Today Google and T-Mobile released the first Android handset in the UK. It is called the ‘G1‘ and under the hood is an HTC Dream. The user experience at first glance looks highly impressive although unsurprisingly falling far short of the usability of the Apple iPhone. The basic idea appears to be that you sign on with your google account and all google services become available immediately without you requiring to signon again. As everything is synced with the internet losing the phone means you lose only the hardware and not the data.
The user interface lacks the finesse and polish of that of the iPhone and is distinctly dull. However it provides great utility through all the usual Google provisions. The one strength that Android provides over the iphone however is an open development platform which rather excitingly is based on the language Java and an Eclipse plugin although they have written their own virtual machine, Dalvik, optimised for embedded use. The lack of a standard headphone socket however has annoyed some.
A friend of mine expressed earlier today that he will be getting one of these instead of an iPhone and my response to him is what prompted me to blog about this particular topic. In my reply I pointed out that T-Mobile has the worst network coverage of all four networks in the UK and that I had learnt the hard way after having purchased the iPhone that mobile applications are only as good as the network coverage and conditions allow them to be.
Today I struggled to do anything whatsoever on my iPhone while sitting in Starbucks. 2G and 3G coverage were both intermittent and neither worked reliably. The wifi was provided by T-Mobile/BTOpenZone and (surprisingly) required payment and there was no free ‘Cloud‘ hotspot available. As such all the applications I wanted to use and tried in vain to use were absolutely useless. It’s surprising just how little value and utility and iPhone offers when offline. Incidentally by offline I’m being inclusive of the times when frequently there is no voice reception either or intermittent at best. I will definitely be reviewing my choice in 18 months at which point I’m hoping that Android, iPhone OS and the mobile networks will have learnt to work together more harmoniously for the betterment of the customer.
Update: With the release of Android handsets every move of either Android or iPhone will be compared with its competitor. This is already beginning to happen as Apple further constrains SDK developers’ free speech.