven’t tried too many other apps, but I expect the experience to be similar, and I thank the iPhone for leading the way here. Many sites have optimized mobile pages for the iPhone, and those work well with the G1 in my experience.

I really find there to be little need for an separate application in many cases…if a service doesn’t need access to the phone hardware directly (GPS, for example), and is primarily an online tool (as they often are), the mobile experience is great as a webapp. Joy!

On the want to have front: the G1 shows me the potential of bluetooth stereo. Doesn’t have it, but I can now see how it would completely rock. In fact, I’m probably most disappointed with the G1 on the media front; it uses this crazy all-in-one audio enhanced usb interface, so the damn thing doesn’t have a headphone jack! (Thanks for nothing, HTC!) It all goes through usb, which means non-standard (and so far suckass) headphones, or wacky (and so far suckass) adaptors. It’s a pain.

In the meantime, I’ve seen bluetooth audio start to get support on other devices, but until now, I haven’t quite grokked it. The cable just hasn’t been that big a deal. But boy, bluetooth audio would freaking rock on this thing…I hope and expect my G2 (or whatever they call it) to support it. And now that I wear the little blinking headbud frequently myself, I do see how no-wires, but music anyway would be pretty sweet. Brings a new level to your own personal soundtrack.

Aside: it’d be super jazzy if a future Android update allows non-phone audio to be pushed to my existing bluetooth headset. I know the quality is bad (I’ve tested it with a bt audio connection to a desktop), but for spoken word podcasts it’d be fine. I wouldn’t want to listen to music at that quality, but half the podcasts I listen to are phone interviews ANYWAY…the audio doesn’t get much better, period. So that’d be a great little bonus to toss our way, Google! (I realize that it MIGHT be a hardware limitation with the chipset being used, but my fingers are crossed that it’s not the case.)

Finally, my big reveal…this li’l guy has confirmed for me that smartphones have finally come of age. *grin* (wow, call me prescient, eh?)

As noted earlier, I definitely do the gadget thing, but I tend to wander about on the fringes…sometimes ahead of my time, but often just out in the wilderness. But it’s been apparent to me for some time now that the iPhone has exposed a huge number of regular folks to the promise of these powerful, always connected devices. Much like the iPod was hardly the first MP3 player, yet provided the breakout to popular culture, the iPhone has done the same in the smartphone space. All the platforms (that survive) will benefit from this rising tide, and a great wave of application innovation has already begun. (witness the Pandora and Last.fm apps, Stanza, a plethora of innovative games, etc.) We will of course have a certain amount of fracturing via platform (when will so-and-so be available for Android?), but the positives far outweigh the negatives. What’s clear is that the smartphone’s day has come, and Android will benefit as well as Apple. I honestly believe this platform will make an impact.

So that’s my first braindump re: Android and my G1. I’m really enjoying it, and have started coding on my first apps already. Glad I bought it, and looking forward to continuing to experiment. I’m sure I’ll have more to say soon!

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