Since the first mobile running on Google’s Android software platform was announced, I have been eagerly awaiting it’s release here in the UK. Well this week it finally happened, so yesterday I went into a T Mobile shop to have a play with one. Unfortunately it is a bit of a mixed bag, whilst looking quite stylish (it looked a bit ugly from the photos) there are a number of bad points about the G1 which unfortunately terminally let it down.
First off, the slide. I actually rather like this part, despite being highly dubious about overly elaborate mechanisms, the G1 screen slides up and to the right cleanly and locks into place with a fairly reassuring click. The problem is the G1 is not comfortable to hold in the horizontal position, and I found the keyboard buttons to be inadequate for any serious use. However the most serious problem with this was that the screen was not fully locked into place. Given that it is a touch screen the fact that the whole screen section flexes backwards and strains against the sliding mechanism, even the smallest amount of force is exerted against it, is very worrying.
The touchscreen itself worked quite well and Android has definitely incorporated several design elements that Apple initially came up with. However it feels like Google were as eager to incorporate finger swiping functions as they were not to look like they were copying Apple and as such there are two different ways of scrolling through icon menus like the ‘desktop’ and the application menu which just feels silly and inconsistent. The overall layout and design of the menus and functionality felt poor and counter intuitive. This was felt especially in the web-browser which, whilst working well ( and really showing how nice the screen was) felt clunky and unfriendly to navigate and use. There was also an issue with flash plugins but I am assuming that would be fixed by an update.
Overall, the G1 very much feels like the unfinished article. The black one looks surprisingly nice in the person, but an inconsistent GUI / navigation system lets it down as well as the quality of the screen sliding retention mechanism. Still, thankfully this is not the Android phone, but the first version running the software platform. I have high expectations of future phones and can only hope that meager sales will not put off other companies from adopting this platform.
Well, I didnt think it would happen (or if it did, it would be a closed, crippled version thereof) but Apple have proved me wrong by releasing the iPhone SDK. For those of you who don’t know, an SDK (or Software Development Kit) is a series of tools and documentation that explains and documents the specific works of a piece of hardware. The goal is to allow third part developers (or enthusiasts) to develop almost any free or commercial application they want for the specific platform. Although Apple have in the past been very draconian with their hardware, opting instead to keep a hand on the tiller, the iPhone has really shown the ability of the fanbase to overcome huge obsticles in order to improve on an already great product.
Apple sensibly is legitimising this growing movement but in a way which they can control and support. For example, SIM unlocking programs will not receive the digital certificates required for development, but on the flipside, you can be assured any programs you do download will be malware free. Not only this, but by opening up the playing field to the third party, Apple are also allowing for great feature-adds which they will not have to pay for.
Potentially now, all the gripes and missing features (along with a long list of ‘I wish it did xyz’) can be properly addressed.
Here’s a quick summary:
- iPhone SDK and emulator available now (beta)
- Intel-based Mac required
- Microsoft Exchange/ActiveSync support coming (oh hello there, RIM)
- IM client coming
- Sega games coming (Super Monkey Ball)
- EA games coming (Spore)
- Apps available on iTunes App Store (both on iPhone and Mac/PC)
- Developer fee of $99 to publish in iTunes App Store (includes support)
- Developer sets price (paid or free)
- Developer keeps 70% of profits
- Firmware 2.0 required to use iTune App Store (available in June)
- iFund: $100 Million Dollars VC fund for iPhone software startups
One of the points on the list was that Spore would be officially released on the iPhone in September. When I heard this I assumed it would either be a 2D mobile version or the full game restricted to the amoeba stages. This appears not to be the case, although all the screen shots I could find show a 2D world. Given the game is procedurally generated, the system requirements (for running) the game would not be particularly high, although I am still dubious. If it is released in all it’s glory, I wonder is the MMORPG element would be available via EDGE?
Locational awareness is one of the key elements to the EDGE support in the iPhone, I hope that this means we start seeing games with real world based like the gizmodo originally tried. Apple have also opened up the iPhone in several ways, as mentioned, they now support Exchange servers through the license of Microsoft Activesync.
This is potentially huge because it really opens up a lot of potential for this device in the corporate world. There are many other gems that were disclosed during the conference, take a look at the full illustrated transcript here, courtesy of Engadget.
Before the iPhone started gaining traction, Steve Balmer is on record as saying that there was no way for the iPhone to achieve the same market share as Windows CE. A few short months on and it appears Apple’s foray into the portable devices market has led them to a position of dominance in terms of market share over all of Windows CE products.
In response to this, Ars Technica has a great summary of the new version of Windows (CE 6.1) which is Microsoft’s attempt to redesign the interface. Whilst on first glance it is impossible to tell if it removes existing limitations / annoyances that have plagued Windows CE since its inception, what is plain is that the Vista-esque design looks simply awful. It might be due to smart phones becoming more mainstream, but the transition to simpler and less informative window-spaces (despite increasing screen size) is something that annoys me.
That is not to say that there have not been fundamental (and much needed) core level design changes / optimisations, however as the iPhone has proved, people look at the interface first and then get to the annoyances typically once they have bought the product.
Lets hope that Microsoft get their act together for their upcoming Windows CE 7.0.