Tuesday, June 10, 2008

iPhone v2: I Still Don't Buy It

Apple released iPhone v2 at their WWDC yesterday to much fan fair and Internet coverage.

I've probably established my preference for Android fairly well at this point, but with the changes announced in the iPhone's second incarnation I think it's worth pointing out a couple of deficiencies that still exist in His Jobs'ness's most gifted child.
Without true native background services the iPhone remains a shiny toy that offers the same-old mobile applications with a glossier skin. It's an improvement, but it's incremental. The game hasn't changed, it's just being played in a new stadium with nicer uniforms.
Before I go on let me state for the record that I'm a fan of the iPhone. If Apple had been selling them at stores the day it was unveiled I would have gladly ripped off my right arm and used it to beat my way through hoards of Apple fanboys to get one.

Fortunately for my dexterity, by the time iPhones were in stores I'd convinced myself that a total COO of almost £1000 was just too rich for my blood. I bought a new generation Nano instead and called it even.

I mention this because I really do think the iPhone is an impressive piece of kit. It's beautifully engineered and delivers both style and substance. The array of shiny touch screen mobiles now available can probably be credited to the iPhone setting a new standard in phone hardware and UI design.

But I'm still not buying a new iPhone.

Even with the 3G data and significant price drop I'll still be holding off my long overdue phone upgrade for when Android hits the shelves. Why? Because the iPhone is a really nice implementation of just-another-phone. Android promises to be more than that:

  1. Background services. The iPhone's push notification service is a 2nd class add-in compared to the fully integrated background Service and Notification models that are central to Android. More than any other factor, Android's native background service model exposes possibilities that just aren't possible on the iPhone.

    They are a true game-changer. Android's Alarm mechanism ensures that services don't consume resources if they're not needed, but when they wake up they have full control over when and how they're going to update and how they choose to notify the user. The iPhone generously lets you pick a notification sound. Right. In Android you can write a service that monitors the game and announces the current score using a Morse-code vibration pattern while flash the LEDs in the winning team's colours.

    Without the artificial dependency on Apple's 'notification server' your service can update based on anything you like--Internet data, GPS location, device orientation, whatever.

    I could go on, but I'll save it for a more appropriate forum.

  2. Map-based applications. Still no native support for embedded Google Maps. Not that that's Apple's fault, but it's an undeniable bonus point for Android.

  3. Sandboxed distribution. Jailbreaking aside, developers are still locked in to the Apple approved iTunes distribution channel. If they want to charge for their apps, they still have to pay. Fail.

Lets face it, my complaints are fairly developer focused. A lack of background service support isn't likely to slow down the thousands that have been patiently waiting for a 3G iPhone when they rush to queue up at their nearest Apple store on the 11th of next month.

Android's power and flexibility as a developer platform is well established, if it can match the level of iPhone consumer devotion remains to be seen.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Android for Professionals

It's been quiet around here for the last few months, and I can't blame a lack of exciting developments at Google.

As Tony over at Blogoscoped mentioned, the reason for my infrequent postings is now listed and available for pre-order over at Amazon:

It's still a few months away from release, but Professional Android Application Development has taken up every spare moment of time (and plenty that weren't spare) but I think the effort will be worth it.

In other Android news, the top 50 place getters in the first Adroid Developer Challenge were announced a couple of weeks back. According to an anonymous comment on this site, at least one of the semi-finalists hails from my home-town of Perth(!). Nice.

The good folk at Android Community also put up some footage of the Android presentation at Google I/O last week. It's an impressive demo that features a look at what's becoming an increasingly polished UI, shown off particularly well with the street view featuring accelerometer control.

There's also been some discussion on a likely Android Marketplace--a Google hosted catalog of 'trusted' Android applications. The concept seems like a win / win, giving developers' applications visibility while guaranteeing a level of safety for end-users. It would be particularly nice if Google Checkout was integrated for developers that choose to monetize their mobile apps.