In just a few months the Google Android operating system has come a long way. We've seen a steady flow of new handsets and new updates, the Android Market has grown, and the OS.
Since last September, I've welcomed these developments. I like Android and the ideas of openness and customer choice that it represents. So, as the OS matures and enriches the cell phone world, I'm hardly going to object. I will continue to point out flaws in individual Android handsets--that's what I'm paid to do and it does not mean that I'm an iPhone fanboy--but I'll also give credit where it's due.
Just take, for example, the
So far, I've reviewed six Android handsets, and each one has been a completely different experience. On the design front, that's to be expected--that is partially the whole point of Android--and though I don't always agree, I'm fine with manufacturers adding their own interface layers like MotoBlur or HTC Sense.
On the features side, however, the lack of uniformity is rather troubling. Each handset has its feature strengths, but I have yet to find an Android phone that combines all of those strengths into one device. Just consider this list of Android devices from the past five months. Next to each phone I've listed the important features it offers. If I didn't include a feature next to a handset, you can assume that it doesn't offer that capability.
As you can see, there's not a feature from the above list that's found on all devices. If I want pinch and zoom I have a choice, if I want Outlook calendar syncing I have a choice, but if I want both, I don't have a choice. That reality may change soon, but for now I can't have it all. And I want it all, which is an Android device that gives me everything.
The list also highlights a second flaw with OS updates. At present, Google doesn't mandate when carriers issue an update so you wind up with a wildly disparate range of OS versions, from 1.5 to 2.1. Though I understand that the lack of such mandates reflects Android's spirit, customers shouldn't have to wait months to get an OS update when their friend got it yesterday. I urge manufacturers and carriers to make a more concerted effort to push these updates quickly.
Android isn't perfect; I'd like a better media player, there's no native file manager, hands-free dialing options are limited, and you can store apps only on the integrated memory. But even these drawbacks, which I'm sure will change over time, are overshadowed by a feature landscape that's all over the map. Hopefully, we will see more cohesion as time goes on. There's so much to like about Android already; this can only make it better.