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Posted on September 16th, 2008 by Matthew Sparkes

Will Apple or Android get in my pocket?

Google Developer DayFollowing the unexpected demonstration of an Android handset here at Google’s Developer Day, more information about the OS and the upcoming handset has been leaking out of Android boss Mike Jennings in the last hour, as nearly a hundred curious developers fire volley after volley of tough questions at him.

He’s already using an Android-based handset as his personal phone, he claims, although he has to switch to another when in public. “Soon I’ll be able to show it off in less controlled conditions,” he says hopefully, carefully revealing nothing about the official release date.

Personally, I have six months left on my own mobile contract, and Google has just less than that time to tempt me away from an iPhone. What I’ve seen this morning bodes well, but I’m not the only one who needs to be won over.

Developing the software was just the start. After that Google had to win over handset manufactures and telecoms suppliers who are taking a massive risk on the operating system. Users installing their own apps, and having access to the source code that runs the device, is not something that they are normally comfortable with.

After that, Google had to win over developers, and judging from the mood here there’s still work to be done. 

There are already scores of coders working on Android applications, but many of the programmers at this event are still sceptical. There seems to be some doubt that “Joe Public” will choose to buy an Android handset, despite any technical advantages it may offer. The iPhone wasn’t mentioned, but is clearly on everyone’s mind. 

During the keynote speech earlier Jennings asked who had heard of Android – every single hand was raised. Then he asked who was developing for it – two or three hands went up, out of hundreds.

Even once the device is built, and a decent range of applications are available, potential customers (like me) still need to be convinced to spend their hard-earned cash. The first handset, expected to be the HTC Dream, is essentially exactly the same as devices currently out there in terms of functionality – even Mike Jennings didn’t openly deny this – so why should customers choose Android?

“There’s better software,” he says. “With Windows Mobile, I don’t know if you have a copy of the source code, do you?” I must admit that I don’t, and I see what he’s getting at.

From a customer’s point of view there will also be regular new features, delivered via updates to the operating system. This will be a very easy job, claims Jennings. ”You should be able to upgrade your own device. I think that its going to be targeted more for a consumer experience, so your grandmother would be able to get a new version of the OS”

So, free applications, regular OS updates and a cut-down codebase that seems to run extremely fast compared to Windows Mobile (which it has to be said, doesn’t). 

 Customers will also get easy installation of mostly free applications, via branded SD cards or through the web (either third-party sites or Google’s own application marketplace).

In case you’re worrying about your data security with an open-source application, as some of the folks here were, they will have to ask permission for certain things like dialing out, or accessing the camera or microphone, so the chances of any funny business are greatly reduced.

It will be interesting to see if I end up with an iPhone or Android device in my pocket in six months. I’m unlikely to be disappointed in either case, but the open-source advocate in me hopes that Google can do what is needed to shake up the mobile market.

 However, it could be the case that even if I opt for an iPhone I might end up owning an Android device anyway. One devloper asked Jennings if he could use Android in devices other than mobile handsets. “Why not?” was his only response. 

Other news from the London Google Developer Day
Google says it can keep Chrome on top
Android handset hits London

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8 Responses to “ Will Apple or Android get in my pocket? ”

  1. Paul Ockenden Says:
    September 16th, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    The big problem Google has is the user perception that they don’t seem to care about code quality. So much of their stuff seems to have a permanent ‘beta’ tacked onto the logo, and breaks on a regular basis. That’s not something you want when it comes to receiving that important email (or dialling that 999 call). Of course, Android might be perfect, but it’ll take a lot to convince me (and other google users) that it is.

    I’ve covered this in a bit more depth in the Mobile & Wireless column in issue 170.

  2. David Wright Says:
    September 16th, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    I agree.

    They currently have the same problem with Chrome. For an initial beta, it isn’t bad. But it won’t make it onto my main machines at home, or the production machines in the office, until the beta phase has finished and a final release is available.

    The Android will face the same problem with me. I am very interested in the concept, but if the code quality isn’t up to much, or the ‘phone is releaded in Beta form, I won’t be going anywhere near it.

    A colleague here in the office has written a few simple apps on the emulator in the dev pack and wants to get one as soon as it is released… I’ll wait and see how it handles once he has one.

  3. Todd Says:
    September 16th, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    @ Mr. Ockenden & Mr. Wright

    What version of the SDK are you both using? 0.9b is currently available and the London demonstration is 1.0 that has already received T-Mobile’s army of lawyers blessing for legal liability and indemnity.

    Last November’s “early preview” was lacking to be sure but from your above comments, it sounds like you haven’t upgraded to 0.9b.

  4. Paul Ockenden Says:
    September 17th, 2008 at 10:48 am


    Go back and re-read my comment. I wasn’t specifically talking about Android – my point was about user perception of Google’s product line-up as a whole. And I think that point stands – too much of that line up is beta, always has been, and seems like it always will be. And too much of it breaks on a semi-regular basis. This tarnishes everything else Google does.

    With Android Google might have produced a gold nugget, but many people will be (at least initially) sceptical that under the surface it’s simply a gold plated turd.


  5. The Dude Says:
    September 17th, 2008 at 8:13 pm


    “And too much of it breaks on a semi-regular basis. This tarnishes everything else Google does.”

    i see what you are saying but I think the “beta” tag is honest in my opinion. I like it. It speaks of the ongoing improvement that all software (life?) needs.

    I’m thoroughly fed up with apps that are branded “released to manufacturing” or similar nomenclature when, in fact, they’re a load of crap and may as well be called beta or even alpha.

    And from personal experience (I use Google search, mail, docs, pIcasa, reader), their apps are quicker, less bloated, and less prone to downtime.

    I still have a trust issue with Google, but I’d trust Google uptime far more than any IT department in any of the many companies I’ve worked for (all FTSE 350).

    I’m rambling now – but you get my point.


  6. scape Says:
    September 18th, 2008 at 1:42 am

    i am 50/50…yea everything seems to be beta with google these days, mostly b/c of the influx of off-the-net coders and their newish ‘open’ look at things, but in all honesty gmail and chrome are top quality compared to my once-beloved comparatives… but to say phone so quickly? i just don’t know either.

  7. Hostpundit - Hosting and Gadgets » Blog Archive » Google shows off masked Android handset Says:
    March 16th, 2009 at 6:18 pm

    [...] shows off final Android handset”Read – PC Pro, “Android handset hits London”Read – PC Pro, “Will Apple or Android get in my [...]

  8. Robert Lukehart Says:
    September 6th, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    Many thanks for the whole lot!


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